Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher
OFF THE LEASH
Every once in a while I get a drive to do a mythbusters article. Usually, as with this time, the urge is brought on by reading one too many weird false things on Facebook. The good news is that I have firm control over how to use double negatives, so we can prevent any confusion about what I really mean (I mean whatever I say.) I will go over a few myths and what the truth is behind them.
Giving dogs ice cubes or cold water causes bloat/stomach problems.
False, all false. Go ahead and give ice cubes as treats or cool down their water with some added ice. I am guessing at the reason behind this myth, but I know for sure that it isn’t true.
The possible logic behind this is that if a dog is overheating or has heat stroke, you never want to cool their temperature quickly. You also don’t want to force them to drink. In the case of a dog overheating, you should always call your veterinarian. The safe way to cool their body temperature is from within with intravenous fluids. Giving a dog a lot of ice, putting them in a bath of cold water, spraying them with a hose, etc will NOT help.
The good news is that a normal, healthy dog can have ice cubes or cold water. We certainly don’t want them to binge on water (ever, of any temperature) as that can cause stomach pain. Ice cubes can break teeth in very vigorous chompers, but otherwise, do not cause harm. Often I even recommend freezing veggies in a big block of ice so that the dog can lick the ice, and as it melts they get little treats out of it.
My dogs stay indoors, so they don’t need heartworm prevention.
Would you believe that in other places owners actually think that if they live in a gated community they don’t need heartworm prevention? The fact of the matter is that mosquitos fly over your fence, through your windows and doors and are everywhere. I find them in my bathroom on a very regular basis. While heartworm is still thankfully not as prevalent in Vermont as other places, we do see it. It is much easier, cheaper and less risky to do a quick monthly pill than deal with treating heartworm disease.
My female dog/cat doesn’t have access to males so I don’t need to spay her.
While unwanted pregnancies are a big reason that we want females who aren’t going to be bred to be spayed, there are bigger reasons. As females go through heat cycles they increase the risk for two big issues — pyometra and mammary cancer. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus which can be fatal in many circumstances. Mammary cancer risk increases with each heat cycle. These can be malignant in either species but are very commonly malignant in cats. This means that they are more difficult to remove and often spread to other organ systems. If you have a female dog or cat that is not going to be used for breeding, it is best for their health to spay them, at least before a second heat cycle.
I want to breed my dog because they are smart/sweet/good at fetch/protective.
These attributes certainly can be an important part of a breeding program, but responsible breeding is about more than loving your dog. There are a lot of things that go into breeding dogs. Each breed has different standards, but they all should have joints checked. This doesn’t mean a quick feel at the vet, either. It means taking radiographs under anesthesia and sending those to be evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. They will grade the joints, and ideally, only dogs with good or excellent results will be bred. Eye certification should also be done, which must be done by a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist (you will know because they have DACVO after their DVM.) Some breeds have genetic testing that also needs to be done.
Breeding is an intensive and expensive operation that often costs more than it makes. Breeders work to advance their breed, rather than make money. Just having an awesome dog doesn’t mean they should be bred. This just means that you should put that time and money into doing awesome things with them. If you do want to undergo breeding, it is very important that you do this responsibly and talk to a veterinarian about the steps involved before committing.