Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher
OFF THE LEASH
One of my clients recently asked me a question that prompted me to do another MythBusters Pet Editions. The truth is that the easiest way to find information quickly is to ask Google. While many sources are helpful, the trouble with the internet is that you don’t need to be a professional. In fact, anyone can put anything on the internet and pretend it is true. When looking for information online, the best sources are websites that end in .edu. I will go over a couple internet myths NOT to believe, but you will have to use your judgement on others.
Dog mouths are cleaner than people’s
I can’t emphasize enough how false this is. Dogs are gross animals. Would you eat their food? Would you lick their foot? Would you lick anywhere on them? Would you taste something rotting? If the answer to any of these is yes, it might be time to see your own doctor. For most of us, the answer is no, because dogs put gross things in their mouths. They are hairy and dirty and indiscriminate eaters. We don’t typically brush their teeth twice daily, so there is no way those mouths are cleaner than mine.
To that end, dogs licking their wounds are not helpful. If your dog starts licking an open sore/incision/cut/bite, it is time to call the vet, as an infection is impending.
Human medicine is OK for pets
This is rarely true, and should never, ever be done except at the discretion of your vet. We do share some medications with our pets, but many of our over-the-counter medications are very harmful for pets. For instance, our pain relievers and anti-inflammatories shouldn’t be used. They can cause anemia, kidney failure, liver failure and serious intestinal bleeding.
The medications we do share in common often have different doses and work differently. This is something that prompts varied opinions on the internet, but trust me when I say not to blindly believe it when you read on the internet that a human medication is fine for your pets. We went to school for a long time and have access to many resources, so ask us instead.
A wet/dry/warm/cold nose means your pet is sick
This can be one part of the story, but cannot stand alone. When my dogs are exercising, their noses are wet and cool. When they first wake up in the morning, their noses are warm and dry. I see pets with a fever that have cold noses, and perfectly healthy pets for vaccines that have warm noses. Internal body temperature IS a helpful indicator, however. I always recommend that owners have a “pet” thermometer on hand. Label these so no one inadvertently puts it in their mouth after use. You can use any regular oral thermometer rectally in pets to determine their temperature, which is an accurate measure.
Natural means safe
This is a myth of many internet sites, and many people trying to sell you pet things. Natural simply means it wasn’t made in a laboratory. Arsenic and the plague are both natural, but they surely aren’t safe. Garlic doesn’t repel ticks and “all natural dog food” can mean, quite literally, almost anything.
Rodent poison won’t hurt domestic pets
There are a lot of different myths surrounding rodent poison, but know that if something will kill a mouse or rat it will also kill your dogs, cats and birds. Small doses of this poison interfere drastically with blood clotting and cause pets to bleed out. This is not species-specific, meaning that it will work on whoever eats it. It doesn’t require anything to work except being eaten, and nothing you have at home will deactivate it. Call your veterinarian immediately if there is a chance your pet ate any, or any affected rodents.
Feeding a sick dog chicken and rice is a good solution
There is nothing about chicken or rice that will cure stomach pains, vomiting, or diarrhea. Often the second-best thing to do is to skip a meal and let your pet’s gastrointestinal tract rest. The best thing? Check in with your vet. There are many types of GI disturbances, and they are often treated differently. Some require more fiber, some require less. Some need skipped meals, while others need increased feeding frequency. Bland diets can be helpful in some situations, but they aren’t a catchall.
Hydrogen peroxide is a good disinfectant
Hydrogen peroxide cleans blood off of things with a chemical reaction. This doesn’t mean it disinfects, just that it cleans blood up. Don’t confuse the bubbling action with disinfection. I never, ever use this on a wound, and especially want to stop owners from putting this into ear canals. Dilute dish soap and warm water do a better job of cleaning wounds than hydrogen peroxide, but if there is a wound that needs cleaning, odds are your veterinarian should be taking a look. Red and infected ears will only become more irritated from hydrogen peroxide. In fact, the only helpful thing this can do is induce vomiting or clean skunk smell. We even have faster and safer ways to induce vomiting! Keep this on your medicine shelf to clean up the next time you cut your dog’s toenail too short, but think twice before doing anything else with it.
The bottom line is that your veterinarian or veterinary school websites are the best source of information. Clicking a link or asking your phone a question may be easier than calling or visiting your vet, but in many cases you can do more harm than good. Remember, anyone in the world can post anything they want on the internet. Dr. Google may be Harvard educated or may not even own a pet. The internet is a wild and wonderful place, with equal parts wild and wonderful.