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If there’s one thing that veterinarians can’t stand, it’s the distribution of misinformation on the Internet. Ever since the Web became a widely accepted way to get educated, people have been getting miseducated, too.
And this often makes our jobs a lot harder.
This whole online pet urban legend thing is like a game of telephone — someone starts with a question, and the next thing you know, there’s a sad story attached to it and hysteria ensues.
Just enough fact. Just enough fiction. Just enough salacious detail. That’s all you need when it comes to these common Web rumors:
Thirteen years ago, it was Febreze. This mild but effective deodorizer was new to the market at the time, and it became the bane of pet-owning households everywhere after an alarmist email went viral.
But there was nothing about the product that should have caused alarm. Although it did, at one point, include less than 1 percent of zinc chloride, this amount would not have led to any great concern among toxicologists. But someone apparently had it in for the product because this rumor was tenacious!
A memorable one that I came across a couple of years ago: Ice water causes bloat! The truth is that we’ve identified very few risk factors for bloat (a condition in which the stomach expands significantly because of excess gas) — and ice water consumption isn't one of them.
It seems that there’s always some new litterbox urban legend, from pine-based litters eliciting feline asthma to clay litters causing anemia. There was even one highly sensationalized rumor that was started by NBC after it identified a radioactive substance in cat litter.
Well, it turns out that pine litters don’t elicit asthma symptoms any more than other organic substances, and a connection between cat litter and anemia had more to do with anemic cats engaging in pica (eating nonfood items) than with the clay being the cause of the anemia. And the radioactive litter identified by NBC had been used by a cat who’d recently undergone radioactive iodine therapy for hyperthyroidism.
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