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Posted on Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 5:52 a.m.

Common pet myths can be humorous; others cost animals dearly

By Lorrie Shaw


flickr photo courtesy of sxld

I've always found the myths that circulate about domesticated animals interesting. Some of the comments that I hear and read about are wacky, comical, dangerous, even unethical.

Surely, you've heard a few of of them, and you might even be wondering if they are indeed true. I'll admit, the animal world can seem a little odd when you consider some of the behavior that we humans see from our four-legged counterparts, and I'll venture to say that that is where some of these ideas come from.

Dogs are completely color blind and see in black and white:

This has been proven to be untrue: dogs do see in color. They do see differently than most people do and are less able to distinguish between colors. Canines see like people who have red/green color blindness, as veterinary ophthalmologists have determined.

From what they can tell, dog's eyes have have receptors for blue and green shades, but lack the necessary receptors for red shades. Dogs can't easily identify between yellow, green and red, but they can see different shades of blue, purple and gray. (Ironically, many dog toys are brilliant shades of reds and orange.)

A dog scoots his rear on the ground because he has worms:

Although canines with tapeworms will scoot across the floor to relieve the discomfort, worms are not the only reason behind the boot-scooting behavior. Allergies, diarrhea or even anal sac problems can also be the culprit. One thing is clear: a pet that does this is telling you that there is something going on. A trip to the vet is necessary to get to the bottom of the rump dragging.

Cats always land on their feet:

Despite the ability of felines to "right" themselves to land on their feet as they fall, if they are ill, disoriented or injured, they may not be able to adjust their position as they fall.

Additionally, if a cat falls from a great distance, their ability to fall feet first wouldn't matter: they can become as equally injured as any animal — ditto for falls from a height or two stories or less. Read about High Rise Syndrome by clicking here.

Female dogs and cats should have at least one litter of puppies before spaying:

This is simply an old wive's tale and is absolutely untrue. No known benefits exist to allow any pet to reproduce unnecessarily. In fact, a dog's risk of developing of breast cancer will be dramatically decreased if she is spayed before her first heat cycle, research has shown.

Also, the concept can only add to the dire situation of thousands of homeless and abandoned cats and dogs. Low-cost spay and neuter programs exist to help address the complex issue of overpopulation.

A dog with a warm dry nose is ill:

Nonsense. A warm, dry nose is equal to a cool, wet one — though is less surprising if you are poked by one! If your pooch is exhibiting odd behavior, is lethargic, has changes in appetite or has diarrhea, these can be signs that your pet is sick and needs to see a vet.

Cats can see in the dark:

A cats’ eyes are designed so the iris can open very wide to let in as much light as possible. While a cat’s vision is effective in semi-darkness, she cannot see in complete darkness.

Dogs eat grass to vomit:

There seem to be two types of grass-eating behavior in dogs.

Some dogs casually graze on a few blades of grass, only enjoying a little at a time. Others, well, they wolf down the green stuff with a purpose. Those in the latter category tend to vomit it (and other stomach contents) within a short time. Dogs that graze slowly usually don't throw up.

So, if your pooch is plucking a few blades now and then, you've nothing to worry about.

These are just a handful of existing animal myths. If you have questions about the well-being of your pet or if they suddenly exhibit a profound change in behavior, you should contact your veterinarian's office so that they can assess the situation.

Lorrie Shaw is lead pets blogger for Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly.


Dr. Justine Lee

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

As a veterinarian, that's exactly why I wrote my two books "It's a Dog's Life... but It's Your Carpet" and "It's a Cat's World... You Just Live in It." I see so many "myths" that result in dangerous management of pets, and can directly affect their health. While some myths are based off some accuracy, when in doubt, check with your veterinarian! Dr. Justine Lee Twitter: @drjustinelee


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 6:18 p.m.

Excellent, Lorrie!

Lorrie Shaw

Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 5:46 a.m.

Thanks for reading, julieswhimsies. Much appreciated!


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

Would be nice if the grass eating portion of the story was finished. Is there a reason why a dog would "wolf down the green stuff"? That seemed to indicate there are reasons left un-said.

Lorrie Shaw

Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

Gordon: Thanks for pointing out my mis-step! I should have clarified a bit more. Dogs will do what they can to expel something that is making their stomach feel disagreeable , and eating grass is really the only way to get the job done. It's usually no issue if say, they've gotten into something that has caused them to feel unwell and by eating grass they have managed to bring it up. I will stress though, that if the sudden, vigorous grass-eating continues after it seems as though things should be resolved and/or there is straining during defecation - or there isn't a productive bowel movement - there very well might be more going on that really does need a veterinarian's intervention immediately. Thanks for asking that question!


Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

I was told that if a dog scoots and is regularly groomed, to mention this to the groomer. They also know what to check for. At least ours did.

Lorrie Shaw

Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

jns131, So true. If one's pet sees a groomer regularly, they can be a font of wisdom, and usually work as a partner with the pet's humans and vet in maintaining overall well-being.

Sarah Rigg

Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 12:54 p.m.

Re: having one litter before spaying. I did some research on cancer and spaying when my previous cat was diagnosed with feline mammary cancer (which she eventually died from). It's MUCH healthier to spay your female cats early. If you spay before 8 months, you reduce the cat's chances of getting mammary cancer dramatically. There's still some benefit from spaying before 1 year old. A cat who is spayed after that has about the same chances of getting mammary cancer as one who was never spayed. Had I known these facts, I would have had my cat spayed much earlier and may have avoided some heartache.

Lorrie Shaw

Tue, Sep 27, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

Sarah, Oh, I am so sorry to hear about your cat. :( There are just too many reasons that we should spay our dogs and cats, and the one that you raised is a perfect example. Thanks for bringing that up.