The variety and complexity of nature never ceases to amaze me. For most veterinarians, it’s the variety and diversity of our patients that attracts us to our profession. Even though we are all mammals, it’s fascinating to learn about how pets differ from people.
• When it comes to teeth, dogs, cats and people all have incisors, cuspids and molars. However, dogs have 42 teeth, cats have 30 teeth and humans have 32 teeth.
• Dogs, cats and rabbits can make their own vitamin C. However, people and guinea pigs can both get scurvy, which is a disease from lack of Vitamin C and must eat foods that contain this nutrient.
• A cat has 230 bones in its body. A human only has 206 bones. But a dog has about 319. The variation in the dog is due to selective breeding over centuries. In fact, within all animal species in the world, dogs have the greatest variations in bone structure. Besides the length of the tail between breeds, it is the skull and bones of the snout that has the biggest variation.
Even with all those bones, dogs can’t break their collarbone because they don’t have one! Cats only have a tiny remnant of a collarbone that just floats between the shoulder and the sternum.
• We know that women are pregnant for 9 months but for cats and dogs it’s just a little more than 2 months.
• You may think you are hot stuff but not compared to your pet. A cat's normal body temperature is 101.5°F. A dog’s normal temperature is between 100°F to 102.5°F. But it’s your pet bird that beats everyone. Their normal body temperature is 105°F!
• Human noses have an impressive 5 million olfactory cells with which to smell. Cats have about 100 million and dogs have between 120 and 220 million, enabling them to smell 44 times better than man. The difference in dogs is directly related to the length of their nose. That’s one reason why bulldogs and pugs aren’t recruited as drug sniffers by the police.
• A cat's hearing rates as one of the top in the animal kingdom. Cats can hear sounds as low as 45 Hz and as high-pitched as 65 kHz; Dogs can hear between 60 Hz and 60 kHz . For reference, humans can hear between 20 Hz to 23 kHz. To put this in perspective, 64 Hz is the lowest note on a piano. That’s about the lowest a dog can hear. For every doubling in Hz the pitch goes up an octave. Cats have a top range of 64 kHz vs. 23 kHz in people and can hear sound at least two and a half octaves higher than humans. Interestingly, the two animals known to hear the lowest sounds are the elephant and the ferret at around 12 Hz. And the animal able to hear the highest pitch is the Beluga whale at 120 kHz.
Besides the frequency, a dog’s hearing is much more sensitive than ours. Dogs can hear five times more acutely than people. And a cat’s hearing is twice as sensitive as a dog’s!
The next time you look at your pet, think of all the amazing differences there are yet how much we all have in common. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to remind ourselves just how lucky and thankful we are for our furry friends. Wishing you a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving.
Dr. Greg Perrault owns and operates Cats & Dogs Animal Hospital in Long Beach.