Urban legends of dog care - time to bust some myths!

An urban legend is a wild story that is well known and understood to be true, even if there is no evidence that the story is factual. I have heard many tall tales in my career, and when I attempt to debunk them, the conversation usually ends when I am told that the Client knows someone this has happened to. However, knowing fact from fiction can help us to provide the best care for our pets. See how many of these stories you have heard.

#1 Myth - A dog should only have a bath twice a year; it is bad to bathe the dog more frequently. There are some dogs that shed and spend there entire life outside; they may not have close contact with people, so odor may not be a concern. However, most dogs in our neighborhood spend most of their time indoors. So to get the most enjoyment from our indoor dog, regular bathing is recommended.

In Small Animal Dermatology by Muller, Kirk and Scott, we find that dogs should be groomed every 6-8 weeks. Grooming includes bathing and clipping for some breeds. Grooming removes potential toxins from the pet's coat; these toxins may include chemicals from our driveway or lawn; floor care products; or pollen. This is also a

n opportunity to remove any matted fur, plant material or feces from our dog's coat. Professional grooming may reveal sores, or problems with ears or teeth that require a trip to the veterinarian.

So, why do people say don't wash the dog? It is recommended that dogs are washed with sham

poo labeled for pets. Human shampoo has a pH that is irritating to pets, so it is possible that people washed the dog with human shampoo, only to notice the dog became itchier after the bath. Also, it is a lot of work to wash a dog at home. Most of us don't have the proper equipment to make it comfortable for people or the dog to have a bath at home, so I think some people feel washing is too much trouble. Also, the bathroom clean up after bathing makes me say every time that I should have brought the pet to a professional groomer.

Myth #2 - It is bad for my dog to have too many medicines/supplements. It is tragic to see an animal that is suffering from a preventable problem not get his treatment because a Client feels adding the recommended medicine may be excessive. As our dogs age and are presented for their

annual exams, arthritis is a common finding. At the start of my veterinary medicine career, we had no reasonable and effective pain relief for these aging dogs. However, the most effective NSAIDs are too often declined by well meaning dog moms and dads who ''don't want to give too many medicines''.

I have seen dogs suffering from arthritis that have refused to eat. I have also seen many dog moms and dads improve the quality of their senior pet's life by offering the best combination of medicines and supplements.

Why do some dog moms and dads say no to helpful medicine? Maybe they are concerned about the cost or the side effects, or maybe they don't understand how the medicine works. The urban legend is the pet who tried these medicines and had vomit or diarrhea without improved mobility. I agree that NSAIDs are not a panacea for all older dogs; however, there is a large group of middle age and older dogs whose lives could be changed by NSAIDS. I can't imagine how limiting my life would be without my NSAIDs and glucosamine.

Myth #3 - My dog was abused before I got her. This dog is often hiding under the chair, and will respond to novel people and situations with fear and possibly aggression if there is no convenient way to avoid the new people. This myth results in the rescued pet never being able to

reach her potential and to enjoy a rich social life. Belief in this myth results in a hopeless feeling of the pet was so severely damaged by others that there is no attempt to make the pet be calm in social situations.

Dr Karen Overall writes in Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, "Traumatic experiences early in life may have a less defined role in the behavioral difficulties of dogs than...for humans." However, socialization at an early age can greatly improve the future interactions of dogs with humans. Furthermore, there are some personality differences between individual dogs (some are confident, some are shy, some are opinionated, etc); therefore, some pets will naturally react by backing up, while others will readily advance toward a stranger.

Even though your pet may have missed an important opportunity to learn at a young age, it is possible to continue to socialize and train your pet; consequently, she may learn to be more relaxed in social situations. I have observed professional dog trainers work with shy and submissive dogs in a Nose Work class, and help these dogs to be their best. Prescription medicines and supplements may be useful along with professional dog training.

Myth #4 - My groomer brushed my pet's teeth, so she does not need her teeth cleaned with anesthesia. Professional grooming is a great idea for most dogs. Groomers are a fantastic resource for brushing and clipping your dog's coat, clipping claws, cleaning ears, bathing, and drying fur. Groomers teach our dogs to stand for fur and teeth brushing. I recommend hair and teeth brushing at home, similar to how we may help a child with these daily activities.

Teeth cleaning in a veterinary office is similar to a human's semi annual dental prophy at

a dentist's office. During this procedure, we use the ultrasonic scaler and hand scaler to remove hardened bits of food and bacteria from your dog's teeth. We then use an electrical polisher to smooth the teeth surfaces so debris is not so quick to attach. We identify teeth that are broken or loose, and remove teeth that are dead or dying.

Now, I have known humans who refused to brush their own teeth, and refused to visit a dentist unless there is severe pain. However, even some of these people recognize the value of having a dog's teeth cleaned with anesthesia as veterinary recommended.

Myth #5 - I am feeding diet dog food, so my pet should be losing weight as planned. Commercial pet foods that are labeled diet, lite, or less active are similar in calorie content to non prescription adult pet food. This may contrast greatly with prescription diet foods that are like a salad in a bag. These diets are meant for short term use; in that way, they remind me of the diet shakes that were popular for people in the 80's. These high fiber low calorie diets are designed to be used as weight is being lost, and

then the patient is transitioned to a complete maintenance diet.

My years as a veterinarian has taught me that dog moms and dads that feed a measured amount of dog food without treats and people food will have a pet who maintains the desired body weight. However, if your dog training strategy is based on food rewards and treats, you may have to be extra vigilant to avoid obesity. If your pet's weight is creeping up, and you do rewards based training, please bring your pet for a free medical weigh in every 2-4 weeks.

Have you been telling any of these dog tales? We are all on this journey together learning how to improve the life of pets. I hope you found a suggestion here to help you to live your best life.

Maureen Kubisz, DVM, CVA

Total Pet Hospital LLC

1100 US Highway 9

Howell, NJ 07731

(732) 780-4499

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