Dogs at the Crossroads

Dog 1, 07-14-16

By Lupa Jernigan, Desert Dogs

One of the challenges we face here in our remote West Texas town is finding services for our pets. Veterinary care is difficult to access, never mind basics like regular nail trims and quality food.

Some things cannot be put off too long without dire consequences for our four legged friends.  Many dogs walk and run on rough surfaces enough to wear their toenails down.  For those who don’t, their nails can continue to grow until they curl under and even into the pads of their feet.

Even before they reach that point, long nails on dogs can cause pain.  When the nails are long enough to press against the ground with each step, they are pushing the dog’s feet and legs out of alignment.  This puts added stress on shoulder and hip joints.  For older dogs, it can cause them to slip and fall.

Regular nail trims can prevent this problem and it’s something that owners can learn to do.  Your groomer or vet can show you how and where to cut and what to do if you accidentally cut into the quick and cause a little bleeding.

Dogs come with a variety of coat types.  There is the short single coat common to boxers and pit bulls. This coat requires very little in the way of grooming, but also provides little protection from the elements.  Short single coated dogs will be more susceptible to both sunburn and cold and require shade and shelter year round.

Dogs with a short double coat are renowned for their capacity to shed.  Labs, beagles, and pugs have a short double coat.  A good slicker brush will go a long way to helping them keep their cool and will result in somewhat less frequent vacuuming.

Border collies, many husky breeds, and Australian shepherds have longer double coats.  They typically “blow their coat” or shed heavily a few times a year.  If they are not brushed regularly, that heavy coat can cause a great deal of discomfort.  Designed to protect them from the cold, and then become thinner when the weather is warmer, it can do neither if it isn’t well maintained.

Dogs who do not shed will continue to grow hair.  If it isn’t regularly trimmed, it will become matted. Matted hair can pull skin, causing sores.  It prevents air flow to their ears, contributing to ear infections. It can become packed in between the pads of their feet, causing them pain with every step.  Or grow into their eyes, obscuring vision and causing discomfort

And in our harsh environment, long, matted hair means painful thorns can become entangled in a dog’s coat, as well as giving fleas and ticks the perfect hiding place.

Regular grooming is the difference between a healthy happy pet and a very uncomfortable one.  Most groomers will work with you to help you determine the best frequency for your pet based on your dog’s needs and your budget.  Please feel free to get in touch with me at [email protected] with your grooming or general pet related questions.  And if you have suggestions for future topics or feedback on things I’ve already addressed, please do send me a note.