No Foot, No . . . Dog?

C2R trains horses as well as dogs, and the similarities are uncanny, both in their conformation, and in training methods.  In horses, if a horse is lame, you cannot use it.  Likewise, if a dog is lame, it cannot run rabbits or be competitive in the field  So it is to your advantage to understand the biomechanics of your Beagle’s feet.

How the foot lands and handles different terrain, absorbs load and then generates movement forward is of utmost important in your canine athlete.  Just think about the last time you stubbed your little toe, or gotten a blister on your foot anywhere – it’s all you can think about and you favor it until it is healed.

In horses, just one or two degrees in angle of the hoof changes the way a horse moves, and can make or break a great performance horse to the point of irreparable damage.  In dogs, differences in nail length, arthritis, and soft tissue injuries affect the gait with some toe injuries becoming career ending.  Prevention and early identification of problems become so important.

Bony injuries in the toes cause quite a bit of swelling and pain and the dog will for sure tell you when they have them.  But ligament damage can be harder to identify – especially in Beagles who have high-drive and high-pain tolerance.  Injuries to the flexor tendons can happen from anything sharp.  Even if it isn’t cut all the way, compromised tendons can cause a toe that will not bend properly, thus, sticking out further than other toes.  Tendons can also fail over time due to stress and overload.  Pay close attention to the shape of your dog’s feet.

Controversy exists about the length of nail on a dog – leave it longer to assist in traction?  Or cut it short?  When the dog is standing in neutral position on a flat surface, if the nail is too long, it pushes the toe up, which in turn stretches the tendons, causing weakness over time.  But a too short nail never touches the ground and could lead to muscle fatique and injuries as the dog tries to maintain traction.  Ideal nail length is somewhere in the middle, where the nail is short enough to be retracted off the ground in a neutral position so the toes don’t push up, but long enough that moderate contracture of the flexors during motion can get those nails into the ground when needed for traction.

Trim your dogs nails on a regular basis – ever other week, to the perfect length.  If they have dew claws, keep them short.  Keep an eye (and a hand – feel them) on your dogs foot and know what ‘normal’ looks like so you can assess any damage.