Ho ho ho: Myth busting for the holidays

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher / Photo

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher

As we all gear up for holiday fun, I thought a MythBusters article was due. Now when Uncle George brings up dog myths at the holiday table (does this happen to other people?) you can show him hard proof otherwise.

Table scraps are fine for dogs.

So this is true in SOME circumstances, but not all. Veterinarians fondly refer to the day after Christmas and Thanksgiving as “vomiting and diarrhea day.” Honestly. It is amazing that we still get invited places when I think about it. The fact is that scraping every plate into the dog bowl can lead to issues. Most dogs cannot have too much high-fat food. Gravy, potatoes full of butter, crispy turkey skin and ham fat all have the ability to cause pancreatitis. Any rich food has the ability to cause vomiting and diarrhea at best, pancreatitis at worst. Some cases of pancreatitis require hospitalization and some can even be fatal.

Feel free to give your dog salad leftovers and some plain cooked potatoes or other boring food, but anything that has a high weight-watchers point value shouldn’t go into their mouth.

A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s OR licking helps heal their cuts.

I argue this often, and please rest assured that it is not true. Neither is true. Dog mouths are full of bacteria, most of them don’t have clean teeth, and they eat truly disgusting things. Your dogs cleaning each other’s ears or wounds isn’t helping. If your dog has a cut or injury and they are licking it, head to the veterinarian. If you have a cut or injury, please head to your MD and don’t let your dog lick it.

Think of it this way; I brush my teeth 2-3 times a day and I know licking a wound wouldn’t help it, so why would my dog’s (dirtier) saliva?

A dog that is wagging their tail is always happy.

A happy dog gives many clues, but often the signs of an anxious dog are similar. This is especially important as we head off to other houses and invite new people into ours for the holidays. Dogs can actually also wag their tails when they get anxious, so reaching out for a dog based on just wagging can be a mistake.

Happy dogs wag their tail, but often with a little butt wiggle. That isn’t a scientific term, but a happy dog tends to be wigglier, with a relaxed body. Nervous dogs will wag their tail and often hold their body stiff and postured. Happy, relaxed dogs will have relaxed eyes and ears, while anxious dogs will have an expression where they hold their ears further back and their eyes more open. Anxious dogs will often also pant when it isn’t hot and they haven’t been exercising.

Always take care before approaching new dogs, and the best bet is to let them come to you on their own terms. If they don’t come to you, they likely don’t want to be touched by you.

A dry warm nose means a dog is sick, while a wet cold nose means they’re healthy.

This is an extremely unreliable indicator of sickness, health or body temperature. Both of my dogs often have warm, dry noses when they have normal temperatures are healthy and well hydrated. Unfortunately for my dogs, I love to pet their noses when they are warm and dry (which is often.) We get pets with fevers who still have cold, wet noses. While a difference from the norm is always something to be aware of, the best indicator of body temperature is…well, taking their temperature.

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher is a veterinarian at All Points Animal Care in Rutland. Have a question on this or any animal health topic? E-MAIL: petdocanna@gmail.com

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