Top 6 Myths About Dogs Busted by a Vet

dog sitting on bed by plants

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Let sleeping dogs lie.When it comes to our canine companions, there are tons of adages, old wives’ tales, and common “facts” about caring for, training, and treating your dog. But which are true and what is just plain wrong?

We asked Dr. Carly Fox of New York City’s Animal Medical Center to play myth-buster about the top dog misconceptions and set the stories straight. And as always, when in doubt, consult your vet.

Myth #1: My Dog Doesn’t Need Preventative Care

Some owners avoid taking their dog to the vet for routine wellness visits, either to save money or shield their pup from stress. However, preventative care is essential for your pet’s health and happiness.

“Preventative care is crucial because it helps catch diseases and other conditions in early stages,” says Dr. Fox. Puppies need to go frequently, to ensure they have all their shots; adult dogs should go at least once a year, and senior dogs may need to be seen every six months, according to her.

Myth #2: You Need to Get Your Dog Frequently Vaccinated

The truth is, many vaccines will last for years and not all are essential.

“When you get a puppy, you absolutely need to follow recommended vaccination schedules to avoid infectious diseases, which are actually very common,” said Dr. Fox.

Core vaccines that are required by vets and state/city policies are given every three years and these protocols should be followed.

“It could be a public health concern if your dog was to bite someone and not be up to date on his rabies vaccine,” Dr. Fox explained.

However, non-core vaccinations, like lime and influenza shots, aren’t always necessary. These vaccines are dependent upon what’s going on in your environment, where you live, and what your vet recommends.

“If your dog has had previous adverse reactions to vaccines, you should consult with your vet about having a blood test to ensure your pet is still protected from rabies or parvo,” Dr. Fox says.

Myth #3: Dogs Eat Grass to Ease Tummy Troubles

Have you caught your pooch munching on grass? He’s probably only doing so because he enjoys it.

“Many dogs will eat grass for no reason whatsoever. Some animals even eat grass because they like to graze. Studies show that less than 25% of dogs that eat grass vomit. Some people also think that dogs will eat grass to get the fiber that is lacking in their diet. The truth is that there are plenty of dogs on high-quality diets that still eat grass,” stated Dr. Fox.

While your dog’s love of grass-eating could be linked to behavioral or medical conditions, there is no definitive proof that dogs eat grass because their stomachs are upset.

Myth #4: Grain-Free Diets Are Always Healthier for Dogs

Many owners think that feeding their dog a grain-free diet will enhance its health. But it could actually lead to problems with heart health.

“Grain-free food is a fad in dieting right now, and it’s bleeding over into the pet food industry,” says Dr. Carly Fox. “This myth is very relevant in modern veterinary medicine, and I’m seeing it with a lot of my patients.” 

Dr. Fox explains that findings from the FDA has shown there may be a correlation between feeding a dog a grain-free diet and the animal developing dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a potentially fatal heart disease where the muscles of the heart weaken and the heart cannot pump effectively, leading to congestive heart failure and arrhythmias. 

Related: Has a Culprit for the Possible Grain-Free Dog Food Link to Heart Disease Been Discovered?

Keep in mind, the research is ongoing and nobody really knows how grain-free diets contribute to these issues, but they have seen a link between dogs that are fed grain-free diets and this particular type of heart disease.

“I always tell my patients to feed their dogs grain-inclusive diets to avoid this potential problem,” explained Dr. Fox.

She also says dog parents should feed their dogs well-known brands in which the formulas are backed by research, including feeding trials and tests done by veterinary nutritionists.

Myth #5: A Dry Nose Means Your Dog is Sick

The moisture of your dog’s nose does not determine his overall health.

“The moistness of your dog’s nose is rarely ever an indication of health,” says Dr. Fox. “Very healthy dogs can have dry noses and vice versa. Nose temperature and moistness fluctuate through the day and throughout the seasons and generally have no bearing on your pet’s overall health status.” 

Rather, common symptoms of a dog in distress include lethargy, food avoidance, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Related: Here’s How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Cold — and What to Do About It

Myth #6: One Human Year Equals Seven Dog Years

Have you ever told a friend or relative that your 3-year-old dog is 21 in people years? Well, you’re wrong.

“Many people think that one human year equates to seven dog years,” says Dr. Fox. “But recent research has shown this isn’t accurate.”

Indeed, a recent study looked at cell methylation between dogs and humans in labs and suggests that dogs age much more quickly at a younger age than we do. “The new formula they came up with is much more accurate when comparing a dog’s age to a human’s,” says Dr. Fox. The formula to determine how old a dog is in human years is  human_age = 16 ln(dog_age) + 31. 

Related: Determining a Dog’s Age Is a Lot More Complicated Than the 7-Year-Rule, New Research Shows

While most of these myths are well intended, none of them are 100% accurate. If you have a health-related question about your dog, always ask your vet.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

By Stephanie Weaver

Stephanie Weaver is a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia, PA. When she's not locked down to her laptop, she can be found riding horses or playing with her Boston Terrier mix, Steve.

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