There’s a lot of bad veterinary advice around. Dr. Andy Roark and Vetstreet have even teamed together to read it to you. It’s easy to laugh at the absurdity of some of it. Most people realize that it’s not a good idea to bathe a pet in motor oil for any reason. But the bad advice is not always so easy to discern from the good. Some myths are easy to believe and some become so ubiquitous that you assume they must be true. Some of this bad advice even comes from trusted sources like breeders and rescue workers. We all want our pets to live long and happy lives. Here are the top 4 pet care myths and why they are not the way to your pet’s healthiest self…
1) Vets Over Vaccinate Pets
Just like in human medicine, the anti-vaccine movement exists for pets too. I’m not going to promise you that vaccines are 100% safe and have no side effects, but the side effects are rare and usually pretty mild and vaccines are becoming more refined and less reactive all the time.
In addition, our pet’s exposure to the things we’re vaccinating for is very high, even if they aren’t around other pets. Dogs and cat’s don’t wash their paws, they lick and chew on our shoes which have been who knows where, they roll around on the floor that those shoes have walked on. And that’s just the ways that indoor only pets can be exposed—if your pet has access to your yard, they have access to wild animals–directly or indirectly–like squirrels, raccoons, feral cats and mice, and if they walk on the street or go to the park, they are exposed to other dogs. You can’t rely on avoidance or herd immunity to keep your furry friend safe.
Your veterinarian wants what’s best for your pet. They will talk to you about your pet’s life style and take into consideration the diseases that are in your area to help you decide which vaccines your pet needs. If your vet says there’s leptospirosis in your area and you should vaccinate, they’re telling you that because leptospirosis is a potentially deadly disease that is easily contracted by dogs and can be spread to you. Don’t let a little birdie in your ear convince you that your vet is just out to give your pet anything they can to make a few extra bucks.
2) Fad Diets
There are a lot of fad diets out there for pets. One of the most popular ones is the BARF Diet. Yes, that’s really what it’s called. It stands for Bones and Raw Food. A Raw Food diet has not, I repeat—NOT—been proven to have any health benefits but it may be a health risk to your pet, and to you. Dogs and cats are just as susceptible to food borne illness like Salmonella, E.coli and Listeria as people are, and you’re the one that has to handle and prepare all that raw meat.
You may be thinking about pet food recalls you’ve heard in the past on the news and thinking that store bought food isn’t any safer. The truth is, home prepared diets don’t have recalls. If there’s even a chance your store bought pet food is tainted, you’re going to hear about it so that you can check the package and make sure it’s safe to keep feeding. When a pet gets sick from a home prepared diet, no one but that family ever really knows.
There are other fads or bad feeding advice beyond Raw diets. I see a lot of puppies come in with a slew of vitamins and supplements. One of my own staff members got a new puppy with instructions to supplement his food with Vitamin C for life. Dogs create their own vitamin C and don’t need any in their diet. If your dog is healthy and on a well-balanced commercial pet food, there is no need to supplement with additional vitamins.
3) Female Dogs Should Have a Heat
This one is a little personal for me. You see, I lost my dog to breast cancer last year. It was a terrible time, so anything I can do to keep others from going through that, is high on my list. In unspayed dogs, mammary tumors are the most common type of tumor. Spaying your dog BEFORE she goes into a heat can not only decrease the odds of a dog developing breast cancer, it can almost eliminate it.
So why would people want you to wait? The most frequent reason for suggesting spaying later is to avoid urinary incontinence which is common in spayed dogs. A dog spayed at any age may be susceptible to this, not just ones spayed early. While this is definitely inconvenient, there are several very safe and effective treatment options for dogs with this condition.
There is also some evidence that large breed dogs spayed early may have more joint problems like hip dysplasia and knee injuries. I am not discounting the effects that these conditions may have on your pet’s quality of life, but they are rarely fatal like cancer is. So for now, it’s still advisable to go ahead and get your dog spayed early.
4) Flea and Tick Preventative is Poison
It’s true that there are some over the counter flea and tick preventatives on the pet store shelves that should be avoided at all costs, but this is no reason to avoid them all. Your veterinarian has already done all the research for you about which products are safe and effective and which aren’t, so when they make a recommendation, you can feel confident that it will have your pet’s best interests at heart.
There are several good products out there, so if you have a certain concern, or preference, your vet may be able to work with you to address that concern. For example, some products stay in the skin and don’t get absorbed by the blood stream so even though the oral products are safe, if you’re very worried about potential side effects or have a dog who’s sensitive to certain medications, this might be way to go. If you can’t stand the greasy feel of the topicals, or are forgetful and don’t always remember to give a dose on time, a longer acting oral preventative may be a better bet.
Think a “natural” product like garlic or tea tree oil is better? Believe it or not, these products actually ARE toxic to you pets. They’re also not that effective and could put your pet at risk of developing a flea infestation or getting ticks, which is not only gross, but can spread other diseases like tapeworms and Lyme disease.
Don’t be fooled
It can be overwhelming sorting through all the information you get, especially if you’ve got a new puppy or kitten to take care of. Have you heard any of these myths before? If you have any doubts about things you’ve read or heard, check with your vet. We’re there to help. Trust that we have your pet’s best interests at heart. We want your furry family member to be a patient for life and the longer they live, the longer that is.