Please, please, please annoy your pets.
Pull their ears, play with their feet, hold them too tight and then reward them for being good. Don’t make them growl or make them scared of you but if they want to sit on the couch with you while you watch television, the payment should be that they endure you pulling at their paw pads. There are a few specific spots you want to get your dog and cat used to being handled.
Feet. Almost all dogs and cats hate having their feet touched. But feet are the among the first areas to break out during an allergy flare up. Feet get injured by hot pavement, snow and ice and even sharp rocks and sticks. And of course, nails. Nails need to be trimmed back. I like to pull at my pets feet when they are doing something I normally wouldn’t allow them to do. Sleeping with me in the bed or laying on the couch? I’m going to pull at the webbing between their toes until they pull the foot away. Then when they settle back down, I’m going to do it again. It’s such a habit of mine that I unconsciously do it to dogs waking up from anesthesia if I’m sitting with them and writing in their charts at the same time. So tug on your dog and cat’s feet, it might help us find a small issue before it becomes a big problem someday. It will at least help with nail trimming.
Ears. Ears are deep, dark places that like to hide inflammation and infection among other things. They need to be examined but they are also sensitive and very close to the pointy things. The thing is, when your dog or cat has an ear problem, I need to focus on looking down the canal and at what I’m seeing and sometimes smelling in order to get an idea of what is going to make them more comfortable. If I might suddenly have to jump out of the way of tooth or claw, it’s hard for me to focus. Playing with your dog or cat’s ears is easy. Flop them around, stick your fingers in them and scratch. Cats and pointy ear dogs look hilarious if you flip their ears inside out. Just include the ears when your scratching their heads. It goes a long way and will make a difference if your pet ever has an ear problem.
Teeth. Speaking of those pointy things. The number one disease in cats and dogs over the age of three is periodontal or dental disease. Almost 80% of them have it! That means if you have two pets over three, one of them has some level of periodontal disease. The number on reason it’s not addressed is because veterinarians don’t recommend it. The number one reason veterinarians don’t recommend it is because they don’t look for it during the exam. And the number one reason they don’t look for it during the exam is because they don’t want to be bit. Getting bit can ruin an entire career. It almost always ruins a day. Getting up in your dog or cat’s mouth can be scary. My own dogs lick at my hands, a lot. I bet your dogs do too. I like to grab their tongues, grab the lower jaw or just stick my hand in their mouth to distract them while they do this. It’s just dog saliva, it washes off I promise. Cats are a little trickier but it can be accomplished. I look at my cats’ teeth when they’re rubbing their faces against my hands waiting for treats or when they are harassing me while I read or am on the phone. Or right now, while I type this.
If you annoyed your dogs and cats in just those three areas a few times a day, they would receive better physical exams, you would pick up on things a little earlier and it might just make the difference between having a small issue and a big problem someday.