Canine Mythbusters

We’ve all heard common dog myths – dog mouths are cleaner than humans, or one human year is equal to seven dog years. Here are some of those myths – BUSTED!

Myth: Dogs’ mouths are cleaner than ours

Fact: Sadly, humans have nothing to brag about with regard to dental hygiene. Our mouths are petri dishes for bacteria, and an extraordinarily high percentage of human bites become infected. Most of us practice some form of dental prophylaxis—regular brushing, flossing, antibacterial dentifrices and mouthwashes, and regular dental care with a professional. Unfortunately, most owners do not consistently brush their dog’s teeth, provide tooth-friendly foods, or schedule regular dental checkups or cleanings with their veterinarian. As a result, many dogs’ mouths house a variety of potentially harmful bacteria. Dogs bitten by other dogs are at risk of not only serious damage from the bite itself but also a potentially life-threatening secondary bacterial infection.

Compared with most people, a dog’s mouth is not cleaner than a human’s. In addition to less attention paid to oral hygiene, infrequency of regular brushing and dental cleaning, and a variety of unhygienic feeding and grooming practices, a dog’s mouth harbors a large population of potentially dangerous organisms, including zoonotic organisms such as Giardia. So, any contact with dog mouths should be minimal. Any dog bite, whether to another dog or to a human being, holds the possibility of infection and should be examined by a trained health professional.

Myth: Dogs eat grass because they are deficient in a nutrient in their diet or to make themselves vomit.

Fact: Dogs on well-balanced rations and in remarkably good condition regularly eat grass, and many dogs can be observed to routinely eat grass and not vomit. Research has revealed most grass to be a relatively poor emetic, and other studies have documented several wild canid species who also commonly eat grass. So the idea that dogs eat grass because they are missing something in their diet does not stand up under scrutiny for a variety of reasons. Likewise, the notion that grass is used by dogs needing to vomit cannot be supported experimentally. Some dogs might just like the taste. Be careful, particularly in teething puppies—excessive ingestion of leaves, sticks, grass, and other plant material can lead to gastrointestinal obstruction.

Myth: One human year is like seven to a dog.

Fact: For all living species, life expectancy is the result of several factors. Nutrition, exercise, availability of medical care, and genetics all play a major role in how long a dog lives. Generally speaking, a dog’s size will influence how long he lives. Giant breeds and larger dogs appear to age faster, and many of the smaller dogs are incredibly long-lived. Research your breed of interest. Your breeder, people who own that breed, and your veterinarian can give you some idea about your dog’s life expectancy.