My humans attended a lot of educational sessions while we were all at BlogPaws 2017. Usually my human daddy and I went to one session while my human mommy and Tallulah went to another. The humans learned about things like creating engaging content, search engine optimization, and analytics. (I know that stuff is important, but it sort of sounds like “blah, blah, and blah” to me.) While the humans took notes and attempted to fill their heads with knowledge, Tallulah and I caught up on our sleep under the conference room tables.
There was one educational session that my humans decided was so important they should attend it together: Dr. Julie Buzby’s “All Hands on Dog: Ten Touches That Could Save Your Dog’s Life.” And I think it’s so important that I’m sharing it with you today. Now I’m pretty sure most of you humans pet your dogs every day . . . several times a day . . . often not even knowing you’re doing it. Speaking for all the dogs out there, let me tell you how unbelievably happy that makes us. But what if just once a week you could pet us in a pattern that would help you to detect changes in our bodies? It just takes a few minutes, and it could lead to an early diagnosis by your veterinarian and better treatment results. So let’s get started. (By the way, I assisted Dr. Buzby as her model while my human daddy held me and my human mommy took pictures. Dr. Buzby, my daddy, and I were excellent. Mommy may need to repeat one of those photography sessions she attended, but you’ll get the picture. Haha . . . get the picture . . . get it?)
TOUCH 1: BODY CONDITION SCORING/WEIGHT
Start with opening strokes all over your dog’s body. Initially, you’re just petting your dog and bonding with him or her. Pretty easy, right? I mean, you do this all the time. Then move on to more purposeful petting. First check for rib cover. Run your hands over your dog’s rib cage. How much fat is over your dog’s ribs? Next look at your dog from the side and touch him or her along the chest and back toward the waist. Does your dog have a nice racehorse tuck? See how my body tapers up from my ribs to my waist? That’s what you’re looking for. Finally, look at and touch your dog from above. You want your dog’s waist to taper in. According to Dr. Buzby, proper weight is the number one thing you can do to extend your dog’s life, so these opening touches are pretty important.
TOUCH 2: SKIN & COAT (AND EXTERNAL PARASITES)
Now move to your dog’s back half where fleas like to congregate. Beginning at the base of the tail, flip your dog’s hair back against the grain and check the skin, working your way toward the head. You’re not only looking for fleas, you’re also looking for flea dirt . . . a nice way to say flea poo. If you’re not sure what flea dirt looks like, click here. Check under your dog’s inner back legs too. That’s another favorite spot for fleas.
TOUCH 3: LUMPS & LYMPH NODES
Run your hands all over your dog’s body checking for any lumps. Pay particular attention to the lymph nodes and check for any swelling. Lymph nodes are located in the neck, under the jowls or lower jaw bone, around the shoulders, at the back of the legs, close to the joints of the legs, and in the groin area. (A quick online check will result in quite a few drawings and photos showing where a dog’s lymph nodes are located.) You might feel something that doesn’t feel quite right to you. Make an appointment with your veterinarian. At best, it’s nothing and you now have a baseline for your weekly assessments. At worst, you’ve detected something that you might not otherwise have noticed until much later.
TOUCH 4: EARS
Here you get to use two additional human senses: sight and smell. Flip your dog’s ears back and have a look. They should be clean. Now have a little sniff. A foul odor could indicate an ear infection.
TOUCH 5: EYES
According to Dr. Buzby, eye problems can turn into emergencies very quickly. Eyes should be clear and without discharge.
TOUCH 6: MOUTH (LIPS, GUMS, AND TEETH)
A main objective behind getting to know your dog’s body through the weekly 10 touches is establishing your dog’s baselines. For instance, if your dog’s eyes look one way from week to week, you’ll notice immediately when there’s a change. Dr. Buzby says that normal gum color is the most important baseline to know in your dog. Press on your dog’s gum. When you remove your finger, the spot you pressed should be a little light but return to its original color immediately. Check your dog’s teeth for plaque buildup. (You should be brushing your dog’s teeth daily. Mommy had to admit that she doesn’t do this. Shame on her,) Also check for cracked or broken teeth, which can lead to infections and abscesses. Dr. Buzby pointed out the following rule of thumb when if comes to chew toys for dogs: “If an object is too hard for you to comfortably slap it against your leg, it’s too hard for your dog to chew.”
TOUCH 7: LEGS, PAWS & NAILS
Feel for symmetry in your dog’s legs. Check your dog’s paws for any sores on the pads or between the toes. Also check for discoloration of the hair on your dog’s feet, an indication of licking that might be caused by allergies. Make sure your dog’s nails are short. “Dog’s nails were not designed to be talons,” Dr. Buzby says. Long nails impact gait and posture, which can lead to further problems.
TOUCH 8: ABDOMEN & BELLY
Get to know the general shape of your dog’s belly so you can recognize when it’s not normal. Also be aware of the general firmness of your dog’s belly.
TOUCH 9: CHEST (HEART & LUNGS)
Get to know your dog’s normal heart rate and rhythm. Run the flat of our hand on the left side of your dog’s chest to feel the beats.
TOUCH 10: UNDER THE TAIL
Now hold on just one minute. I’ve been a pretty good sport up to this point. I’ve let you see Dr. Buzby’s hands all over by body, but a girl has her limits. I mean some things ought to be private, right? So without graphic pictures, it’s time to cover Touch 10: Under the Tail. Check for swelling and growths around the anus. If your dog is a female, check the area around her vulva for any discoloration.
Dr. Buzby says that it’s important to remember that you are your dog’s voice. Your veterinarian may see your dog just once or twice a year, but you’re with your dog every day. If you get in the habit of practicing these 10 touches once a week, a change in your dog will jump out at you immediately. Your job is to detect that change in your dog and then turn to your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Remember: Early detection leads to the best results.
Dr. Julie Buzby graduated from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997 and began her career caring for dogs, cats, and horses. To augment her Western training, she earned certification by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in 1998 and by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in 2002.
As an integrative veterinarian, Dr. Buzby seeks to integrate the best of Western medicine, alternative therapies, and creative tools for maximum wellness in her patients. She has a special interest in preserving mobility and quality of life for senior dogs and proudly serves on the Advisory Board of the Grey Muzzle Organization.
In 2012, Julie founded Dr. Buzby’s Innovations, with the mission of helping people help their dogs. ToeGrips, the company’s flagship product, offer a natural alternative to dog boots and dog socks on hardwood floors. They have helped dogs regain confident mobility in over 50 countries around the world. In 2016, the company evolved into “Dr. Buzby’s”, a brand focused on educating and empowering people who care about the best care possible for their dogs.
As an accidental entrepreneur, Julie has spoken at such venues as BarkWorld Expo, the Southeast Veterinary Conference, the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) Rounds, the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association annual conference, and BlogPaws.
Check out the Buzby Bark and Dr. Buzby’s innovative dog health products at www.toegrips.com.