Myths About Your Pet’s Health

Beach Metro News

By Dr. Nigel Skinner • September 20, 2011 • Print This Article
I RECEIVED an e-mail recently asking if was true that only female dog’s urine burned grass. I replied I had heard this before, but had never given the matter a lot of thought (I have more than enough trouble pulling the dandelions to worry about much else). I decided to investigate the matter further.

I initially expected to discover that the acidity of urine would be the culprit, but as I mentioned to the person enquiring, urine acidity, while dependent on many variables, does not really differ between males and females. A little research revealed that it’s in fact the nitrogen in urine, which is produced as a product of protein breakdown that is the cause of grass scalding. However, like acidity the amount of nitrogen in a dog’s urine depends on factors other than its gender. It is largely depend- ent on diet; more protein, more nitrogen.

Why then does female dog urine cause more scalding than male’s? The best answer it seems is that females tend to urinate in one large, more concentrated pool, while males as a rule tend to spread their urine over a number of areas with a particular preference for vertical objects. I looked into many suggested remedies for this problem, there are numerous products claiming to help, however it seems the only successful solution is to dilute the urine by watering the area as soon after the offending urination as possible.

After answering this question, I decided that it would be worthwhile sharing a few of the other misconceptions we vets sometimes receive queries about. I asked the staff at my hospital to name a few they had heard recently.

“My dog has worms, he’s been scooting his rear across the carpet.”

While in practice I have seen ‘scooting’ as a primary complaint numerous times, I don’t ever recall a case that could be blamed on worms. Dogs (and some cats) drag their hind ends on the floor or ground when they are itchy or painful. The number one cause for this is irritation arising from the anal glands. These glands are scent glands similar to the infamous ones pos- sessed by skunks. Both cats and dogs have them. They produce a foul smelling oily secretion that, when things are working well, is secreted in small amounts usually as the pet defecates and as such, generally goes unnoticed. Occasionally they can become full and irritated. If your pet is scooting this should be your first consideration. If the ducts draining the glands become blocked, or the material inside becomes too thick, they can actually abscess and rupture.

If the anal glands are not the culprit, your vet will investigate other causes of discomfort in the area. This could range from skin allergies to lower abdominal or even back pain.

“My pet’s nose is cool and wet…it must be well.”

Fortunately while this one has nearly been laid to rest, we do hear it from time to time. While a fever may produce a difference in the moisture and feel of a dog or cat’s nose, it is by no means in any way reliable. A cold wet nose is no more an indica- tor of health than a warm dry one is of illness. Look for the most telling indicators to decide if it’s time to bring your pet to the doctor; appetite, energy level, bowel movements, urination habits, vomiting, hiding and changes in grooming habits to name a few.

“My cat eats grass when it needs to vomit.”

The jury is still out on this one. In truth no-one knows why cats and dogs eat grass. We do know that as an irritant to the lining of the stomach it often will cause vomiting, but many argue that this

is not the motivation. Those against will say that it’s extremely unlikely that cats and dogs are “far enough up the evolutionary ladder” to be self medicating. Others can present lots of anecdotal reports to suggest otherwise. Most agree that the likely motivation in most cases is simply that they like it! I usually advise to discourage it if the pet is eating enough to vomit on any sort of a regular basis, the act of vomiting likely does more damage than the grass ever will.

“If I get my dog spayed, she’ll get fat and lazy.”

This one is simply not true, but unfortu- nately is both widely believed and is often hard to dispel among some pet owners. Spaying does alter a pet’s hormonal status. Removal of the ovaries removes the body’s source of estrogen. Estrogen is a natural appetite suppressant, so we do see spayed females that will have greater appetites due to this. Spaying also lowers a pet’s metabolic rate. This is the rate at which the cells burn fuel during normal functioning. This does not mean they move slower or can’t find the same energy level, it means that throughout a normal day their energy input requirements are lower.

It is the combination of a slight lack of appetite suppression and a lower fuel requirement that causes spayed females to gain weight. In other words, we feed them too much! As they get overweight, naturally their perceptible energy level drops. They’re not getting lazy, just having a tougher time getting around.

Many other ‘myths”’ of this sort are harmless bits of misinformation; others including some mentioned here can truly affect the well being of your pet if taken seriously.

My advice of course…ask your vet!