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Style Magazine

Pet Care Myths

Jul 31, 2009 05:00PM ● By Wendy Sipple

Are you a pet parent? Do you refer to your pet as your child? Do you call your pet with kisses and baby talk? You are not alone.

Countless millions of men and women do the same. The term to describe this worldwide phenomenon is “anthropomorphism.” Many of us attribute human characteristics, feelings and motivation to non-human beings. It is no wonder that we spent more than $43 billion on our pets last year!

However, treating your pet like a furry human can lead to many medical myths that veterinarians frequently encounter. We asked three local veterinarians what they hear most often from pet owners…and here’s the dish.

Dr James F. Young is president of the Atlantic Street Veterinary Hospital Pet Emergency Center in Roseville. He started his practice in 1995 and says, “Being a veterinarian is the perfect occupation to bring all my passion for animals together.” Dr. Richard Parsons is co-owner of Placerville Veterinary Clinic in Placerville. He has been doing what he loves and helping animals since 1974. “I decided in fourth grade to become a veterinarian,” Parsons says. Dr. Jodi Van Tine of Folsom Veterinary Hospital in Folsom is also a certified veterinary acupuncturist and owns the Holistic Veterinary Medicine Clinic in Citrus Heights. She has been practicing for 15 years and always knew she would be a veterinarian. Van Tine explains, “It was not a conscious decision.”

myth: A pet should be allowed to breed at least once before spaying or neutering.

Bringing more kittens and puppies into this world so that a pet can have the “experience of giving birth” is wrong. “There is no supporting research that proves the birth experience makes a better pet,” Young says. Altering your pet is so much more than just birth control. According to Dr. Parsons, “Pets live longer and it prevents certain cancers.”

myth: Our pet’s mouths are cleaner than ours, so it is okay to share food or kiss your pet.

Let’s really think about this one...dogs and cats use their tongues in ways humans never would. Different species have different types of bacteria and enzymes in their mouths. That is why a cat-to-cat bite is so much more problematic than a cat bite to a dog. “An animal’s mouth is not cleaner,” Dr. Van Tine says, “their bacterium is species specific.”

myth: Organic food/filtered water is better for our pet than regular food and tap water.

Just like us, our “fur children” deserve the best food and drink. There are a few pet food manufacturers that offer an organic line of both dry and wet foods. These are prepared without preservatives, hormones, antibiotics and certain fillers. “I can’t say organic is better for your pet,” Van Tine says, “however it is better for the planet.” As for water...studies show some advertised filtered water available in bottles is common tap water. So, go ahead and fill their bowl from your local city source...not from a far away artesian well.

myth: Touch your pet’s nose to determine how they are feeling. Hot nose means sick. Cold nose means feeling fine.

The cold/hot nose test does not determine health or wellbeing. “The only way to determine a pet’s temperature,” Dr. Parsons explains, “is to use a thermometer.” Pets, like humans, pick up the heat and cold from their immediate environment. Our pets do not release internal heat like humans; they can only regulate their body temperature through their respiratory system and the sweat glands in the paw pads and nose. That is why you see a dog panting on hot days or after exercise. In extreme conditions, cats also pant to cool down.

myth: It is OK to give human drugs if we feel our pet needs them.

Again, due to our human predisposition toward transferring our feelings on to our pets, some of us tend to diagnose and treat our pets like we do our family or ourselves. “An animal’s metabolism and digestion is very different from ours,” Dr. Van Tine says. Some medicines designed for humans can cause great distress or even kill our pets. Acetaminophen can be fatal to cats. Naproxen can be toxic to dogs and could cause kidney failure. If you feel your pet is in pain or is “just not himself,” the best route to take is to your veterinarian’s office. Only someone specially trained in animal care can make the correct determination and prescribe what pain reliever should be administered.

myth: I can give table scraps and people food to my pet. Animals' stomachs are very sensitive. Any type of change in their diet can bring on simple symptoms of gas or can cause extreme illness and even death. “Our pets don’t generally tolerate food changes,” Young says. Many human favorites are poisonous to pets: grapes, some types of nuts, onions, raw potatoes, chocolate, avocados, and so much more. Don’t let those big begging eyes bring your hand down with that scrap of meat fat from your dinner plate. Your dog or cat could develop pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), which is very painful and sometimes fatal if left untreated.

Your pet is part of the family, so make sure they see their doctor for yearly check ups too. Always consult with your veterinarian if you have questions on your pet’s wellbeing. Love, kindness, proper nutrition and lots of exercise will make a happy and healthy pet. •


Dr. James Young
Atlantic Street Veterinary Hospital
Pet Emergency Center
1100 Atlantic Street
Roseville, 916-783-4655

Dr. Richard Parsons
Placerville Veterinary Clinic
6610 Mother Lode Drive
Placerville, 530-622-3943

Dr. Jodi Van Tine
Folsom Veterinary Hospital
803 Reading Street
Folsom, 916 985-4700

Holistic Veterinary Medicine Clinic
Citrus Heights, 916-745-0158