Here are a few myths or urban legends frequently heard here at the Coaticook Veterinary Clinic:
1. You must cut the tips of porcupine quills before pulling them out
FALSE!! If Fido unfortunately has an encounter of the 3rd kind with a porcupine and is covered in quills, do not cut the tips! This is an old myth that states that the quill is filled with air and that if you cut the tip, it will let this air out, shrink and therefore fall out on its own. Actually, the quill is made up of miniscule hooks that look like little fish hooks that allows it to migrate progressively deeper and deeper in the skin. By cutting them you are only making them more fragile and harder to pull out. Another myth we often hear regarding porcupine quills is that the porcupine throws his quills at his predator when attacked. This is also false. A porcupine cannot liberate his quills when wanted. The predator must come in contact with the porcupine by attacking it or getting hit by its tail.
If your dog has only a few quills and is very cooperative, you may try removing them by pulling them out with a good pair of pliers (grab the quill the closest to the skin as possible and pull). The most important quills to remove first are the ones situated on the thorax, paws, neck and inside of the mouth of your dog.
A last myth often heard on this subject is that your Rover will have learned his lesson after one contact with a porcupine. The best trick is to try to avoid future contacts. You can try keeping your dog on a leash or putting a bell on his collar when strolling in the woods. These simple tricks may avoid another unplanned trip to the vet and a free, natural acupuncture session for your four-legged friend!
2. Dogs accelerate the healing process by licking their wounds
FALSE! This legend probably comes from the fact that some people attribute antiseptic qualities to human saliva. Unfortunately, even if this idea may seem credible, imagine your dog’s mouth. He never brushes his teeth, eats also anything and will lick anywhere (even his private areas!). On the contrary, your animal risks infecting the wound with pathogenic bacteria and also risks causing inflammation by causing a constant friction on the wound. Think of this the next time you catch your dog licking a wound or giving you a kiss! It is recommended to immediately prohibit your dog from licking his wound by putting on an Elizabethan collar. You may also disinfect the wound by applying Baxedin or Chlorhexidine. If there are no signs of healing within 1 or 2 days, your Fido might need antibiotics and therefore a visit to your veterinarian.
3. If your cat has signs of conjunctivitis, applying warm milk in the eyes can help
Once again this is FALSE! This myth comes surely from a belief in human medicine that maternal milk can be applied in the eyes of newborns with conjunctivitis, as it may have antibacterial properties. Unfortunately, milk contains lots of sugar which is great food to feed bacteria already present in your kitty’s gummed up eyes and risks worsening the situation. Also, for cats in particular, ocular infections can degrade very quickly and become ulcers which are much more difficult to treat than conjunctivitis. So, please do not apply milk in the eyes of your cat and if you have any questions concerning this situation, please contact one of our animal health technicians.
4. Cats must drink milk everyday
This is also a myth. Giving milk to your Maya may actually cause digestive problems like diarrhea and gas after quickly developing lactose intolerance. Also, when adding milk to your pet’s diet, you are adding extra calories that can lead to obesity over time, when given on a regular basis. Therefore, it is recommended to feed your cat a formulated and balanced diet specific for his life stage and keep the milk for your cereal!
5. Dogs and cats will get intestinal worms if they drink cow’s milk.
This myth follows the proceeding one. No, animals will not catch worms from drinking cow’s milk just like us humans. However, seeing as they can develop a lactose intolerance very quickly, they can get diarrhea from drinking the milk. This myth probably originates from the fact that kittens and puppies can get worms from drinking their mother’s milk that is contaminated with larvae or during the pregnancy if she is not de-wormed. This is why it is very important to treat the mother and offspring for worms.
6. My dog is like a child. If he is sick, I can treat him with human medications in small doses.
This is completely false! Your animal is not a child especially when it comes to his organs. Their system is very different, especially their liver, when transforming and detoxifying medications. Therefore, almost all human anti-inflammatories (Aspirin, Tylenol, Motrin, Naproxen, etc.) can be very toxic for Tucker whether it is given in baby doses or not! PLEASE never give these medications to your pet without at least contacting an animal health technician… it could be a matter of life or death for your adored four-legged friend!
7. Garlic can be given to our pets as a de-wormer
FALSE! Not only does garlic have no de-worming abilities, it can also be very toxic for dogs and cats. Garlic causes the destruction your pet’s red blood cells resulting in severe anemia! So, keep your garlic bulbs for your spaghetti sauce and consult your veterinarian for safe and effective treatment against parasites. This also goes for other products used for de-wormers such as tree gum or cedar branches…(old native beliefs…).
8. All you need to do is put mineral oil in your dog’s ear if he has an ear ache
FALSE! This myth probably comes from old wives tales stating that the oil will kill dog and cat ear mites by cutting off their oxygen supply. This outdated and inefficient treatment can actually be harmful to your pet’s ear and hearing abilities, and this infection may not even be caused by mites. It can be caused by severe bacterial infection or yeast and the goal of the treatment is to dry the ears at the same time as applying the necessary medication. So, once again, when in doubt, wait before applying anything in your pet’s ears and consult with your favorite technician!
9. My dog’s nose is hot and dry so he must be sick or have a fever
FALSE! If your dog’s nose is hot and dry this simply means that his nose is hot and dry. Temperature and humidity levels can more likely explain this phenomenon more than your dog’s health. Whether it’s dry or humid, cold or hot, your dog’s snout shouldn’t signal an alarm unless it is swollen, is runny for a few days, if he’s sneezing or has trouble breathing. The best and only way to evaluate your dog’s temperature is to actually take his temperature with a thermometer. This temperature should be between 38°C and 39°C for both cats and dogs. For any doubts, do not hesitate to contact your animal health technician. By the way, this myth probably comes from a period when a sickness called distemper was frequent in dogs. These dogs would develop a hyperkeratosis of the nose which would cause a dry and crusty snout….
10. If my cat is purring, he must be happy and healthy
FALSE! Even if Fluffy purrs most of the time and loves cuddling with you, it is important to know that purring is a sign of an intense emotion whether this emotion is positive or not. We often observe cats that are purring nonstop when very sick or seen in emergency situations. Therefore, if your cat seems sick, do not count on the fact that he’s purring to evaluate that the situation isn’t urgent enough to have him examined by a veterinarian.