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Busted: The top 4 most common pet myths

(BPT) - It's no secret that Americans love their pets. When it comes to U.S. pet ownership, 39 percent of households own at least one dog, and 33 percent own...

(BPT) - It's no secret that Americans love their pets. When it comes to U.S. pet ownership, 39 percent of households own at least one dog, and 33 percent own at least one cat, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Furry family members bring joy and excitement to a household, and providing the best care possible helps ensure pets have a long, healthy life.

Unfortunately, with so much information available, it's easy to become confused about what's really best for them. To cut through the clutter, Dr. Ashley Gallagher, veterinarian at Friendship Hospital For Animals and petMD contributor, sheds some light on some of the most common pet myths.

Myth 1: If cats have nine lives, what do dogs have?

Cats' curious nature and quick reaction times are likely the basis of the nine lives reputation, but in reality owners need to remember that both cats and dogs only have one life. That is why it's important to schedule regular veterinary visits to ensure your pet has a long, healthy and happy one. Going to the veterinarian shouldn't only be reserved for times when your pet is sick. Your pet needs annual wellness check-ups, vaccines, dental exams and nutritional consultations, just like humans do.

Myth 2: Table scraps are OK.

Did you know that one ounce of cheddar cheese for a 20-pound dog is like a human eating more than one and a half chocolate bars? That same piece of cheese for a 10-pound cat is like eating almost three full chocolate bars! Table scraps are basically empty calories for cats and dogs. They need precisely balanced nutrition for their specific life stage and special needs to remain healthy. A food like Hill's Science Diet is great because it gives them exactly what they need without any excess nutrients that might be harmful.

Myth 3: Dogs wag their tail when they are happy.

Dogs wag their tail for many reasons; the most common is that they are either happy or nervous. Cats will also wag or flick their tail when they are upset or thinking. Pets communicate via complex body language rather than vocal expression like humans. Learning to read what your pet is telling you will go a long way in helping to build a fulfilling relationship. Ask your veterinarian for advice if you feel stuck learning your pet's body language cues.

Myth 4: Letting my dog out in the yard is enough exercise.

Dogs and cats both need plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation to stay healthy. If you just leave your dog out in the yard alone they might not get much of either. It's important to take them for walks, play fetch or simply run around together. Not only will it make for a happier, healthier dog, but it will also help to strengthen your relationship. Cats should be kept indoors for their safety, but there are plenty of toys that work their brains and their bodies at the same time. Visit your local pet store to find some toys that fit the bill.

Each pet is unique, so ongoing care, including precisely balanced nutrition, regular wellness visits to the vet and daily play periods are all good things that keep your pet healthy and living well for many years to come.

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