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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

If It's On The Internet, It Must Be True

Here in the US there is an insurance commercial that's become a bit of a viral sensation to the point that the phrasing is becoming commonplace.  For my non-US readers, here's the commercial.

I often tell my clients to take anything on the internet with a grain of salt.  Anyone can make a web page and post whatever they want without any proof or sources.  Just because it's printed online doesn't mean that you can automatically believe it.  That includes things on my own blog!  When seeking out pet information, be careful about your sources, then double- and triple-check.

Today my associate doctor told me about a rather incredible website from someone purportedly selling wolf hybrids.  Okay, that seems legitimate, and I've seen a few of those as patients.  But the person who owns this kennel has some really radical viewpoints, all of which can be easily disproved.  The kennel, Wolfhaven Spirit of the Past, makes the following statements.  Keep in mind that these are directly cut-and-pasted from their website and I have not edited them in any way (except for making the print in italics).

Wolves smell pheromones like a bee and can tell what a person is thinking.  If someone comes to the door and being really nice but is think about about hurting your family the wolf will sense this.  

Actually, all animals can smell pheromones, though they generally are only sensitive to those from their own species.  However, that certainly doesn't translate into telepathy.  While canines are very sensitive to body language and can often easily "read" a person, they can't tell what that person is thinking.

 Wolves generally do not have health problems and do not get diseases easily.  They can live 25 years or longer.  They generally do not smell nor get fleas or ticks.  

Wolves are not immune to disease and can get them just as easily as any other animal.  Living 25 years or longer?  Nope.  In the wild they typically live 10-11 years, and the record in captivity is 20 years.  Definitely not the 25-30 years the kennel owner claims.  Do not get fleas or ticks?  REALLY?  That's patently false as these parasites can be found on wild wolves and have contributed to disease.
  • The wolf is the lion of the North.  They are called that because they are descendants from the same lineage as lions.

So basically wolves are cats. Huh?  I guess if you go far enough back in prehistory you'll find a common ancestor for canines and felines.  However, the anatomy and physiology of wolves is radically different from that of lions.
  • When you hear of a wolf being aggressive, it is more than likely mixed with a dog.  When you mix a wolf with a dog you pass on the aggressive traits, brain imbalance and the health problems of a dog.

Again....HUH?  Dogs have been selectively breed for tens of thousands of years to NOT be aggressive towards humans.  While wild wolves are not aggressive towards humans in the wild unless sick or threatened, any aggressive behavior in a hybrid is certainly not due to the dog side.
  • A wolf's coat is fur, not hair, and there is no smell or body odor to the coat; this protects them in the wild so that predators and prey cannot detect them.

I'm sure wolf researchers would be very surprised to learn that wolves have no odor.  Wolves learn to approach prey from downwind so that they prey doesn't smell them.  And wolves are apex predators, meaning that they are the top of the food chain and have no natural predators themselves.

But our biggest buyers are long haul truck

drivers.  They are popular with drivers

because the wolf is not hyper (that is a

disorder), do not have an odor as a common

dog, and do not get fleas or ticks.  Truckers

find that wolves make excellent

companions, as a matter of fact some of our

wolves spend there whole life in the cab of

a truck.

Again with the idea that wolves don't get fleas or ticks.  Simply not true.  Wolves spending their entire lives in  the cab of a truck?  For animals use to territories ranging over square miles this must be absolute torture and is not something I would wish on any dog, let alone a wolf.

It takes about 6 years for the wolf to grow to full height, color and maturity (both mentally and emotionally). 

Considering that the average life span of a wild wolf is around 10 years, it doesn't seem to make much sense for them to spend over half their lives growing.  The largest breeds of dogs can take up to two years to reach full size, but average dogs reach maturity by 12 months old.  Female wolves do mature later, but it's 2-4 years, not six.

Wolves have night vision, animal that have night vision or is nocturnal have brown eyes. They collect the light during the day and reflect it back at night.

So wolves have the ability to store light in their eyes?  What the owner seems to be saying is that a wolf's eyes are like glow-in-the-dark toys.  What really happens is that there is a structure on the retina called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects any photons not absorbed by the retina, thus allowing a second chance for the photons to be registered by the eye.

Heath Long Jevity: 

This isn't misinformation, but how hard is it to spell "longevity"?  There are numerous such mispellings on the site.  Would spellcheck hurt?

If they get worms and you don't know it  then over time that can break down there immune system, and they can get health problems they normally would not get. 

No, that's not how intestinal parasites work.  They absorb blood or nutrients, and while that can weaken the immune system, it's not the main effect.  And excuse me for being a "grammar Nazi", but there is a difference between "there" and "their".

Flea products are made for hair and will burn the fine fur, they do not get fleas anyway.  Things to use as shampoo: baby shampoo or Pert Plus because it has conditioner.  Remember baby fine, need to treat like baby hair.  Do not flea dip, this will cause the fur to fall out. 

Do I even need to point out the multiple problems here????

Do not clip fur because of the guard hairs that are connected to the nervous system.  If you do clip them it can cause them to walk funny.  These hairs allow them to feel a foot or two away from their body, they are similar to antennas.  Also since the skin is about an inch thick, they can not feel as easily, they need these hairs to help protect their skin, it warns them.  Their thick skin is one of the reasons that they do not get fleas or tics, they have a hard time getting through this thick skin.

*Sigh* and *facepalm* 

Well, I guess hairs are connected to the nervous system since the follicles have nerve endings to detect movement of the hair.  But antennas that can sense up to two feet from the body?  REALLY????  And this person is saying that a wolf has elephant skin.  Seriously.  An elephant's skin actually is about an inch (2.5cm) thick.  Somehow I don't think a wolf's skin even comes close.  Fleas and ticks simply don't need to get all of the way through the skin, and the skin on the ears and face definitely aren't anywhere close to an inch.

In the wild, nobody tracts all the wolves so they do not know exactly when all wolves have their cubs.

Um, "tracks", not "tracts".  And people not knowing when wolves have cubs must come as a big surprise to the numerous researchers who have repeatedly documented this very fact.

If everything goes well a female will come into heat every six to seven months after her first heat.  If she has cubs it will then be every six to seven months after the cubs are born.

Are you surprised when I say that this is patently false?  Dogs go into heat about every six to nine months.  Wolves go into heat once per year.  

With a wolf around, you should have no trouble with other animals or bugs.  Feline wolves eat bugs including flies, scorpion , ants yes even red ants, and spiders like tarantulas.

"Feline wolves"?????

 A wolf has the ability to soak up moister through their skin.  When the fly or tic get on the wolf the moisture is sucked out of pests which kills them.  

Firstly, can this person not figure out whether they want to use "tick" or "tic"?  As to the rest.....I'm almost getting tired from sighing so much.  Skin is designed to repel water, not absorb it.  And I can promise you that there is no terrestrial animal that will kill a parasite by absorbing the critter's moisture.

As you can probably tell, I'm enjoying picking apart the numerous false statements on this web site.  And yes, to a certain degree I'm deliberately picking on this person, though I'm not the only one.  It's sad that people actually believe them.  

But it's on the Internet, so it must be true. Right?

My point of this rather lengthy post (besides criticizing a grossly misinformed person who really shouldn't be owning let alone breeding animals) is to point out how web sites can provide horrible information.  Don't trust anything you read on the web without considering the source, the bias of the author, and whether or not there are ways of verifying the information.  This is very true in the pet industry where there are passionate opinions  that are often held up as gospel truth.

Be careful out there.


  1. *slowclap* Every time I see that website, it's as funny (and sad) as the last time.

  2. It's unfortunate when people are so misinformed. A lot of times I hear dog owners talking about problems they have with their dogs when it was actually their fault that the dog was doing that. Or when they think something is "hilarious" that their dog did that when, in reality, it's actually not good for the dog. It takes all my strength to not to snap at them. I think the people that do the most damage in this world are those who aren't educated enough on whatever they are doing or talking about. Anyway, I do have a question

    In a few years, I will be going to pre-vet school. However, I am trying to decide what science class I will take senior year of high school. By the time it's senior year, I will have taken Biology (1 year), Chemistry (1 year), and Physics (1 year). At first, my plan was to take AP Biology senior year. However, I recently found out about the anatomy and physiology class that is offered. In this class, we do a lot of dissections including dissecting an entire cat. But, this class is not an AP course. I confused as to which class would benefit me more: an AP Biology class, or an Anatomy and Phys. class.

    Any tips would be extremely helpful :)

  3. The internet is a blessing and a curse. Like the requests you sometimes get: "My dog has been scratching for the past few weeks .. bla bla. What can it be and how can I fix it cheaply?" I think that if you have an animal and internet, you must have money somewhere to take your pet to the vet, instead of thinking an internet diagnosis is an option. About this wolf website: just SHOCKING!

    1. If you know where to go, the Internet can help you figure out some things, though. The ASPCA and Humane Society are good places to start (though of course, I'm assuming anyone using the 'net to research has enough sense to get their pet to a vet ASAP if he or she is showing any symptoms that would warrant an ER visit in a human, and that might be an unfair assumption).

  4. that was hilarious-love the part about wolves being cats, although it was hard to choose a favorite part!

  5. His narrative began to remind me of the Jon Lovitz character on Saturday Night Live; Tommy Flanagan, The Pathological Liar. I kept waiting for the punch line, "Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket!"

    I think perhaps he is infected with "wolf moisture" and doesn't know it.

  6. I can't even tell you how many stressed out or calming signals I saw those dogs exhibit in their photos. They looked miserable. Not to mention that those are not photos of wolves anyways. Not even close. Those are people selling dogs (and possibly very dilute hybrids) as wolves. Sad either way you look at it. Why would you spread mis-information that only hurts the dogs? Even sadder if they believe that crap themselves. Sigh.

  7. Chris, this article should have come with a disclaimer. You know, "Warning! Do not drink beverages while reading!" Because I almost spit sweet tea all over my keyboard when I read about wolves "collecting" the light to use later. Do my cats have glow toy eyes, too? They can see when it's really dark!

    Seriously, people like this should be given a nice safe place to play, with some stuffed animals for pets. It's crazy.

    Good point, though, about evaluating info you find online. My husband is an elementary school media specialist, and he teaches lots of research classes. It's hard for kids to understand that you can't just accept everything you read online! But they start teaching that in first grade. Hopefully, the next generation will be much wiser in the ways of web research. :)

  8. I'm a health writer and I have to use a special Google search engine to screen out the crappy information so I can find anything half useful. Be careful out there indeed.


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