DETROIT – Eat, sleep, walk, groom, clean, treat and repeat. Pet owners know it takes a lot of time to care for a dog or cat. But what they don’t know could be hurting their pets. Veterinarian Dr. Drew Snider has revealed four products he wishes every pet owner knew about.
1. The Gentle Leader walk harness
For owners of dogs that like to pull on the leash, it can be hard to regain the lead on walks. Correcting this behavior can be difficult, but using a special kind of collar can help. The Gentle Leader fits over a dog’s nose like a muzzle and connects to their neck to hook up to a leash. When a walker pulls on the leash, the dog is instantly corrected.
"It actually brings their nose down to their chest, which isn’t painful but it’s uncomfortable," Snider said. "It can be a nice coaxing tool to remind the dog not to be out front leading the party but more next to you."
The Gentle Leader can be used as an obedience-training tool or a corrective collar for walks. Its design helps prevent injury to the owner as a result of being pulled forward by their pooch.
"It can be a really good tool so that you’re not being dragged wherever the dog wants to go," Snider said.
2. Pet toothbrushes and toothpastes
Snider stressed that a happy pet is a hygienic one. When it comes to keeping your dog or cat in tip-top shape, he recommends following a care regiment that is not all that different from the one you follow. Cleaning ears, combing hair and brushing teeth are all essential to pet health. When done routinely, correctly and with the right products, your furry friends can feel and look their best.
"We are encouraged to brush our teeth multiple times a day, but what a lot of people don’t realize is how important oral health is in our dogs and cats," Snider said. "Once a week is better than once a month, once a day is better than once a week. Anything that you can do really does help out."
Brushing teeth does more than prevent cavities, tooth decay and gum disease. Regular brushings reduce a pet’s risk of heart disease and kidney disease as well. But regular dental care can be difficult when an owner’s dog or cat does not want to cooperate. Snider says the key is to make the process less intrusive for the animal.
"Oftentimes, we try to open their mouth and then brush it. Most dogs don’t like it when we open their mouths like that," Snider said. "If we just take the cheek pouch and basically go in there in the area that a chipmunk would store nuts, they get to keep their mouth closed the entire time and it’s a lot less strange for them."
Owners can use traditional toothbrushes or buy specialized thimble-style brushes. These brushes fit over an owner’s finger and have bristles on the end that clean and scrub.
Pet toothpaste comes in a variety of tastes and types. Snider is not particular about any brand of paste, however, he warns owners not to use their own toothpastes on their dog or cat.
"It has fluoride in it. You and I know to spit after we brush our teeth instead of swallowing," Snider said. "We can’t tell our dogs and cats not to eat it, (so) we use versions of toothpastes that are safe even if they wanted to lick it all down."
3. Earwax cleaning solutions
Dog and cat lovers should also work to wash the gunk and wax out of their pet’s ears. Earwax buildup is more common in dogs, but the issue can affect outdoor cats too. Snider uses an alcohol-based solution that can be poured directly into a pet's ear canal to clear out dirt and debris.
"You don’t even have to get aggressive with Q-tips or anything like that," Snider said. "The dog’s ear canal is L-shaped so it’s very difficult to go far enough in to hit the eardrum."
Application is easy. Pet owners just pour the solution into the ear canal and massage the bony parts of the inner ear to help the alcohol drain deep inside. Dogs and cats will have a natural urge to shake the liquid out of their ear and subsequently the waxy ear blockage will come out. It can get messy, so Snider recommends doing this outside or in a garage.
4. Fine, long-toothed fur brushes
As the hot summer months approach, dogs and cats start to shed, which makes getting rid of their thick undercoats even more important. To keep his animals fresh and cool, Dr. Snider brushes them with the Furminator, a fine, long-toothed comb.
"Even dogs that aren’t that fluffy or made for the long winters up in Alaska (do) have an undercoat," Snider said. "You can help out a lot just by getting into that undercoat so they’re not shedding into your whole house."
These products can be found in pet stores, online or at your nearest veterinary office.