Myths or Beliefs

Last time I tried to tell you the truth of some commonly held beliefs. Here are some more.


* Cats and dogs should drink milk -

No one should drink milk except the milk-giver’s child. Cat and dogs may drink it but it is not good for them as nearly all of them are lactose intolerant. Cats will get gas, diarrhoea and throw up. In fact, after the first few times the cat gets sick she usually avoids milk – unless she is starving and you are not giving her any options. Yoghurt has less lactose and is a probiotic, but no more than a spoonful can be given.

Most dogs lack the enzyme beta lactamase, which allows the digestive system to break down the kind of sugar contained in milk. Dogs that lack this enzyme end up with a lot of undigested sugar in their intestinal tract, which creates a breeding environment for bacteria. When a lot of bacteria grow in the intestinal tract it can irritate the stomach and intestine and cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

* Earthworms, when cut will regenerate the other half -

Cut a cow in half. Two cows or one very dead one?  Do it with a fly or cockroach. Same thing. Earthworms are as biologically complex as any insect. They too, have heads, brains, hearts and tails and systems for eating and metabolizing food.  So to think that sawing them in half will produce two is insane.

The myth probably comes from the fact that the parts keep moving for a bit after they are cut in half, but that is a pain reaction as the final nerve signals shoot through. You can see the same in decapitated chickens and humans.

Earthworms, like most beings, have minor regenerative abilities. if a teeny part is cut off they might be able to re-grow a stunted replacement or heal over the cut part. But that’s all.


* Shells are the abandoned houses of sea creatures-

Seashells are very much a part of the body; the external skeletons of a class of marine animals called Molluscs. While we have our skeletons on the inside of our bodies, molluscs have their skeletons on the outside of theirs. This way they help protect the creatures from predators, strong currents and storms, help camouflage the animal, and do many other things. Seashells are primarily made of calcium; a hard mineral, just like our own bones.
When a mollusc dies, its shell is left behind, just as land animals leave their skeletons behind.  After the animal that created the seashell dies, the shell often washes up onto the shore, or remains in the tide pool where the creature lived.  Sometimes other creatures such as small hermit crabs then take the empty shell and use it as their home.

Most of the shells you find in the market, however , have not been taken after the animal has died naturally. The mollusc has been killed and then the shell is washed and sold.


* Dogs with wet noses are fine -

Many people believe that if a dog's nose is dry, then the pet is sick, and that the main sign of a healthy dog is a wet nose. Not true. A wet nose reflects humidity. When it's humid outside, your dog's nose gets wet. If the weather is overly dry, so will be your dog's nose. This leads to the misconception that you can tell your dog’s health by touching its nose. This is inaccurate, because nose temperature changes based on the environment.

A feverish, lethargic dog might have a hot, dry, nose, but so might a perfectly healthy dog. A sick dog will usually have other symptoms. For example, a dog with a respiratory illness might have a very wet nose, but it might be runnier than usual, with thick or crusty discharge.

The moisture on dogs’ noses helps keep the dog cool, and to help the dog smell. Although dogs only sweat through the pads of their feet, they can also shed heat through evaporation from their mouth and from their nose. The thin, clear moisture produced by a dog’s nose is mucus not sweat. The mucus provides a good surface for dissolving chemicals from the air and absorbing them into the skin, where the cells that detect smell are located. A dog that is actively sniffing and alert will have a wetter nose than one who is relaxed or asleep. Additionally, dogs will lick their nose to sample the chemicals that are stuck there and take them to another olfactory sense organ on the roof of their mouth.
Many breeds sneeze when happy or excited or whine, and this is perfectly normal. As for humans, sneezing is a good way to get irritants out of the nose. Dogs get upper respiratory infections, coughs, sinus infections, runny noses, and all the things we associate with “colds” in people. Most respiratory infections in dogs are more severe. Distemper is a serious illness in dogs that can cause a runny nose and neurological symptoms. Any dog with a discharge from the nose which is not thin and clear or with a persistent cough or sneeze, should take a trip to the vet. Nasal discharge should be clear, never yellowish, thick, bubbly, or foul smelling.


* Snakes hunt down those that kill their mates -

The King Cobra is the reason for the legend. The female builds a huge two chamber nest to deposit her eggs in. She lives in one part and puts the eggs in the other. She stays in the area and actively defends her nest. Sometimes the male will stay in the area also. They don't mate for life, but if you disturb one and the other is in the area you are probably going to be disturbing the mate as well. The king cobra's hiss is low pitched, almost a growl and the theory is that if the other snake is in the area it will feel the hiss and respond. The theory is unproved.


* Camels Store Water in Their Humps -

A camel can survive some days without water, but not because they are carrying large reserves inside their humps. They avoid dehydration because they have oval-shaped red blood cells (we have circular ones). The camel's kidneys and intestines are so efficient at retaining water that a camel's urine comes out thick as syrup and their faeces is so dry, it can fuel fires. The hump is a big mound of fat somewhat like a pot-belly.


Maneka Gandhi


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*Proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things.*