Common Canine Myths: Part 2

Myth: Dogs’ mouths are cleaner than ours

It's true that 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. Still, 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: A Swiffer Wetjet Will Poison Your Pet

According to an urban legend, a 5-year-old German Shepherd Dog had to be put down due to liver failure. The dog hadn’t gotten into any poisons, but he had walked on a floor cleaned with the Wetjet product. The owner, the legend claims, found out that the cleaning agent is only one molecule away from antifreeze. This story, which started circulating in 2004, exudes falsehoods typical of the best urban legends. Antifreeze, though it is a poison, damages the kidneys, not the liver. Also, the ingredient in the Wetjet is propylene glycol, which is considered quite safe and is a food additive. The legend also quotes a warning on the label that says, “May be harmful to small children and pets.” The actual wording is: “Avoid accidents—keep out of reach of children and pets.” This story was taken so seriously by consumers that the company, Procter & Gamble, responded by getting the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center to review the product and deem it safe.


Myth: Dogs can see color like humans can.

A retinal structure (called cones) help determine color. Humans have three types of cones (red, green, and blue) and dogs have only two (green and blue). Furthermore, dogs lack the number of cones in the retina that are found in humans. As a result, most researchers believe that dogs lack the color discrimination that is found in humans.

But dogs see better in the dark than we do, and their eyes adjust to the dark faster than ours do. Wild dogs are crepuscular animals—they hunt at dusk and at dawn when prey objects are most active. In addition to having much keener vision in darker light, the canine eye is very motion-oriented. Their eyes are much more keyed in on moving things. The movement of an object is more important to a dog than its shape. Also, dogs are social animals. Wild dogs have good capacity for facial recognition in distinguishing pack members. Our domestic dogs use this important visual skill in identifying and distinguishing human family members.



Common Canine Myths (and the Facts Behind Them)