- Exploring the myths of grooming your dog
- Discovering why some myths have a basis in fact
- Spotting a bogus statement
Everyone’s heard the urban legends about dogs. Unfortunately, you’ve probably heard so many strange stories through the years that you’re likely to take some of them as fact even though they’re fiction.
In this chapter, I bust a few of those myths about dogs. You may have heard these stories as truth, or you may have told them yourself. Now it’s time to find out which ones are works of overactive imaginations.
Never Bathe Your Dog Unless He Is Really Dirty
A myth that I hear all the time is that you shouldn’t bathe your dog unless he’s dirty, because you’ll dry out his coat or his coat needs those vital oils, or something to that effect.
If you show dogs, you know that claim just isn’t true. But when you delve deeper into this myth, you find that at one time, it was true, primarily because shampoos weren’t formulated to be pH-balanced with a dog’s skin. Today’s shampoos and conditioners for dogs are so well formulated that you can wash your dog every day without problems. You just have to make sure the shampoo you’re using is pH-balanced.
At one time, everyone believed that taking baths or showers every day was bad. It isn’t — we got over it and moved on. You can wash your dog whenever you want to now and not dry out his coat.
Certain Breeds Are Hypoallergenic
The popular myth that only certain dogs’ coats are hypoallergenic and won’t affect human allergies to dogs only recently started its rounds. This myth has become quite popular with the advent of designer dogs, that is crossbred dogs that come from two different breeds — Poodle + Labrador = Labradoodle.
The reasoning behind claims that dogs sport hypoallergenic coats is pretty simple. Poodles and other single-coated dogs don’t shed as much as dogs with double coats do. So if you breed a Poodle with another breed, you’ll have a shed-free dog — or so logic goes.
So is this one truly a myth or is it factual? Well, yes and no, but peoples’ allergies are far more complex than that. Here’s why hypoallergenic coats are a fallacy:
– People who are allergic to dogs aren’t necessarily allergic to dog hair or even the dander produced by the dog’s skin. They’re often allergic to a protein the dog carries around, and thus they’re often allergic to the dog’s saliva.
– Because people with dog allergies react differently to different dogs, those people may be allergic to certain dogs and not allergic to other types of dogs. No one breed of dog, however, is hypoallergenic.
– Single-coated dog breeds tend to shed less, but they still lose hair and produce dander.
– A crossbred dog like a Labradoodle may not be shed free — genetics can produce a full range from dogs that don’t shed much to dogs that shed a bundle.
If you find that you have dog allergies, you need to work with an allergist, so that you’re better able to cope with the grooming tasks you need to perform on your dog. If the allergist says that you shouldn’t have a dog, you can always argue that he doesn’t tell people not to have trees or grass in their yards when they’re allergic to them, so why can’t he work toward making you more comfortable around your dog?
That said, some types of dogs seem to be more easily tolerated by people with allergies. If you’re allergic and trying to find the type of dog your allergies can tolerate, your best bet before purchasing one is to visit the home of someone who has the kind of dog you’re considering to find out whether you can tolerate it at home.
Lamb and Rice Is a Good Food for Coats
The lamb-and-rice/good coat myth is interesting in that it started when vets prescribed lamb-and-rice–based dog foods for dogs whose owners were looking for relief from skin allergies for their pooches. At the time, the lamb-and-rice diet was a novel protein and carbohydrate source to which dogs were not allergic. Suddenly hot spots disappeared, and all the skin conditions went away. So, breeders and pet owners began believing the lamb-and-rice combination was the miracle dog food for coats. Dog food companies naturally complied with the demand, providing lamb-and-rice dog food for consumers.
A lamb-and-rice diet isn’t any better for your dog than any other dog food. The reason it worked so well at the beginning was because the ingredients were novel; dogs never had eaten the lamb and rice in tandem before and therefore hadn’t had a chance to develop any allergies to it. Guess what happened when lamb and rice went mainstream? Dogs were fed the lamb-and-rice diet for generations, and they developed allergies to it. So the magic that was in lamb and rice is no more. It no longer is a hypoallergenic diet.
Tomato Juice Gets Rid of Skunk Odor
If you’ve checked out Chapter The Skinny on Hairy Health Issues
, you know the answer to this one. If you wash a skunked dog in tomato juice, you get a stinky pink dog!
A skunk’s spray is made up of a number of stinky compounds called thiols. Thiols are the same things that make decomposing flesh and dog poop stink, but those thiols aren’t necessarily the same ones that are in skunk spray. Skunks usually produce about two tablespoons of the stuff — enough for six quick shots. If a skunk actually dumps all of it, the skunk needs a week or two to recharge.
Most people think the tomato juice bath works because eventually the stench assaults your nostrils so badly that your brain actually starts getting used to it. So after several minutes of stink, the skunk smell really won’t smell as bad as it does to someone who has just been exposed to it.
Dogs Naturally Have Bad Breath
Your dog doesn’t have to have bad breath. The myth that surrounds doggie breath stems from people who think that dogs are naturally supposed to have bad breath — and that just isn’t true. Your dog’s breath needs to be kissably sweet, except, of course, when he’s been eating something vile or disgusting.
If your dog’s breath constantly stinks like a sewer, it can be a more serious problem — tooth and gum troubles. It may be that your dog has an even more serious problem — like oral cancer. So when you detect a constant odor, it’s time for a trip to the vet for a checkup.
Raw Egg Is Good for Your Dog’s Coat
Here’s another old wives’ tale: Giving your dog a raw egg is good for his coat. Yes, eggs are great protein sources and full of vitamins and minerals, so nothing is wrong with treating your dog to an egg from time to time, but raw egg contains raw egg whites, which can cause a biotin deficiency, which, in turn, can cause hair loss, among other things.
When you cook an egg, you make the egg white safe for doggie consumption, and it no longer binds with biotin. You can give your dog a cooked egg as a wonderful treat anytime, but saying that it’s better than having a balanced diet is ridiculous. You can do more for your dog’s coat by feeding him a balanced diet.
Never, Ever Shave Your Dog’s Coat
This myth is one of the partially true ones. When you shave a dog, you expose the skin to the elements and leave it unprotected. For example, for long-coated and double-coated dogs, shaving your dog’s coat in the summer isn’t a great idea. Those dogs normally shed out their undercoats, leaving the top coat for protection against the sun’s rays, and besides, the area from which the undercoat is missing actually helps cool the dog against the hot sun.
However, shaving a dog’s coat sometimes is warranted — no way around it. These times include:
– If the breed standard calls for shaving the dog. Poodles and other breeds fall into this category. The types of coats they have require such grooming.
– When dreadful mats occur throughout the dog’s hair. In some cases, the dog has to be shaved to enable a healthy new coat to grow in.
– Skin conditions or other problems arise. You may be forced to shave your dog’s coat so you can treat these problems.
When you do have to shave a dog, you need to realize that what you’re doing is taking away his natural protection. As a result, you’ll have to add back that protection in the form of something like a T-shirt or sweater depending on the climate. Note: Dogs can get sunburned, so if you have a bare dog, you’re going to have to use a good quality sunscreen (either one intended for humans or one developed for dogs, which you can find online).
Shaving a dog isn’t the best thing in the world for the dog, but with a little care you can make it work.
Garlic and Brewer’s Yeast Get Rid of Fleas
A myth out there that purports that garlic and brewer’s yeast get rid of fleas is so wrong, it’s almost funny. Brewer’s yeast has plenty of B-vitamins and other good things for your dog, but it’s completely wrong when it comes to controlling fleas. Oddly enough, when companies that make flea and tick products want to grow fleas, they do it in brewer’s yeast — so brewer’s yeast doesn’t kill fleas at all.
What about garlic? Well, when it comes to blood suckers, garlic may keep away vampires (the science is inconclusive), but it won’t do much for fleas. A proven systemic flea-control product (either topical or oral) works much better and more efficiently than these old wives’ tale cures.
Never Use Human Shampoo on Dogs
This myth also is another of the partially true ones. Using human shampoos on dogs isn’t a great idea, because they’re not formulated for a dog’s coat. However, in a pinch when you have nothing else, you can use human shampoo on a dog’s coat. Just make sure that it isn’t medicated and that you rinse it really well. Using a human shampoo all the time can dry out a dog’s coat, but once in a while isn’t going to hurt anything. If you’re faced with a dirty dog and no doggie shampoo, go ahead and use your own. Just don’t get in the habit of using it all the time.
A Dog’s Saliva Has Fewer Germs than a Human’s
You probably heard that dogs’ mouths are cleaner than human mouths a million times while growing up — I know I did. The myth generally goes something like this: A dog’s saliva somehow has healing properties and has fewer germs than a human mouth. I remember people sagely claiming this one while a dog was licking a wound on his leg or maybe licking a kid’s face.
Well, I have news for you. It isn’t true.
Now before all you dog lovers throw rocks at my house and flood my mailbox with hate mail, let me explain. In most cases, dogs don’t carry the same diseases that humans do, so in that respect, their saliva is somewhat safer. But dogs have plenty of bacteria and other germs in their mouths that can cause an infection as bad as anything else. In fact, dogs have an enzyme in their mouths that actually breaks down skin tissue. I’ve been bitten enough times to know that the first thing the doctor worries about in a dog bite is infection. Left untreated, a dog bite can cause a serious infection called cellulitis. One untreated bite I suffered caused my finger to swell up twice its normal size, and I needed serious treatment that included antibiotics and painful hydrogen peroxide soaks.
Veterinarians who treat cuts on any dog will tell you to prevent your dog from licking his wounds. In fact, the vet will put an Elizabethan collar (E-collar) on your dog to prevent him from licking his wounds and keep him from getting infected.
You may wonder where the dog saliva myth came from. I do, too. I’m guessing that in the old days before pet owners understood about keeping wounds clean, they watched dogs clean their wounds. The dogs probably did a better job of cleaning their wounds than their human counterparts, who perhaps didn’t clean their wounds, which then became infected. So somebody decided that dogs just naturally did better because of their saliva. When faced with a dirty wound or at least one with no dirt in it, the saliva probably was better than nothing, and the enzyme within the dog’s mouth probably helped get rid of the bad stuff in the wound. But in a modern age of veterinary medicine, leave the licking to face washes and not to trying to heal a wound or skin condition.
by Margaret H.Bonham