You spent years earning a degree in veterinary medicine. Now you’re practicing and helping countless pets, firsthand, every day. You know your stuff. So why is it that so many pet owners have diagnoses for their animals before they even come to see you?
The simple answer: Pet owners are trusting the ever-accessible WebMD to determine their pets’ health. While they feel increasingly knowledgeable about how to best care for their pet, the truth is they’re being increasingly led astray. As a veterinarian, it’s important that your clients trust you — rather than something they read online — with their pet’s health. After all, you’re the expert.
These are some of the most commonly accepted myths about pet health we’ve heard; consider talking to your customers about these when they bring their pets in.
Pet Health Myth 1: “My dog is eating grass; she must be sick.”
Well, not quite. While it’s true that dogs will often vomit after they have consumed grass, this isn’t due to an illness they had beforehand. It may be because they have an upset stomach, though. Grass causes an imbalance in dogs’ stomachs that will generally induce vomiting — and that’s not even taking into account chemicals and pesticides they might be ingesting, which could make them sick as an unintended consequence. There are several theories as to “why” dogs will eat grass, but pet owners should try to prevent their dogs from eating grass in the first place.
Pet Health Myth 2: “My dog is eating grass, so it’s going to rain later.”
This is a funny one, and it’s been around for a long time. But put your umbrellas away. Instead of looking at the sky, pet owners should pay closer attention to their pets; they may have an upset stomach. Or they may just like grass.
Pet Health Myth 3: “My pet is in danger because his nose is dry.”
More often than not, a dry nose is nothing to worry about. A dog’s nose will naturally cycle through being wet and drying out every day — a warm, dry nose is generally just an indicator that they might need a cool drink of water. The real warning signs pet owners should watch for are when a dry nose is cracked, discolored, or has scabs, as this can be a result of sunburn, a skin disorder, or severe dehydration. These are all cases in which a trip to the vet is absolutely necessary.
Pet Health Myth 4: “My pet gets plenty of exercise around the house.”
Moving around the house is not healthy exercise for dogs any more than it is for you or me. U.S. obesity rates for both dogs and cats are at a peak and have been steadily on the rise for more than a decade, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. If a pet is gaining unhealthy weight, odds are their owners probably aren’t taking them on walks or simply playing a game of fetch with them as frequently as they should be. Exercise, along with a balanced, species-appropriate diet and portion control, are all factors to consider. A pet’s health depends on their owner’s knowledge, which should be coming from a trained veterinarian like you.
Pet Health Myth 5: “I need to wait until my dog goes into heat before I spay her.”
Vets like to spay dogs when they are around 9 months to a year old, but you don’t necessarily need to wait until they’ve gone into heat, since early spaying can help prevent mammary cancers. However, larger breeds of dogs like Great Pyrenees or Saint Bernards are often spayed after 24 months to allow them to reach their maximum size. Because vets and breeders have varying opinions, keep in mind that every dog is different. Of course, this is an important conversation to have with every pet owner who is considering spaying their pet.
Veterinarians know pets, and no one (not even the internet) has better training than they do to know what’s best. And what about what’s best for pet owners? Ditching WebMD and trusting the real doctor’s word for it.