Myth-Busting: What You Think You Know About Your Dog May Be Wrong

Dog having a bath.
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In the more than 30 years I've been a practicing veterinarian, I've heard every misconception about pets there is. Many of these may have been considered accurate at one time but current thinking has a different take. That means I do a lot of myth-busting as I try to help educate people about their pets.

Here are the five most common misconceptions dog-lovers hold — and the truth everyone should know.

Myth: Dogs should be bathed a couple of times a year. Frequent bathing is bad for the coat and skin.

Fact: It's an old idea that frequent baths strip the skin and coat of moisture. A weekly bath not only makes your pet easier to live with (less shedding, less smell) but also can help prevent some skin diseases. There are all kinds of gentle shampoos for dogs, so ask your vet what might be best for your pet.

Myth: Short-haired dogs shed less.

Fact: Actually, long-haired dogs shed less because genetics dictate that they keep their fur longer. The practical way to end up with a dog who sheds only a little is to get a small dog with long hair. The less dog, the less fur. Even more effective is keeping a long-haired dog’s coat trimmed short.

Myth: A dog needs to get all his shots every year.

Fact: Vaccinations are no longer one size fits all. Tailored to each dog’s individual lifestyle, vaccinations now consist of core vaccines for certain diseases, some of which can be given at three-year-intervals, and optional vaccines for diseases for which some dogs may be exposed or are at higher risk for.

Myth: Anesthesia is too dangerous for older pets.

Fact: Pet owners need not be overly concerned about older pets undergoing anesthesia. Veterinary medicine has followed the course of human medicine when it comes to anesthetic safety, and that has dramatically lowered the risk for pets. If your senior pet suffers a condition (such as tooth decay or gum disease) that can be treated but requires anesthesia, by all means explore the option.

Myth: Pain-management isn't important for pets and can even be bad for animals recovering from surgery.

Fact: At one time common wisdom dictated that denying an animal pain medicine after surgery would keep him from moving around. But a crates and leash are far better for confining and restraining a dog after surgery. Pain medication should be given before, during, and after any procedure to ease suffering and support recovery. For pets with chronic pain, such as from arthritis, new medications, nutraceuticals, and what’s called complementary medicine (such as acupuncture) can help put the bounce back in their step.

This article was written by a Veterinarian.

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