Four Nail Trimming Tips for Your Furry Friend 

pawGiving your four-legged friend a paw-dicure can be quite the task for some. Whether it’s the result of an accidental cut of the quick in a previous nail trimming session or the dislike of having his paws touched, your pet’s aversion to nail care can take a stressful toll on both. Seeing the fear in your beloved pet’s eyes can be heart-wrenching, but if that fear results in flailing, snapping or biting during the nail trimming process, it can also be dangerous for you both. But don’t despair; if your dog or cat runs for cover at the mere sight of nail clippers, there’s still hope!

It’s important to keep your pet’s nails trimmed for many reasons: doing so prevents breaking and bleeding of nails that grow too long; long nails can interfere with normal paw movement; and unkempt nails can scratch your furniture and floors – not to mention you! –  as well as snag your rugs and upholstery. While it’s ideal to familiarize your pet with nail clippers and regular nail trims early on in his life, that isn’t always possible. Teach your furry companion to relax during trim time with these helpful tips…

Begin with a clean slate. Pets often have a negative association with clippers that have been used on them in the past. Think about it… if your mother nipped your skin while clipping your nails as a child, making you bleed, wouldn’t you be a bit hesitant to let her have a go at it again? Try purchasing a new pair of clippers that are distinctly different in appearance from your current pair.

The first time you introduce the new clippers to your pawsome pet, act excited, with a positive and happy tone in your voice; be fun and dramatic; reward him with ample treats, rub downs and cuddles. After a few minutes, put the clippers away, as well as the treats. A few moments later, let the party begin again. Repeat this process as often as necessary to allow Fluffy and Fido to grow a new, positive association with the clippers. It may be helpful to bring the clippers out of hiding periodically, even if it’s not time for a trim, just to reinforce the positive association.

Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t attempt to get all of your pet’s nails trimmed at once. Start with one, and reward your fur baby with a treat. You can even enlist a partner to hold a spoon of peanut butter within licking distance to keep Fido’s thoughts otherwise occupied. Speak as you trim, maintaining a calm and soothing tone, as you progress slowly, working your way from one nail to the next. If you’re weary of accidentally cutting the quick, trim a little bit of each nail at a time, and have styptic powder nearby just in case. Remain mindful of your pet’s body language to alert you if you cut too close or if agitation sets in. If he becomes anxious or uncomfortable, stop the session and start again later, allowing him time to relax and unwind.

Scrub-a-dub-dub. Your pet’s nails soften while being bathed, so clipping after his bath may make the process easier – although this probably won’t help if your fur baby is a feline! If your pet is fond of bath time, try combining the two activities. A friend of mine suggested I clip my ornery Pug’s nails while he was in the tub, his feet soaking in warm water. I was skeptical, but it actually did the trick! The warm water soothed and distracted him, softened his nails for easier clipping, and made the process virtually stress-free for us both. Be sure to clip the nails prior to bathing, to avoid any exposure to soap or other irritants should an accidental bleed occur.

Seek professional help. If all else fails, there’s always your trusty veterinarian. If you or your pet are still weary of nail trimming time, make an appointment for a nail clipping at your vet’s office. The staff there know all the tricks of the trade and will get it done painfully and correctly. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Are Animal Bones Safe for Fido?

animal bones“Like a dog with a bone.” How many times have you heard that saying? Dogs and bones – the two seem to go hand-in-hand, with pet parents giving their canine companions bones for entertainment, to prevent bad breath, to help clean their teeth, and for sheer enjoyment. But are animal bones safe for Fido, or do they cause irreparable damage?

Dental Health. One of the surefire ways to ensure your pet is happy and healthy is to maintain his good dental health. Do you treat Fido with the occasional animal bone in an effort to keep his teeth and gums healthy and clean? Well, you may be doing more damage than good. It’s not uncommon for a pooch to suffer from a fractured tooth when chowing down on a bone. Think about it – a bone that is strong enough to hold the weight of a large cow is pretty tough… which means those very persistent chewers can easily break a tooth or two before the bone gives way.

Besides the risk of possible tooth fracturing, aren’t animal bones good for cleaning a dog’s teeth? Not really! You see, for an object to successfully clean teeth, it needs to scrub the teeth enough to clean off tartar, but not so much that it damages the gums or the protective enamel coating on the teeth. When your dog chews a bone, you’ll notice he tends to use his rear teeth to chew and break the bone, meaning the bone never does what is needed to prevent periodontal disease.

Digestive System Issues. When Fido manages to break the bone apart and swallow the pieces, what damage could it do? The fragments can cause digestive ailments such as esophageal blockages, pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, bowel obstruction and/or perforation, and constipation.

  • Esophageal Blockages. When a dog tries to swallow a bone fragment that is a bit too big, it can get stuck in his esophagus, resulting in difficulty breathing and even vomiting, which can be life-threatening and typically requires emergency surgery.
  • Pancreatitis. As Fido chews on an animal bone, fat that is attached to the bone and within the marrow is ingested as well. An increased fat intake can result in pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas – which can be extremely painful and will likely require hospitalization.
  • Gastroenteritis. Once a large piece of bone makes its way to the stomach, it can cause irritation and/or ulcers, which results in vomiting. In most cases, stomach acids will dissolve the bone fragment within a few days, but in the interim Fido can experience abdominal pain, dehydration, lethargy and other symptoms that go hand-in-hand with excessive vomiting.
  • Bowel Obstruction / Constipation / Perforation. On its way through the intestinal tract, bone fragments can obstruct or irritate the colon, resulting in constipation. In severe cases, the colon can be perforated, causing loose/bloody stool.

Bacteria. One last thing to consider before you give your dog an animal bone – does Fido have a tendency to chew for a while then save the bone for later? Once the bone reaches room temperature it is a breeding ground for bacteria, which can result in a plethora of digestive ailments.

While you may be inclined to pick up an animal bone as a treat for your four-legged friend, think twice before you do. There are many other options available for Fido’s chewing pleasure that are much safer and sure to be appreciated!

The Battle Against Bloat

Dog BloatGastric Dilatation Volvulus, commonly referred to as dog bloat, is one of the most heart-wrenching medical emergencies that can be experienced by a pet parent. One moment, your dog is healthy and happy, and the next he is fighting a battle between life and death; a battle in which the odds are stacked against him.

What is Bloat?

Imagine your canine companion’s stomach expanding like one of those balloons clowns use to make balloon animals. Then imagine the clown twisting the balloon to make his animal creation. This is similar to bloat, with your dog’s stomach rapidly expanding with fluid and gas, then being twisted on each end. When this happens, the stomach contents fester, pressure builds, and the blood supply to the stomach is cut off. As a result, a portion or even all of the stomach may die.

Sadly, a domino effect then begins and, if left untreated, bloat can lead to death within just a few short hours. Even sadder, up to half of the dogs who suffer from bloat will not survive, even with emergency treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Bloat?

Keep in mind, some dog breeds are more susceptible to bloat than others, particularly large chested breeds like Great Danes, Weimaraners, Rottweilers and Boxers. If you’re unsure if bloat may be a possible problem for your pooch, consult with your vet.

Bloat develops suddenly and is more common in middle-aged or senior dogs. Often times, the first symptoms may appear after your dog has eaten a large meal, ingested a large amount of water, or has been exercising vigorously before or after eating.

Be aware of these five early warning signs:

  1. Your dog is drooling more than usual.
  2. Your dog is retching, but unable to vomit.
  3. Your dog’s stomach is tight or swollen.
  4. Your dog is visibly tired but can’t seem to rest.
  5. Your dog appears to be uncomfortable or in pain. He may groan, whine or grunt – particularly when his stomach is touched or pressed.

As the problem progresses, your dog may go into shock. His gums and tongue may appear pale, his heart rate my increase greatly, his pulse weaken, and he may experience difficulty breathing, and perhaps even collapse.

Even if you have just the slightest suspicion of bloat, take your pooch to the nearest veterinary clinic immediately. If the stomach has twisted, emergency surgery is the only option.

What Can You Do to Prevent Bloat?

Unfortunately, there is no clinically proven cause for bloat in dogs. There is debate in the pet medical community about genetics, temperament, stress and a host of other factors.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to try to prevent your dog from getting bloat, including:

  • Feed your dog a few times per day rather than just one big meal.
  • Slow down a speedy eater. Try a slow feeding dog bowl or put a tennis bowl in your dog’s food dish to slow his roll when it comes to scarfing down his food.
  • Provide a raised feeding station for your dog.
  • Try soaking your dog’s dry kibble in water, or try a wet food diet.
  • Don’t allow your dog to drink too much water at once.
  • Prevent your dog from exerting excessive energy just before or just after eating.
  • Consider preventative surgery. If your pooch is an at-risk breed or has a close family member who suffered from bloat, preventative gastropexy may be the answer. During the procedure, a veterinary surgeon will stitch the side of your dog’s stomach to the abdominal wall, preventing the stomach from twisting.

Bloat is a scary situation that many pet parents don’t consider, and few are prepared to recognize. Keep your dog’s best interests at heart by doing what you can to prevent bloat and, if the situation arises, to recognize it so that every effort can be made to save your precious pooch.

Believe It or Not, There IS a Right Way to Hold a Leash

Yes, you read that correctly… there is a right way, and several wrong ways, to hold your dog’s leash. Holding a leash may seem like a basic task, but the way in which you do so can mean the difference between the safety of you and your dog, and possible disaster.

I know, right now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Seriously? How can holding my dog’s leash possibly be dangerous?” Many people don’t even think about how they hold a leash; they simply do what’s comfortable. But, consider these tidbits of information:

  • No matter how big or small your pooch, NEVER wrap the leash around your arm, wrist or any part of your body in general. You may feel doing so gives you a good grip, but it can easily result in you being dragged by your dog (say, for instance, Rover spots a squirrel and quickly takes off after it with you in tow), which can lead to something as serious as a broken bone to a minor dislocated digit. Whether you’re a pet parent to a tiny Toy Poodle or a monstrous Mastiff, being pulled abruptly by your pooch can happen, and the results can be disastrous.
  • Rather than wrapping the leash, put only your thumb through the loop of the leash, with the leash lying in the palm of your hand, forming a fist, as shown here. If you need additional support, hold the leash below the handle with your other hand.

dog leash safetyWith your hand properly gripping the leash, hold your hand on your abdomen, its exact position depending on your dog’s size and shape. Typically, it is ideal to hold your hand a bit above your navel, but you may find it best to hold it a little lower if you have a particularly large and/or strong dog. This hand placement will give you better control.

  • Speaking of control, many pet parents think they have greater control over their dog if they hold the leash tightly, but usually the opposite is true. Most dogs tend to struggle against the pressure on the neck when the leash is being held too tightly, which will only cause him to pull harder. Ironically, using just a little bit of control may be the best way to control your dog during your walks. Just remember, a tight leash tells your dog there’s something to be anxious about.
  • If your dog tends to pull, work on teaching him how to heel on command.

Bottom line: when it comes to walking your dog, learn how to take the lead (pun intended!). Proper leash holding and the right amount of control can result in delightful walks for you and your precious pooch!