I realize the title sounds harsh, but seriously, every day veterinarians see pet owners that are well-meaning, but lethal. Between our lack of self-control and old wives tales, pets are subjected to a litany of things that can cause sickness or death.
While by no means all-inclusive, here is a list of six ways owners can lead to the demise of their furry friends.
1) Obesity. This may sound obvious, because we all know obesity leads to all kinds of diseases, like diabetes and arthritis. But the problem is most people think that “obese” means something fatter than their own pet.
A pet in good body condition might look thin if you are used to only seeing overweight pets. In both dogs and cats, where the abdomen meets the back legs, the abdomen should tuck upwards. Looking down on your pet’s back, there should be a visible waist. On short-haired dogs, even the last rib can be visible. If these features are not seen on your pet, it’s overweight. Time to stop the treats and the people food, which leads to item number 2.
2) Don’t give a dog a bone. Seriously, it’s a bad idea, especially cooked bones. “But,” you might protest, “coyotes, wolves and the neighbor’s farm dog eat bones all the time and they are just fine!”. For starters, if a coyote dies from a perforated intestine, you’d never know. They just die, alone, cold, and without anyone there. (Sniffles)
Yes, many times pets can digest raw bones no problem, but as they chew them into little sharp shards and eat them, the shards can irritate the gut lining and even poke through. The likelihood of this increases if the bone has been cooked, like in a leftover ham bone. Just because it happens in nature doesn’t mean it is the best thing for a house pet. As in what we see with number 3.
3) Leaving the pet intact. Yes, pets are born with their gonads, but quite frankly they are a hinderance to the human/pet interaction and can kill them. Intact pets have a greatly increased risk of cancer (prostatic in males, mammary in females). Also intact pets are more likely to roam and get hit by cars or have some other sort of tragic death.
4) Not vaccinating. Just like human medicine, vaccines are the safe, effective way to prevent infectious diseases. Even if your pet is indoor only, it needs vaccines. Let’s face it, if you would do anything to save your pet, why not just take it in for a little poke once a year?
5) Using Dr. Google instead of a real veterinarian. I would think the WebMD “you have cancer” memes would’ve stopped this by now, but sadly they haven’t. If it was as easy as plugging symptoms into an algorithm to diagnose disease, then I wouldn’t have had to donate eight years of my life to learn how to do it.
While the internet is a great tool to research some things, it can lead you to believe that something that is not serious is awful, while something that is life-threatening is no big deal. The internet also will give you a bunch of at-home remedies for pet illnesses, to which all I can say is motor oil is NEVER a treatment for anything. It also may have suggestions for medications to give your pet, which brings us to our final no-no.
6) Treating your pet with human medication. Even if the dog or cat is like one of the family, it’s still a dog, not a person. Giving it human medicine can kill it dead on the spot.
The biggest one we see is people giving human pain medication to sore pets. If you haven’t heard, tylenol is a great way to give a cat an awful death. If your pet has a limp, please bring it to your vet instead of giving it a human tablet. Even the children’s dose can kill pets.
Now, if you are looking around your home right now like you just found out it was the set for a horror movie, don’t fret that much. If people were that good at unknowingly killing their pets we probably wouldn’t keep them around the house. But be aware of these things to keep Rover and Fluffy healthy. And as always, ask your veterinarian about pet health; that’s the best source of information!