Pet parents know that two of the most important ways to keep your dog healthy is with regular exams and vaccinations. But what if I said you can add to your pet’s good health by learning 10 touches that can save your dog’s life? Would you be willing to add them to your monthly schedule?
The 10 touches are easy to learn and your dog will think you are giving him a rubdown. You are probably doing some of them now and don’t know it.
I was introduced to these lifesaving touches at a health workshop taught by Dr. Julie Buzby, DVM during the BlogPaws Conference. Her presentation was so impressive that I knew I had to share it.
If you read this blog regularly you know I am a fan of Dr. Buzby. She is an integrative veterinarian who combines the best of Western veterinary medicine and holistic therapies. She is also the creator of ToeGrips, which is an amazing product for dogs with arthritis or limb weakness. ToeGrips are little rubber nail grips that fit onto a dog’s toenail to give them traction on slick surfaces.
My dog Cody wore them and a physical therapist friend has been using them for her dog for more than a year. Her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel couldn’t stand on her wood floor without doing the splits. I recommended ToeGrips and it solved the spaniel’s problem.
Learning the 10 touches that can save your dog’s life.
Dr. Buzby developed the 10 touches to empower pet owners. She reminded us that we are the voice for our dogs. We are their advocates. Your veterinarian is an integral part of your dog’s health, but you only see them a few times a year. You are with your dog every day. Dr. Buzby wants owners to know how your dog’s body looks, feels and smells. That way even the slightest change will instantly jump out at you.
Here are the 10 touches Dr. Buzby recommends you do once a month:
Touch 1: Body Condition Score
A dog’s BCS is based on four body parts: ribs, waistline, belly tuck, and fat beneath the skin. The perfect dog body has ribs you can easily feel when you rub their sides, a slight waistline when you look overhead, a gentle upward tuck of their belly when you look from the side, and little fat when you gently raise the skin.
Learning this first touch is not about putting your dog on a diet, instead it is to learn how your dog feels and looks. You are establishing a baseline so you know when changes occur.
Touch 2: Skin and coat
Gently rub your hands over your dog’s skin and coat. First go with the grain and then go against it. You will learn how the skin and fur feel and be able to detect any changes such as dryness or lumps. When you rub against the grain start at the tail and move toward the head. This lifts the fur slightly allowing you to feel for ticks and to see fleas and flea dirt. Flea dirt it is the feces or dried blood left by the flea. The most common place to see it is under the tail.
Touch 3: Lumps and Lymph nodes
Lumps on your dog can change so a gentle massage from the nose to the tail will help you keep track of these changes. While many lumps are a normal sign of aging, it is good to know what is typical for your dog and be able to point out changes to your veterinarian.
Lymph are located in 5 key areas in your dog’s body. Changes such as swelling can be the first sign of disease. Lymph nodes are located in pairs on each side of a dog’s: neck, above the shoulder blades, in the armpits, in the groin and down the hind legs.
Touch 4: Ears
Flip back each of your dog’s ears and get to know how they look and smell. The ears should be clean. Redness or discharge in and around the ear canal or a foul odor can be signs of an infection.
Touch 5: Eyes
The eyes can tell a lot about a dog’s health. Get to know how they look. Check for changes such cloudiness or a discharge in the iris and sclera (white part of the eye). Gently lift the lid to check for changes in the dog’s third eyelid.
Touch 6: Gums and Teeth
Every pet owner should establish a baseline for the color of their dog’s gums. Get familiar with the color of their gums. Are they solid pink or do they have patches of black pigment? (Both are normal) Determine if the gums are bright pink or slightly pale. Not every dog has the same color.
Gently press on the pink area for 1-2 seconds and then release. This will give you a baseline for how quickly the gums return to their normal color after light pressure is applied. Changes to the gums can tell your veterinarian volumes about your dog’s health.
Next check the condition of the teeth. Is there tartar built up or are there broken teeth that should be fixed? And finally take a quick look at your dog’s throat. Learn how it looks.
Touch 7: Legs, Paws and Nails
The leg touch is about symmetry so it is important to use both of your hands as you first rub your dog’s two front legs and then the back legs. Feel for differences between the two front legs (and two back legs). Is there a lump on one and not the other? Does one knee feel different than the other? These differences should be reported to your veterinarian.
Next check each paw for sores on the pad or between the toes. Look for discoloration or hair loss. This could be a sign that your dog has been licking the paws and may suffer from allergies.
Examine the length of your dog’s nails. This is a big concern for Dr. Buzby who is a proponent of keeping your dog’s nails neatly trimmed. Long nails impact a dog’s gait and posture, which could lead to health problems in the spine.
Touch 8: Belly and Abdomen
Gently touch your dog’s belly. Get familiar with the general shape of the abdomen and take note of how soft or hard it is. This again will help you establish a baseline if something changes.
Touch 9: Chest (Heart and Lungs)
This touch gets you familiar with your dog’s heart rate. Place the palm of your hand on the left side of your dog’s chest just behind the elbow. Feel the speed and rhythm of your dog’s normal heart beat.
Next rub your hands over your dog’s chest. Become familiar with how your dog breathes.
Touch 10: Check Under the Tail
Gently lift your dog’s tail and notice how it looks. Are there signs of worms or fleas, or is there redness or bulging? Check to see if there is an odor. If your dog is a female check around the vulva for any discoloration.
One final note
The 10 touches might seem awkward at first to you and your dog. But if you do them routinely they will become a bonding experience for you and your fur kid that could save their life. Don’t forget to check out Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips if you need help for a dog who slips on slick surfaces.