From Wagging Tails to Wet Noses: Top Pet Myths, Debunked


| LAST UPDATE 02/09/2022

By Riley Hammond

Over the years, many pet owners have fallen victim to myths concerning their furry friends. And while some may be funny, others can be quite alarming once uncovered. We're here to set the record straight, once and for all.

A Dog With a Warm, Dry Nose Has a Fever

Many dog owners have searched for ways to check when their pups aren't feeling too well. One of the more common misconceptions is that when a dog's nose feels warm and dry, it's a likely indicator of a fever.

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However, WebMD’s veterinarian Dr. Suzanne Hunter has set the facts straight regarding the issue. She explains that the only way to accurately determine whether a dog has a fever is by taking its temperature, which should normally be around 100 to 102.5 Fahrenheit.

A Purring Cat is a Happy Cat

This one might be a bit of a bummer for cat owners, but a cat's purring doesn't necessarily mean that it's bonding with its human. In fact, purring in cats may even be a sign of negative feelings - including anxiety, nervousness, and pain. That's right.

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Research has revealed that the low-frequency vibrations emitted when a cat purrs help heal body wounds, including severe ones like broken bones. On the bright side, though, it may be comforting for cat owners to know that kittens will purr when they feel safe and soothed, especially around their mothers!

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Rabbits Need Carrot-Based Diets

Over the years - and mostly thanks to cartoon rabbits such as Bugs Bunny, ahem - carrots have become the food most associated with bunny cuisine. But it turns out people who own rabbits should probably start cutting back on the amount of carrots in their pets' diet!

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The high amounts of sugar found in carrots can upset the healthy balance of bacteria in a rabbit's gut and digestive tracts, causing more health issues. The VCA Hospital recommends a diet filled with hay or grass and some fresh vegetables, along with a specific portion of rabbit pellet.

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There’s an Age Limit to Dogs Learning New Tricks

The idea that “ya can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has become quite established among pet owners. It has even become a saying we use for humans who refuse to change old habits or learn new skills. But, it turns out that the expression isn’t as true as we’ve originally believed it to be. 

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Research that has been done at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna shows that, while it does take a longer time to train older dogs, they are able to remember tricks and commands in the long run. In fact, dogs with age-related illnesses such as dementia can greatly benefit from this type of mental stimulation!

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All Dogs Can Swim

While dog lovers never grow tired of watching their favorite pets doing the famous doggy paddle, veterinarians warn that swimming isn’t always second nature to dogs. Swimming abilities can greatly vary across breeds and also depends on the structure of the pup’s body.

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Some types of dogs, such as golden retrievers, are typically great swimmers and take to navigating through the water with ease. Others, like bulldogs, can potentially drown if they’re not supported with protective life vests. According to experts, dogs should never be left in the water unattended or without canine life jackets.

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Cats Always Land On Their Feet

Cats seem to be able to escape harm even in the most dangerous of situations. And while cat owners have commonly relied on the "superpower" their pets seem to have in always landing on their feet, they may want to be a tad more careful. It turns out this trick may not always save a cat's life.

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Like other animals, cats have a "righting reflex," which gives them the ability to twist their spines midair in a way that ensures they will land on their feet. However, the fall doesn't always give the cat time to reposition itself, and therefore it may not be able to land on its feet in time, possibly resulting in injuries.

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A Dog Has a Cleaner Mouth Than a Human

Although it may be hard to resist those slobbery kisses dogs like to give, medical experts, in fact, advise people to not do that. Despite what many commonly believe, dogs' mouths are not hygienic, since they're willing to pick up just about anything with their tongues and teeth.

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Hundreds of types of bacteria thrive in dogs' mouths, most of which only affect other dogs. However, 15% of these bacteria can potentially cause illness or death in humans. Despite the fact that our immune systems generally protect us from these diseases, it's best not to expose dog saliva to cuts and wounds.

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Dogs Wag Their Tails When They're Happy

Most dog owners are eager to come home to excited dogs with wagging tails. And although it might seem quite fulfilling, a common mistake people make is thinking a wagging tail equals a happy dog. Dog tails are a common result of people's misinterpretation of their body language.

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A dog's tail wagging could be an indication of a wide range of emotions. Some of these include fear, annoyance, curiosity, enthusiasm, confidence, tension, nervousness, or even hostility. According to dog behaviorists, a full-body wag in which the tail makes wide and fast wags is usually positive.

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Goldfish Are Easy Pets For Beginners

Goldfish don't seem like the type of pet that requires much attention or resources. They're relatively cheap and need nothing more than a tank full of water to survive. Right? Well, contrary to popular belief, goldfish actually demand a great deal of maintenance.

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Goldfish can quickly produce a lot of waste and must be placed in tanks containing at least 20 gallons of water in order to avoid a toxic buildup. These pets can also grow up to measure about a foot long and live for around a decade. They're even banned in many countries since they rely on water bowls for proper living conditions.

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One Dog Year is Seven Human Years

A common misconception that's been around forever is that every time a dog ages by one "human year," it has actually grown seven "dog years." As it turns out, we've been counting wrong - calculating a dog's age isn't as straightforward as the times table we've set for it!

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After studying changes in dogs' DNA, scientists have found that dog development isn't linear. The first year of a dog's life equals about fifteen years of a human's life, the second year for dogs is equivalent to twenty-four human years, and every year after that is about four to five human years' worth of growth for dogs.

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Dogs Can't Digest Corn or Grains

A popular misconception that has developed is that corn and grains are not healthy for dogs and that their stomachs can't digest them. But recent studies have revealed that cutting grains completely from a dog's diet may actually be dangerous for them!

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Dr. Jamie Richardson, medical chief at Small Door Veterinary, explains, "While protein should make up the majority of a dog's diet, grains can add beneficial fiber, vitamins, and minerals." A grain-free diet can lead to a dangerous heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, which may affect the heart's ability to pump blood.

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House Cats Can Go Outside

Over the decades, many cat owners have made the common mistake of letting their house cats roam the outdoors. New research shows that, not only does this potentially place cats in dangerous situations, but it also has some very unwanted effects on the environment.

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Dr. George Fenwick, President of the American Bird Conservancy, says that cats kill over 4 billion animals per year, 500 million of which are birds. Not only that, but their feces are filled with many kinds of parasites, including hookworms, roundworms, and other organisms that can cause diseases for fetuses in pregnant women.

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Dogs Eat Grass When They're Not Feeling Well

Several dog owners have probably made the mistake of misinterpreting their dog's cravings for grass. A common myth is that dogs eat grass in order to induce vomiting when they're not feeling too well. But according to veterinarians, findings show that this may not be the case.

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New studies have revealed that dogs rarely vomit from munching on grass blades. In fact, most of the time, they feel just fine afterward. Different theories among scientists are that dogs eat grass for fiber, out of boredom, or simply because they may like the taste of it.

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Shelter Animals Make Bad Pets

One common stereotype that is quite false about shelter animals is that something must be wrong with them. Lots of aspiring pet owners tend to stay away from these "unwanted" creatures. But the fact of the matter is, many of these animals were brought to shelters because of problems caused by the owners, not the pets.

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Common reasons that animals end up in shelters are: moving, financial issues, and a lack of patience or willingness among owners to train or care for their pups. Besides this, shelters usually make any animal's behavioral issues or special needs known to people looking to adopt.

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Milk Is Healthy for Growing Kittens

Most people have seen kittens lapping away at milk on TV, but the truth is that dairy is quite dangerous for these furry creatures. The only milk that doesn't cause health issues for cats is the milk from their mothers, or a special formula for kittens.

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Since kittens don't have the special enzymes needed to digest the lactose found in cow's milk, dairy consumption can cause diarrhea, even leading to fatal dehydration in small kittens. The sugar in dairy can cause painful bloating as it ferments in the gut, and it's best to avoid giving it to cats.

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A Dog With a Blue/Black Tongue Has Chow Chow Ancestry

The unique, bearlike Chow Chow dog is known for its puffy fur, round ears, and dark-colored tongue. Since this breed is one of the few that have blue or black tongues instead of pink ones, many people commonly believe that any dog that has a dark tongue must be part Chow Chow. The truth?

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The colored tongue is simply the effect of pigmentation, according to scientists. What changes the colors of the noses, ears, or tails can also cause a darker/lighter color of different dogs' tongues. Other breeds with dark tongues can include Dalmations, Aussies, Shar-peis, and Cocker Spaniels.

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One Can't Train a Cat

Anyone who owns a cat has probably envied dog owners for their ability to teach their pets to follow different commands. But, as unruly and indifferent as cats may seem, it turns out it's actually possible to train cats to do a few tricks! Not only that, but this may help strengthen the bond between cats and their owners.

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One reason cat owners may find it impossible to train their pets is because they don't know how to do it. Cats learn with positive reinforcements, such as treats, and don't respond well to scolding, which can actually stress them out. The ASPCA says, "Persuasion, not punishment, is the key to training your cat."

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A Summer Trim Will Help Keep a Dog Cool

Hot, fluffy dogs sometimes gain a lot of sympathy from passersby while out on a walk on a hot summer day. However, the excessive fur isn't always exacerbating the heat for these furry creatures. As a matter of fact, it may actually be helping them cool down!

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Sometimes, a dog's fur can "trap" cool air near the dog's skin and keep it cool in warmer environments. Other breeds, like Siberian Huskies, have double coats of fur and shed the thick undercoat during the summer, allowing air to pass through to their skin.

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Female Dogs Should Give Birth Before Being Spayed

A common misconception among dog owners, especially female ones, is that dogs who can potentially become mothers should have at least one litter before they're spayed. This could actually be dangerous to female dogs, and also contributes to the growing problem of pet overpopulation.

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Veterinarians have shared that allowing pets to give birth before they are spayed doesn't help them at all. In fact, there is an increased risk of cancer in female dogs who remain capable of reproducing, and spaying them can have great health benefits. For example, spaying dogs can help them live for longer!

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Dogs Should Eat Raw Meat

A common habit among dog owners is feeding their pets raw meals, having in mind the notion that this type of food would be closer to what the animals would find in the wild. This includes raw meat as well as raw vegetables, eggs, and bones. But veterinarians are concerned about this not-so-healthy trend.

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In addition to having no proven health benefits, studies have shown that this diet is linked to an increased risk of hazardous microbes. Although the cousins of these canines, including wolves and foxes, eat raw meat in the wild, the digestive systems of dogs have changed over many millennia - making raw meat potentially deadly!

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Dogs Can't See Color

This myth has become so widespread that even people who have never owned a dog believe it to be true. New technology in recent research has helped scientists discover that dogs actually can see color, although not the full spectrum that most humans are able to perceive.

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Similar to humans, dogs have color-sensing cells in their eyes called cone photoreceptors. Most humans have three functioning cone photoreceptors allowing them to perceive a spectrum of colors. Dogs, on the other hand, only have two cone photoreceptors, and can only see combinations and varying degrees of yellow and blue.

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Dogs Lick Their Wounds to Heal Them

Ancient history has left us with countless myths, one of which is that dog saliva can heal wounds. As scientific research has progressed, we've been able to discover that not only does a dog's saliva not heal injuries, but a dog can actually exacerbate its wounds by licking them.

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While it is true that a dog's saliva contains antibacterial properties, it only has an inhibiting effect on specific strains of bacteria and only slightly restricts their growth. A dog's lick can reopen wounds and possibly lead to infection due to the deadly microbes contained in the animal's saliva.

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Dog Parks Are Always Dog-Friendly

Several dog owners enjoy making a stop at the local dog park when they take their pets out for a stroll in the neighborhood. And while playing with other dogs in the park is great exercise and can promote social skills, it can also be a rather dangerous activity for some dogs to engage in.

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Pet owners are warned to remain alert when they take their dogs to these parks, since other canines in the area can be quite aggressive. Smaller and larger dogs should also keep a distance from one another, as interactions between them could lead to injuries.

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There Are Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds

A common misconception is that some dogs are more allergy-friendly than others. Although it may sound great to have a hypoallergenic dog, they may be much harder to come across than one would expect. Allergies to dogs and cats aren't caused by the animals' fur - but rather by a protein found in their saliva and urine.

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Dander, which forms from the bond this protein then creates with the animal's dead skin, is what triggers allergic reactions in some people. An allergic person's body then reacts by activating the immune system, causing increased mucus and sneezing.

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Dogs Can Feel Guilty

Dogs have become famous for the guilty expressions they make when they're being punished, and a few especially adorable faces went on to become memes on the internet. However, experts have found that the droopy eyes and lowered heads that result when owners scold their pets don't necessarily indicate guilt.

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Scientists have found that, while dogs do understand and react with sadness when they're in trouble, they don't necessarily understand what they're in trouble for. Experts warn that punishing dogs who aren't aware of what they did wrong can actually lead to more bad behavior.

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Human Food Is Bad for Dogs

People who own dogs have heard many warnings against sharing their delicious food with their pets. But while there are specific foods that are toxic, in particular, to dogs, human food generally shouldn't cause health issues, as long as it's part of a balanced diet.

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Of course, though, canine food is the ideal meal for our pups, as home-cooked meals can lack several nutrients that our furry friends need. Another important thing to note, according to experts, is to keep dogs away from grapes, onions, and other potentially toxic foods.

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Cats Are Low-Maintenance Pets

Countless people over the years have adopted or bought cats, believing they wouldn't need to give them much attention. But apparently, this couldn't be farther from the truth. While cats aren't as high-maintenance as dogs, they still require a lot of care.

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Unfortunately, many owners have welcomed cats into their homes and ended up leaving them for a couple of days, thinking their pets would manage just fine. But although they don't show it as much as dogs do, cats can experience separation anxiety and need to spend time with their owners to develop bonds.

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Cats Are Nocturnal Animals

Those who have owned cats know the feeling of being woken up by a wet nose or a paw or two at four o'clock in the morning. Because of this, many people, even cat owners, believe that cats are nocturnal animals. But, as it turns out, cats typically sleep 23 hours a day!

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Cats are actually crepuscular animals, meaning they are active at dusk and dawn - ideal times for hunting. And since cats who live in houses don't hunt for food, all they need to do is adorably prod their sleeping owners to get a refill in their food bowls.

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Pregnant Women Shouldn't Live With Cats

Another big myth: unfortunately, there have been several cases in which cats are thrown out by owners after a woman in the home becomes pregnant. Although it's true that cat feces can transmit parasites that can cause birth defects, this can easily be avoidable.

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Experts recommend that litter boxes are cleaned out daily in order to prevent further infections. An important thing to remember is to wear gloves while doing so. Another alternative is having a family member clean out the box instead - which could also be a nice break for the pregnant person in the house!

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Cats Can See in Complete Darkness

Cats are known for their mysterious eyes that seem to "glow" in the dark. That glow is actually a "mirror" in the back of a cat's eyes that reflects whatever light is around in the dark. And while cats do have night vision, they aren't able to see in total darkness.

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The glowing "mirror" that reflects the light helps cats see in slight darkness or when there's little light around. It enhances a cat's vision and redirects the light so that cats are able to see. But in the absence of that little bit of light, cats are as blind as a bat - another myth for another day.

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