Please note: I am not a veterinarian, and none of the information below should be considered medical advice. I merely wish to share tips and tricks I’ve amassed in 20+ years of working in pet care.
If you suspect your pet has a medical issue, consult your veterinarian.
- Ticks and Foxtails and Mushrooms (oh my!)
- Backyard dogs
- Leash laws
- Brushing and combing
- Nail trimming
- Ear cleaning
- Anal glands
- Dental care
- Cat care
Ticks and Foxtails and Mushrooms (oh my!)
What’s the best way to deal with these hazards?
I’ve been a dog walker for over 10 years now, and the most dangerous things to watch out for are these:
Ticks usually like to jump on your pet when they run or walk through tall grassy areas. The only positive thing I can say about them is they are slow and take awhile to latch onto the skin, so if you look your dog over well after hiking or in a natural area exploring, you can remove ticks before they start their bloodsucking. There is a correct technique to remove them once they have latched on: Getting a Tick Off of Your Dog : The Humane Society of the United States
- Foxtails - nasty, nasty things!
This one was surgically extracted from a dog’s nose (at a cost of around $800). During certain times of the year they’re everywhere and can lodge themselves in eyes, ears, between toes, or pretty much anywhere on a animal’s body. If the tip or seed breaks off under the skin, it can get into the bloodstream and travel to the heart, which may cause death. The best way to avoid this is to watch when your dog is walking near this plant and try to avoid it. Make sure you check your dog’s coat after a hike or a trip to the park. This horrible sharp shaft with a seed attached can grow anywhere! Learn more at Wikipedia
Mushrooms just terrify me. If you have a dog that likes to eat random plants then really really keep your eyes open for these wild growing fungi. They are not all deadly but I would not take a chance on my dog injesting one of these (or my humans either, for that matter). It is always a good idea to inspect your backyard for mushrooms. They can pop up overnight. If you think your dog might have eaten one it is best to visit your vet ASAP.
Do I really need to take my dog for walks? He’s got a yard.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Dogs are social creatures. When you bring a dog into your family, your family becomes the dog’s pack. Leaving him outside all the time denies him needed socialization and can lead to behavioral problems. In my opinion, it is just cruel. I have been known to carry extra copies of this article to slide under doors or fences of backyard dogs: Can I Leave My Dog Outside All the Time? from Pet Health Network
- Dogs need socialization and a change of scenery just like we do. That’s why they get so excited when the leash comes out
- They love to smell what dogs leave behind (pee mail)
- Regular walking helps prevent anxiety and depression. (Yes, dogs can feel these “human” emotions, too)
- Walking is good for them and good for you
About off-leash walking: Don’t do it. Here’s why:
When I see someone walking their dog off-leash on the street or in a park that is not designated an off-leash area, I cringe. It is not permitted to walk off-leash anywhere you want. https://pets.thenest.com/california-dog-leash-laws-11157.html
When people say “my dog is friendly,” that usually means they have almost no recall for the dog. I’m really glad you’re walking a friendly dog, but I might not be. I’ve had to break up a few dog fights in my day and it’s not pretty. When I walk, I have to pay close attention constantly for these friendly off-leash dogs and make U-turns to walk in the opposite direction. I walk some dogs that would really hurt or even kill another dog if given the chance. Keep your dogs on a leash please!
Brushing and combing
Why must I brush so often?
When I worked in grooming, clients always told me they brushed their dogs on a regular schedule. Many times these were the most matted of the dogs. You must have the right equipment for brushing. Matting is not an issue if you have a short-haired breed such as Chihuahua or Lab, but these dogs need brushing as well. Here is the brush I recommend. If your dog has longer fur, you will need a comb as well. If your comb sticks then the coat is matted. The areas that get most matted are the legs, underside and behind the ears. The reason for this seems to be that it is easier for them to chew or scratch these areas and they get wet when they go outside. Water doubles mat size.
Always brush and de-mat BEFORE bathing. Water does not get mats out, it tightens them up. The reason many dogs hate to be brushed is because they are not brushed often enough to get used to it When they are brushed, it’s when they are matted, and brushing and combing pulls and hurts. Imagine you had dreadlocks and someone tried to get them out with just a few minutes of brushing. Ouch! Brush long-haired dogs and cats before they are badly matted. Clients couldn’t understand why we had to shave badly matted dogs rather than combing out mats. If your dog is too matted, the only humane thing to do is shave, then brush or comb on a regular basis. Brushing can be a bonding experience for you and your dog. It feels good and they are getting your full attention.
- Mats look and feel terrible
- Many skin conditions can be hidden under matted fur
- Matted fur can be very uncomfortable or even painful for the pet
Why do I need to trim my dogs nails?
When I worked in grooming I saw many crazy things. It was always shocking to see dogs with curling long nails. Sometimes nails were so long dogs were walking on their nails and not the pads of their feet. This can cause many problems with their hips and backs. I have seen a toenail grow back into the pad of the foot (so painful). I have also seen toenails ripped off because the curling nail has gotten stuck in a carpet or blanket. If their human isn’ around, the dog can panic, causing them to pull and pull. You should get your pup used to clipping at an early age. I always tell clients with puppies to touch and play with the feet so they grow desensitized, making nail trimming easier. Pay close attention to the dew-claw, because those rarely touch the ground and grow faster than the rest.
- Nails that become too long can curl, cause back problems and become caught and damaged
- The blood vein grows with the nail and becomes too long, making nails harder to cut later on. If the vein is cut while trimming, your pet can bleed to death
- It is important to trim your pet’s nails regularly—at least once a month
Must I clean her ears?
All I can say about ears is pay attention to them. Look inside the ear canal. If you see a buildup of dark or yellow wax, if there is dirt and gunk in them, or if there is so much hair you can’t see the ear canal, it’s time for a cleaning. This is the only ear cleaner I use. Dogs’ ears can be like peoples’: Some dogs have waxy ears and some don’t. Some have little pockets that collect dirt and wax and some don’t.
It is always a good idea to follow the directions on the ear cleaner you choose. Some breeds of dogs need the fur plucked out of the ear canal to aid in keeping them clean and free of wax, dirt and debris. Hair that grows in dogs’ ears is easy to remove, and the process is painless. Always use cotton and not toilet paper or other paper products, because cotton holds together and won’t leave small bits in the ear canal. Just don’t push it too far in!
If you notice your dog shaking her head and/or crying when scratching her ears, or if her ears are hot to the touch and really red and waxy, then she may have an infection and need a veterinarian’s care. It is usually a bacterial or yeast infection. I believe some dogs have a chronic problem with ear infections and should have their ears cleaned on a regular basis, but follow your veterinarian’s advice in such cases.
- Bacteria and yeast infections can occur
- Wax, dirt, and hair can build up see photos
- Infected ears are very painful and can lead to hearing loss
Why do I need information on bathing? It seems so easy.
Bathing is not as simple as most people think. First, brush or comb her thoroughly to remove excess fur and any mats (see above). Next, protect her ears from water by inserting cotton in the ear canal. Use a generous amount so it will be easy to remove afterwards. Choose one or more types of shampoo that fits your dog’s skin and coat:
- dry and flakey = medicated
- sensitive = oatmeal
- allergies = hypo-allergenic
- white fur = whitening
- for skin conditions, I’m a big fan of these bath tablets
Always use warm water when you bathe. When I give a bath, I mix the shampoo with water to make it easier to distribute through the coat (plus the bottle lasts longer). I start with sudsing up the body and legs. I usually spend a good amount of time really massaging the soap into the body. I then carefully suds the head and face. Avoid getting too close to the eyes! I then rinse the head first so soap has less chance getting into the eyes. All soaps can burn the eyes and do damage. If you think you may have gotten soap into the eyes, rinse the area well with clean water. I can’t stress this enough.
Make sure to rinse really well and when you think all the soap is out rinse one more time, missing no areas. Your fingers should squeak over the fur—if they slide over the fur easily and feel slimy at all, you have not rinsed enough. Leaving soap on her skin can cause rashes and irritation.
Why does my dog scoot his rear end around?
Another issue that comes up from time to time regards anal scent glands. These are related to the glands skunks use to spray potential predators. There are two of them, one on each side of the anus. Anal gland fluid is not poop. Dogs no longer use these glands, so sometimes they just fill up and need to be expressed. see photo Here are some signs that your dog might have full glands:
- Scooting of his/her butt
- Constant licking and chewing of the area
- Very strong odor
If you think your dog may have an issue with his glands you can have your vet express them. Many vets offer this service without a full exam, so call in advance and ask.
Anal glands can be a problem when they fill up too fast. They can become clogged/impacted. At that point veterinary assistance will be needed. Diet change and added pumpkin can help if you have a dog with this issue.
In the old days I was lazy about brushing my dog’s teeth. I have changed my mind after seeing teeth that are brushed daily. It is true some dogs are more prone to tarter buildup than others. My advice to you is examine your dog’s teeth. Once the tarter has adhered to the teeth you can’t just brush them to remove it. To prevent tarter buildup, a toothbrush and a dab of meat- or peanut butter-flavored enzyme dog toothpaste is just the ticket. Dogs don’t love getting their teeth brushed, but they do get used to it. If tarter gets bad it can affect the gums and eventually your dog’s health.
A family member had a small dog that had stopped eating and was acting very lethargic. I am not a vet, but I thought I would look her over before they brought her to one. I looked in her mouth and her breath smelled terrible and her teeth looked awful. I even noticed a loose tooth. After the vet did a cleaning and extracted 4 teeth she was like a new dog. Unfortunately, dogs can not tell us when they are in pain, so we have watch for signs of distress.
What? I have to wash my cat now too?
Even I’m dying to find out what I’m going to say here, but...