Weight, Teeth, and Toenails: The 3 Neon Signs of Canine Health

July 26, 2022

Yup, those are the signs I talk about relentlessly when it comes to canine health. One glance at your beloved canine friend and I can tell if you love your dog more than you respect their basic health needs.

Whoa, you might say, that’s a pretty offensive statement! Well, I truly feel this way. Here’s why: 



When I see an overweight dog, I get angry. It shows me that the dog’s owner overindulges him with food and doesn’t exercise him enough. That is unfair.  

Additionally, as a professional trainer of nearly 30 years, I have seen firsthand how obese dogs suffer from behavioral problems in the form of aggression, boredom, acting out and disobedience. It is far healthier for a dog to be slightly underweight than overweight.  

Just one extra pound on a dog is equivalent to upwards of 10 pounds on a human. Most dogs that I see are easily five to 20 pounds overweight. Imagine carrying around a backpack with 50, 150 or 200 pounds of extra weight. Now, with no sense of self preservation, imagine running as fast as you can while carrying that burden. Doesn’t that just scream physical injury?  

Obesity in dogs may lead to increased risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. The lifespan of an overweight dog can be up to 2.5 years shorter than the lifespan of a dog with a healthy body weight.  

How do you achieve an ideal body score index for your beloved canine companion? Feed for the desired weight based on your dog’s body type and frame, cut out the treats, and exercise by walking or trotting at a slow pace over a long distance. Throwing a ‘Chuck It’ ball over and over is a great way to really hurt your dog, since they run with all-out reckless abandon and completely ruin their joints. Add the extra pounds and you are asking for injuries.  

The tell-tale signs for an obese dog include NOT being able to feel their ribs with gentle pressure over the skin, the lack of a tuck-up area when viewed dorsally (from above) behind the rib cage, and fat pad on the chest. 

But the easiest way to spot an obese dog? Have them sit. Is there a roll of skin and fat over the top of their knee? Is their butt area flat and fatty while sitting?  

Love them with healthy, appropriate meals. Get out there and walk them, travel the miles, and get fit together. You will both be happier!



Let’s look at those pearly whites! Or are your dog’s teeth loaded with yellow and even brown tarter at the gum line?  

Oral health in dogs is very important. However, sadly, on average most dogs suffer from periodontal disease by the time they’re 2.5 years old. This disease silently invades your dog’s mouth, causing pain, gum erosion, and tooth loss.  

The effects of periodontal disease may also cause major issues with their organs and heart. The bacteria in a dog’s mouth forms into plaque, which hardens. This calculus then becomes cemented on the teeth and can cause inflamed gums. The bacteria that accumulate in the mouth can travel under the gums and directly into your dog’s blood stream.  

Signs of an unhealthy mouth include bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums, and broken or rotten teeth. When a dog’s mouth is this bad, you should seek help from a veterinarian to have their teeth surgically scaled (cleaned). This involves an expensive procedure as well as the risk of anesthesia.  

To avoid dental problems, I have always been extremely proactive with my dog’s dental care. I give them raw bones from the time that they are eight weeks old. I encourage healthy chewing, which not only satiates their carnal desire to chew but also exercises their teeth and gums in a healthy manner, allowing them to maintain a beautifully healthy mouth mostly free of tartar buildup.  

It is not realistic for me to brush my dog’s teeth twice daily. My efforts are spent training and exercising my active pack. I encourage proper chew toys and raw bones so that they keep their teeth strong and their gums healthy, and they love it. 



If it were up to me, click it would mean ticket when it comes to dog owners. If you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on a hard surface, you have failed in basic canine care.  

Every time I inquire about a dog’s long nails, I hear the excuses: “He hates to have his nails done,” “He doesn’t let me clip his nails,” “I am too afraid I will make him bleed.” These excuses are truly unfair to your dog, and always make me see red. Each time a dog’s nails hit the ground before their pads, the impact puts pressure on the base of the nail bed, causing them pain. Imagine pain with every step!  

This pain causes the dog to shift their weight backwards to take pressure off the nail. This then causes a flattened, elongated foot and a carpal hyperextension. This is called a “plantigrade” position; in other words, the long nails push the dog’s toes up and the heel comes down to balance, placing strain on the muscles and ligaments of the legs. Instead of standing upright over their feet, they effectively try to lean back to take the pressure off their toes. 

Long nails on dogs cause irreversible damage! They affect your dog’s foot, they affect your dog’s gait, and they lead to a variety of structural issues.  

So, let’s resolve this! When you get your next puppy, start using an emery board (nail file) daily, beginning at eight weeks, to condition them to work on their nails. Invest in a $35 Dremel cordless nail grinder and you can easily and gently work weekly on your pup’s nails. I can typically take over half of a dog’s nails safely off with one Dremel session and the dog instantly finds relief.   

If you already have a dog with long nails, you may find that they HATE getting their nails cut. Yes, because those long nails most likely hurt! Find a groomer who will work on them weekly to get them short. It can take months of consistent cutting and grinding to get the nail quick (blood/nerve supply) in the nail to recede since it grows as the nail grows long.  

Work on those nails yourself! Check out YouTube for tutorials on canine nail grinding. 

It may be stressful for you and your dog at first, but realize that your efforts will make amazing changes to your dog’s overall health and well-being.