Health Beat: Prescription Pet: Debunking dog health myths

Prescription Pet: Debunking dog health myths

RALEIGH, N.C. - More than $55 billion is what industry experts expect Americans to spend on their pets in 2013, with $14 billion of that going toward veterinarian care and pet prescriptions. While we want the best for our furry family members, believing tall tales could hurt them.

Our pets make us happy and it's our job to keep them healthy, but how can you tell if they really are?

It's something we've all heard, but it's not true. A dry nose without any other symptoms might just be a sign that your house is too dry.

Another myth, adding garlic to dogs' diets helps prevent fleas and ticks. The truth is garlic does little to prevent the pests, but chemicals in it can cause an increased heart rate, even anemia.

Veterinary Dr. Brenda Stevens, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said use flea and tick medications to protect your pets. Make sure you apply topicals directly to the skin, on the back of the neck.

"If your dog does a lot of swimming and you're bathing your dog frequently, then a topical may not be most efficient for you, so something oral might work a little better," said Stevens.

And beware of flea and tick medications with pyrethroids. A study found the chemical was responsible for at least 1,600 pet deaths over a five year period.

As for pets' pearly whites, many believe dogs naturally brush their teeth, but they're wrong. Stevens said it's important to manually brush your dog's teeth at least a couple of times a week with pet toothpaste, not your own.

What about locating a missing pet? One manufacturer said 10,000 pets are reunited with their families every month because of microchips, but the Internet is full of claims that they can also cause cancer in our animals. There have been no large scale studies on the issue, but out of the millions of pets with microchips, only a small number of tumors have been reported.

When it comes to bath time, Stevens said most dogs should be bathed only once every few months. Doing it more can dry out the natural oils in their fur and cause skin irritation. Between baths, she said you should brush as much as possible to prevent odor and excess shedding.

Brushing daily can also help stop fleas and ticks before they become a problem. It takes a tick 24 hours to transmit disease to a dog.

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