Three unexpected things you need to know to keep your dog healthy

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By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

We all know the basics of dog care – good food, exercise, regular vet checkups, and sound safety & training practices. But did you know about these three things that can have a big impact your dog’s health?

Getting to the bottom of anal glands

Let’s just get this one out of the way: Anal glands are two little sacs that sit just inside a dog’s anus. They’re filled with super stinky stuff that contains pheromones, and when your dog passes a (firm) stool, some of this material gets squeezed out with the poo. A generation or two ago, dog owners were encouraged to empty these sacs (express the glands by squeezing them) on a routine basis; this was often done by a groomer, vet, or vet tech—or even by brave owners themselves! Like most vets today, Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, advises against fixing what isn’t broken: “If your pets don’t have anal gland problems right now, tell your vets and groomers to please leave them alone. Do not automatically express your pet’s anal glands.”  How do you know when something’s wrong? The most common signs are the dog biting at his or her bottom and/or scooting along the floor on his or her behind. If you see either of these behaviors, it’s time to call your vet.

Poisons! So much more than just chocolate.

Most dog owners know to keep their pups away from chocolate, but in fact coffee and caffeine are also toxic to dogs, because all three contain methylxanthines, which can cause everything from panting and excessive thirst to abnormal heart rhythm and even death. The poison experts at the ASPCA have compiled a list of more than 15 common food items that are toxic to dogs,  including xylitol (a sweetener hidden in everything from breath mints to peanut butter), avocado, citrus, macadamia nuts, and cheese (yes, cheese!). And while we’re on the subject, please put this number in your phone: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435.

Mats: Much more than an eyesore.

We’ve probably all seen the “before and after” videos of miserable-looking dogs covered in matted fur–and the amazing transformation that comes after the dog receives some grooming TLC! Even in mild cases, we know matted fur doesn’t look good–but it doesn’t feel good, either, and can pose very real health risks to dogs. Dr. Julie Horton, DVM, says, “matted hair can lead to severe medical problems for pets,” including skin irritations, lesions, and even maggots! As if that’s not bad enough, mats collect debris, feces, and urine, trapping it next to a dog’s sensitive skin. Mats are a painful, unhealthy, expensive road nobody wants to travel—and they can be avoided with proper coat care. Get started by asking groomer about the best tools for your dog’s at-home maintenance, then augment that routine with regular appointments with an experienced professional groomer (every 4 to 6 weeks is a good rule of thumb). PetSmart® Grooming Salons take reservations online, have 1000s of locations, often have coupons, and always have a Look Great Guarantee!

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