Keeping Your Canine Healthy

There are many things that you should be doing during the year to keep your canine healthy.

If we don’t take care of our teeth by brushing, it can lead to tooth decay, tartar and cavities.  The same goes for our canines.  So, what should you being doing to maintain healthy teeth and mouth in your canine.  First let’s discuss the examination.  With the mouth closed, pull back the lips to expose the gums and teeth.  If the gums are pink and firm, that’s an indication of healthy gums.  Check the teeth for any stains and that they are firm.  Some canines aren’t cooperative when dealing with their mouth, which is a reason why all these examinations should be started when they are very young.  It is a matter of training.  Typically, if you gently push on the corners of the jaw, the mouth will open.  Check the insides of the teeth for stains and that they are firm.  Also check the tongue at this time for any sores.  If you find the gums to be pale, swollen, bleed when touched or have red marks, they should pay a visit to the vet.  How clean the teeth are can depend on many factors, such as what kind of food, treats, and play toys.  Everyone has their own preference on dog food, so I won’t tell you what you should use.  Personally I only feed kibble.  Kibble as you know is hard food, which is abrasive and helps clean the teeth by friction.  Milk-Bones and dog biscuits also work in the same fashion, so they are good to use as a treat and during training as a reward.  There are many chew toys on the market that are supposed to help clean the teeth, some work, some don’t.  Chew toys made out of a hard nylon is what I have found to be effective.  Once in a great while, I will have a large bone from a steak or a leg bone from a cow that my canine gets to enjoy.  Like kibble, bones are abrasive and helps clean the teeth.  What I have mentioned is what I do with my canine and have never had to brush his teeth or take him in to get tartar scraped off.  It is recommended by some to brush the canine’s teeth and gums twice or more a week.  If brushing the teeth is something you want to do, I recommend starting when they are a puppy.  It is a matter of training and over time they will get used to it and not fight you.  So if you have decided to brush your canine’s teeth, here is the recommended method.  Use toothpaste for dogs and a soft bristled nylon toothbrush.  There are various designs, some similar to human toothbrushes to angled heads and even ones that slip onto your finger.  Brush back and forth in a short circular motion; pointing the tip of the brush toward the gum line, as you would your own teeth.  Brush all the surfaces.  Vigorous brushing may cause bleeding and discomfort.  This can also indicate gum disease.  If after several brushing, the bleeding continues, consult your vet for treatment.

As mentioned above, the canine’s feet should be checked at the end of every shift or more frequently depending on what has happened during the shift and what s/he has been exposed to.  The pads of the feet are tough, but can be easily cut by glass and other rubbish in the course of pursuing a suspect.  When conducting an examination of the feet, gently hold a paw upside-down and check between the pads with your finger for any soreness or foreign matter stuck between them.  Paw pads should be hard and leathery.  Pads can become irritated with too much abrasion on hard surfaces or by chemicals used in the winter for snow and ice removal.  Heat and the before mentioned chemicals can also cause the pads to crack, so it is imperative that you check them for irritation and cracking.  Rinsing the feet with warm water will remove any chemicals and will also make it easier to examine the feet for any injuries or potential problems.  One last thing to check for is broken toe nails.  Broken toe nails can cause great discomfort and/or pain as it applies pressure to the nerve(s).  Sometimes it is just a matter of doing a little trimming, but you may have to get the vet involved, especially if you’re not comfortable doing the trimming or if the nail needs to be removed.

I have saved to dirtiest and grossest part for last, the anal area.  About every week or so, you should lift the tail and look at the anal area for soreness or redness and any dried fecal matter.  If you should find dried fecal matter, put on some latex surgical gloves and wash the anal area with warm water.  In longer haired canine’s it may be necessary to cut away the dried matter with a pair of blunt scissors like EMT shears.  During the examination, you may find swelling or redness, this maybe a sign of anal sac (gland) impaction.  For those that don’t know, on either side of the anus are two sacs in which secretions accumulate.  Typically these sacs are drained of the secretions due to the pressure during defecation.  Sometimes this doesn’t always happen, and in some cases becomes a chronic problem.  A sign of anal sac impaction is excessive licking of the anus or scooting along the ground or as I like to call it…the butt scootin’ boogie.  This is their attempt to relieve the pressure that has built up in the anal sac.  You can relieve this pressure, but it is messy.  Since I am not a vet, I don’t want to explain how to do this.  It is best that you consult with your vet if you find your canine continually showing the signs of anal sac impaction as outlined above.  If this becomes a chronic problem, the anal sacs can be surgically removed.

Have a warm and healthy winter.

Stay Safe!

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