Don’t Fall for These Dog and Cat Health Myths
There are many mistaken beliefs about cat and dog health that keep getting spread around. To help you sort fact from fiction, we’re debunking some of the most common misconceptions about neutering, itchy ears, litterbox habits and more.
Myth: Parasite prevention is only necessary in spring and summer.
While it varies by region of the country, it's true that dogs and cats are generally more likely to come into contact with fleas, ticks and mosquitoes (which can transmit heartworms) during the warmer months. But most veterinarians recommend giving your pet parasite preventive medication year-round because it's difficult to predict when parasite season will be and fleas and some ticks can lurk in your home all year long — even in the winter. What's more, some intestinal parasites, like roundworms, can infect your animal at any time of the year. Indoor cats aren't off the hook either — they need to be protected from parasites year-round, too. Talk to your veterinarian about the parasite prevention products that will work best for your dog or cat.
Myth: Neutering may make a dog go soft.
Some pet owners are hesitant to neuter their dog because they fear it will cause him to lose skills that are characteristic of certain breeds like hunting and alerting to strangers. While the surgery, if performed early, may reduce some aggressive behaviors, it generally won't affect breed traits. There are also many benefits to neutering a dog, including helping to curb annoying puppy behaviors like humping, urine marking and roaming (but neutering, by itself, isn't the only answer for behavior problems). Neutering a dog can also help protect against testicular cancer and prostate problems.
Myth: Cats pee outside the litterbox just to spite you.
Revenge has nothing to do with your cat’s urinating behavior. Your cat isn't mad at you or trying to punish you. Though cats sometimes use urine to mark their territory, frequent urination outside the litterbox can indicate a serious health problem like urinary tract disease, bladder stones or diabetes. If your cat is unable to urinate, take him to the veterinarian immediately. If your cat is having frequent accidents and your vet rules out a health condition, your kitty’s behavior could be due to anxiety from a stressor like a new baby or new pet in the home, and steps can be taken to help bring your cat some relief. You’ll also want to make sure you’re cleaning out his box at least twice daily and that it is in a private, easy-to-access location.
Myth: Brushing a pet's teeth every day isn't necessary.
You really do need to brush your dog or cat’s teeth every day. We're not kidding. If the plaque that builds up on your pet’s teeth isn’t removed within 24 to 38 hours, it can harden into tartar. And too much tartar buildup can lead to dental disease. It helps to start brushing your animal's teeth from a young age, but older pets can still learn to tolerate or even enjoy this important daily task. The key is to introduce brushing gradually. Start off by letting him lick the pet-friendly toothpaste off your finger and work your way up to brushing his teeth with a toothbrush that's the right size for his mouth.
Myth: Food is the best way to show your pet love.
Puppy-dog eyes and kitty purrs make us think that pets are hungry and need to be fed right away, but overfeeding your animal can lead to obesity and other health issues. Ask your veterinarian how much and how often you should feed your pet — and stick to the doctor's recommendation. Instead of giving out treats and table scraps to show your pet how much you love him, try cuddling with him (if that’s something he likes) or playing a fun interactive game.
Myth: Itchy ears means your pet has ear mites.
Dogs and cats scratch their ears for many reasons. While your pet could have ear mites, the itching could also be due to allergies, yeast and/or bacterial infections or other problems. If your furry friend has itchy ears, talk to your veterinarian — he will let you know what’s going on and how to help soothe your pet's ears.