Myth-Busting: Pet Dangers

Veterinarian Marty Becker separates fact from fiction for furry friends.

Aug. 26, 2010 -- Can chocolate really kill your dog? If your dog chomps down on poinsettias, is it going to be OK?

From old wives tales to internet-based scares, pet owners often find themselves in a fog of half-truths and outright lies when it comes to keeping their animals safe.

Luckily, "America's Veterinarian" Marty Becker dropped by "Good Morning America" today to do a little myth-busting.

Thanks to the Humane Society of New York, two lovable pets, Romeo and Pringles, joined Becker today on "GMA." CLICK HERE to learn more about the Humane Society of New York and how to adopt a pet.

Web Extra: CLICK HERE for some more surprising pet dangers that could be in your home.

Small Amounts of Chocolate Are Deadly to Dogs: Myth

Many pet owners think that just one bite of chocolate kill your dog, but the truth is, a large dog would have to eat a lot of milk chocolate to get sick -- more than a couple of pounds.

But even though chocolate is not necessarily deadly, that doesn't mean you should give it out as treats.

"The rule of thumb is, the darker the chocolate, and the smaller the dog, the more dangerous it is," Becker said.

Swiffer Wet Jet and Febreze Can Harm My Dog: Myth

This rumor, which was spread mostly by email, said the chemicals in Swiffer Wet Jet and Febreze could get on the paws of your pet and then become ingested when they lick their paws. The rumor also said that the products contained anti-freeze.

But the truth is neither products are harmful for your furry friend.

The emails circulated so widely that the Animal Poison Control Center of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals looked into the claim and found them perfectly safe.

Chomping on Poinsettias Can Be Deadly: Myth

Especially around the holidays, pet owners are concerned that animals that decide to make a snack out of the festive poinsettias could be eating a deadly plant.

But Becker said that the plant is far from deadly, but could give your pet an upset stomach.

Pet Food Isn't Safe: Myth

A few years ago some massive recalls of dog and cat food gave pet owners reason to be suspicious of some pet foods. The recurrent outbreak of salmonella in human food recently certainly hasn't helped to ease fears.

But according to Becker, pet food is safe for pets as long as normal precautions are used. Just be sure to keep the area around the food clean and wash your hands thoroughly after feeding your pets.

Non-Stick Cookware is Deadly for Birds: Truth

The cookware is safe at lower temperatures, but Becker said that when they are overheated, the coating can emit fumes that can kill pet birds. When exactly the pans become lethal is difficult to tell, but veterinarians suggest not keeping birds in the kitchen and not using non-stick cookware around them.

Lillies are Dangerous: Truth

Becker said that you don't want to have any of these flowers in your garden -- they can be toxic and can even kill if your pets get into them.

Candy and Gum Are Harmful: Truth, But Only If It Contains Xylitol

Xylitol is a popular sugar substitute that is used in many products from gum to candy and can be harmful.

"It doesn't take much to kill a pet, so be sure not to leave gum and candies anywhere your pet can get at it," Becker said.

You Can Use Dog Tick and Flea Products on Cats: Myth

Becker said that pet owners tend to be casual about the use of tick and flea products, but often forget that something that kills small animals can hurt big ones too.

The biggest danger is not following labeled directions exactly -- especially when it comes to not using dog products on cats.

Before using a flea or tick product, you may want to ask your veterinarian what works best for your animal.

Web Extra: Which Safety Issue is Critical? Which One Can You Worry Less Over?

Here are a few extra tips from Dr. Marty Becker:

You Can Worry a Bit Less About ...

Puppy diseases: Yes, your puppy can pick up diseases from other dogs who are sick. But your puppy also needs to be socialized to grow up relaxed and comfortable. Don't take your puppy anywhere other dogs are (unless they're dogs you KNOW to be healthy and current on vaccinations, such as a friend's dog in a friend's backyard for a playdate) until your vet gives you the go-ahead after the last shot. But DO take your puppy where people are. One great way to meet-and-greet: The patio of a coffee shop. Bring healthy treats for your puppy (water, too!).

Chicken bones: While cooked poultry bones are not safe for pets to eat, they're not instantly deadly, either. Once they're in the system, they'll probably be digested just fine. But do talk to your veterinarian if your pet eats any and take your pet in if you see any sign of illness.

Raw meat and eggs: Dogs aren't as susceptible to salmonella as people are. A healthy dog will probably do fine if exposed to salmonella. But since humans aren't as strong against salmonella, the real problem is what could happen when you handle food with a problem. Kibble and treats have recently been recalled for salmonella. Take precautions with ALL food, even pet food, for your own sake: Wash your hands regularly, and keep food prep areas clean.

... And Worry More About:

Swimming: Not all dogs can swim. Short-faced breeds such as the bulldog usually can't swim and they can drown easily. Even water dogs like Labradors can drown if they get too tired, the current's too strong or the water's too cold. Cats usually do OK. They can swim, usually pretty well, but they sure don't want to. And beware the warnings for algae blooms. If a pond or lake isn't safe for you, it's not safe for your dog.

Cats and string: Yarn, ribbon, thread or even the juice-saturated string from a roast -- your cat may eat any one of these and need surgical intervention to live. The cure is easy: Keep a lid on the garbage and put all hobby projects safely away when you're not working on them.

Temperature extremes: Perhaps because they seem more "wild" then we are, we tend to think pets can handle high or low temperatures better than we do. But not so, especially for pets who are unfit, chronically ill or aged. Always protect pets from cold or heat, using shelter, protective gear and -- for heat -- having lots of cool water available.

CLICK HERE to learn more about pet care at Marty Becker's website,

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