Saturday, January 21, 2017

Do you need to trim your dog's nails? Probably.

I took Leopold to a low-cost vaccine clinic last month to get him updated on his rabies vaccine.  While I was waiting (and I had to wait a while...), I enjoyed some small talk with other fellow dog-owners who were also waiting around with their pups.
One lady had a pair of adorable shitzu puppies: one was taking a pup-nap (I'd say cat-nap, but that just seems wrong) in it's little stroller, and the other was snuggling with it's owner.
Apparently the snuggling pup had long nails, because the owner complained more than once about how sharp they were.  She said she wasn't sure if she should cut them, and that her veterinarian told her the nails would wear themselves to a short length just by the pup running around outside.

I wanted to laugh at the veterinarian's advice.  But I didn't.
So I'll laugh now.  AHAHAHAHAHA!

Woooo...! It feels good to laugh.

Halo enjoying a mid-afternoon nap.  Or was this her morning
nap...? Maybe her late afternoon nap?? I can't remember!
In my experience, most dogs need to get their nails trimmed by their owner (or a professional if the owner can't do it).  It's true that some dogs run around enough outside for their nails to self-maintain at the proper length, but it's rare.   In the four years I worked at an emergency veterinary clinic, dogs that came in with naturally trim nails were the exception, not the rule.  The truth of the matter is that a lot of dogs spend a good chunk of the day napping or just lazing about. According to an article on, the average dog spends about 50% of the day sleeping and another 30% lying around awake.

Sounds about right for my pups!  I let Leopold hang out in our back yard as often as he "asks" (so long as it's not too hot outside) and he'll wander around and sniff things, but mostly he's incredibly content to just lay in the sun and sniff at the wind or take a nap.  He likes to run and play, too, and we make sure he gets exercise every day, but the majority of his day is spent deciphering smells on the breeze, woofing at passing cars, and catching Zs.  Halo prefers to be where the humans are, so she ends up spending her time inside a lot.  But she, too, naps a lot.  There's stuff for her to do and she'll chew on a bone or toss around a toy if she feels like it, but again, she doesn't run around enough for her nails to self-maintain to a proper, short length.  

Leopold's nails could use a trim.  Ideally,
I would trim his nails regularly enough that
they don't touch the ground at all.  His nails
are a little long here!

Of course, the best way to know if your dog's nails need a trim is to look at them.  Do they touch the floor when they walk?  If yes, then they're probably too long and need a trim.  Do they cause your dog's toes to push out in funny angles?  If yes, then you definitely need to trim those nails and stat!  If you don't, your dog's nails could grow into their paw pad, which is very painful and could potentially result in an infection.

Having trouble trimming your dog's nails because your dog won't let you?  Check out this post for some tips on trimming your dog's nails.

Leopold partaking in his favorite activity: sun-bathing while sniffing the wind.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Cleaning your dog's teeth by rubbing with a wet cloth: does this method work?

Rubbing with a wet cloth: will this method sufficiently
clean Leopold's teeth?  I decided to find out.
I moved to Texas a year ago.  That meant finding a new vet, again, for my dogs.  Thanks to yelp and google reviews, I found a vet that I ended up liking quite a bit!  He seemed to know his stuff. <phew>

He was examining Leopold (who was just there for a check-up), and I mentioned that I had been doing a bad job brushing Leopold's teeth.  I was feeling guilty so I wanted to mention it, I guess.  After using some dental tools to pick off the worst of the tartar on Leopold's teeth, our new vet showed me an easier way than brushing to clean a dog's teeth.  He grabbed a wash cloth, put a little water on it, and rubbed Leopold's teeth!  And that was it.  He said that if I did that once a day, that would be sufficient.  Whoa! So easy!  And cheap! --who doesn't have an old towel or wash cloth lying around, right?

I like easy and cheap. But does it work?  In the past I've used an enzymatic toothpaste and toothbrush method.  How does this new method compare?
I put the "rub with a wet cloth" method to the test to find out.

I started cleaning Leopold's teeth with this method on November 14th, and other than missing a week over Thanksgiving (I wasn't going to make my dog sitter deal with this!) and a couple days here and there, I cleaned Leopold's teeth once a day until December 28.  So a bit over a month of cleanings.

Leopold's teeth before (left pic) and after (right pic) a month of cleaning by rubbing with a wet cloth.

Here's what I learned:

1.  Leopold is not a fan.
After a week or so, Leopold started to run from me as soon as he saw me approaching with the cloth.
I tried to massage his face while I was rubbing his teeth to help him enjoy the experience more, but in the end he just didn't like it.  Bummer.
The toothbrush/toothpaste method is a treat for Leopold:  He enjoys having his teeth brushed because he likes the way the toothpaste tastes and because he likes chewing on the brush.

2.  It's difficult to clean every tooth.
Dog teeth overlap, so there were some teeth that were never touched by the cloth.
When using toothpaste and toothbrush, Leopold is chomping away, opening and closing his mouth, which allows me to work the brush onto every one of his teeth.

3.  It's difficult to clean ALL of every tooth.
The cloth doesn't really get to the gum-line.  It also doesn't get behind the teeth.
A toothbrush allows brushing on the back of teeth and is also so much better at getting into crevices and making sure the gum-line sees some actions; this is important for healthy gums!

4.  It seemed better for getting crud off broad surfaces.
I think.  I thought I noticed a small difference over time, but I don't actually see a lot of change in my before and after photos.  You can press more firmly on the tooth with the cloth rubbing method, which could potentially help to get more crud off.

Cleaning your dog's teeth by rubbing with a wet cloth is maybe better than nothing, but I think brushing with a toothbrush and enzymatic toothpaste is a better option.  If you're brushing and still having trouble getting crud off some of the broad areas (I always seem to have trouble with those back molars!!), rubbing with a cloth might help as an addition to your toothpaste/toothbrush routine.

For more information on keeping your dog's teeth clean, check out my post on cleaning your dog's dirty teeth.