Five Common Pet Myths

1) If my dog rubs its bottom on the ground it must have worms. This is is an extremely common misconception. Although intestinal worms (especially tapeworms) will give a dog an itchy bottom there is a much more common cause! By far the most common culprit in dogs are full anal glands, anal glands are two tiny cyst-like sacs that sit just inside the bottom and secrete a foul-smelling scent marker onto the dogs faeces. When they become over full a dog will scoot or rub its bottom on the ground to try to empty them. If it persists then a vet or vet nurse can empty them manually to relieve the discomfort.

2) Cats like people who dislike them the best. This is an interesting theory and plenty of people have stories of the cat that seems to be attracted to the cat-hater in the room. There is probably a bit of truth in the theory that some cats prefer people who avoid eye-contact with them and don’t rush towards them with out-stretched hands which for the nervous cat can both be somewhat threatening. However a recent study failed to prove that cats consistently prefer the company of those that ignore them. It really depends on the nature of the cat, some cats love attention and fuss and actively seek out those who want to fuss them while others are more circumspect and approach more cautiously. The personality of the cat has a lot more to do with what sort of person a cat will go to rather than the affection of the human in the room.

3) A cat or dog licking its wound is good for the woundA small amount of licking might superficially clean a minor wound but dog’s and cat’s mouths are full of bacteria and a cat’s tongue is incredibly rough (almost like sandpaper). If they excessively lick a wound or surgical site they will do it a lot more harm than good. They will chew out stitches quickly and spread bacteria to deeper layers of a wound. It is much better to clean a wound with disinfectant or saline than let a pet lick at an open wound. It’s also not true that a dog’s mouth is ‘cleaner’ than a human’s mouth so don’t let them lick you! I’ve seen what my dog eats and licks and I wouldn’t want that smeared on my face.

4) Dogs eat grass only if they are sick. Those of us with dogs are well aware of a dog’s ability to gorge on grass and make itself sick when it needs to. However many dogs will eat grass occasionally and for these dogs it can be completely normal. Some dogs seem to habitually graze on grass and for them it isn’t associated with being sick afterwards, they consume only a modest amount without any ill effects. As to why some dogs enjoy eating grass – the jury is still out. It seems to be an evolutionary trait as grass can be found in wolf droppings also, one theory is that in the wild, grass might entangle intestinal worms and help to eliminate them but perhaps some dogs just like the taste of grass!

5) Cats have nine lives! No one really believes this one but it’s an interesting saying and its origin has been around for centuries. In different cultures the number varies, in Turkish and Arabic legends cats have six lives while in some Spanish speaking regions the number is 7. Cats relative dexterity and agility probably contribute to the idea that a cat can escape from various tricky situations and escape relatively unscathed. They have a remarkable righting response which means they can flip over and land on their feet when falling from heights and studies have shown that when cats fall from quite remarkable heights they can escape relatively unscathed due to their light frames and ability to absorb the impact of a fall. There is a nice old English proverb that goes “A cat has nine lives, for three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays”, which reflects their relative longevity and their sedate, home-bound nature in their twilight years.