Dog Biology

Human beings are drawn to dogs because they seem to be so similar to us, and with their emotions and body language we think they are easy to understand. Actually dogs experience a very different ‘Umwelt’ to us, as they are very different biological creatures, and one of the many ways they differ from us is in the way they experience temperature, and the way in which they regulate their body temperature.

Dogs, like us, are homeotherms, meaning they regulate their own body temperature. Normal temperature for dogs is 38.61 degrees Celsius. At this temperature cell chemistry operates best. At 37 degrees, a dogs cells don’t function properly. Every living cell generates heat, the product of combining oxygen with sugar. Dogs have very richly vascularized tissue and over haemoglobulated blood with a rich supply of burnable oxygen, so they are very good at burning fuel and generating heat.

 Humans are likely to be the best mammal at getting rid of excess heat, but they are very bad at storing it. Dogs are just the opposite – terrible at getting rid of heat but experts at storing it. The balance point between trying to retain heat and trying to lose heat for humans is an ambient temperature of  21.11 degrees Celsius (depending on size and shape), and for a smooth coated sled dog for example it is 15.55 degrees centigrade.

 Dogs don’t have sweaty bare skins, so they can’t get rid of excess heat by evaporation. Panting hard cools the lungs and brains, but the only place a dog sweats is through the pads on its feet. The pads just don’t have enough surface area to make them effective radiators. Dogs remove excess heat from surface areas just like a radiator. They dilute the veins and arteries under the skin. Hot blood is exposed to this cooler surface, which radiates the heat away from the body. Of course the surface is covered with fur, which makes it harder to radiate the heat. And the bigger the dog is, the worse the heat load problem. The volume of the dog goes up by the cube, while the surface area squares. Big dogs have proportionately less surface area to radiate heat from. Also a dog that is overweight will find it much harder to keep its body cool even with moderate exercise. Streamlined dogs with a ‘radiator-like shaped’ dogs such as greyhounds have a greater surface area than normal shaped dogs, and will radiate heat more easily.

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Nail care for dogs…

There is something that really upsets me, and that is that nail clippers are for sale in pet supply shops. That might sound a bit extreme, but often the unsuspecting dog owner is not aware that a big vein, (the quick), runs most of the length of the dog’s nail, and when this is inadvertently cut, it causes the dog pain and bleeding (possibly quite severe), and often severe trauma and issues about having his feet handled or even being groomed at all. In bad cases the only humane way to deal with overgrown nails in the future will be under sedation at the vet.

Dogs vary enormously in how much or how often their nails might need clipping. Dogs that are walked regularly on pavements or hard ground often don’t need their nails cutting at all, and this is the kindest way of keeping the nails the right length. It is important that breeds that grow very  hairy feet (some grow hair between their toes and between their pads which then becomes prone to matting), have this hair trimmed short regularly, so they don’t walk on huge ‘slippers’ preventing the nails making contact with the ground.

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Bath time – tips for washing your dog.

Every dog needs a wash from time to time…..and common sense applies, but here are a few tips!

1. Remove any matted coat before bathing, matts shrink like wool and become tighter and tighter after each wash! Brush them out carefully, but if they are too bad or if there are too many, they should be clipped off with clippers – cutting them off with scissors is not safe, you might cut and hurt the dog. A dog groomer can do this securely and efficiently using a non slip table with restraints for safety.

2. Wet the dog first and dilute the dog shampoo, this will alow the shampoo to be worked through the coat evenly and will ensure it is rinsed out well afterwards. Spaniel ears might need washing with undiluted shampoo if they are very dirty.

3. To wash the dog well he should be washed twice to get him really clean. Start to wash and rinse the head using a tearless shampoo, a dog’s eyes are very sensitive.

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Brushing tips

A dog’s coat keeps the dog comfortable if it is well looked after. It traps air to keep it warm when it is cold; keeps it cool when not clogged with dead undercoat; and dries quickly when it is light and free flowing.

Brushing should be done in the right way to be effective. A lot of brushing tools are on the market, but many of these are sharp and can cause damage to the dog’s coat or even injure the skin. Expert advice must be sought before attempting to use these tools.

For regular maintenance, short coats are best brushed with a bristle brush and then combed, and longer coats with a pin brush and then be combed. The combing is the important part, because it will pick up where the tangles are. These can then gently be worked out using a detangle spray.

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‘hair of the dog…….’

Some pedigree dog are chosen for their beautiful long coats……Shih zu’s, Lhasa Apso’s, Briards, Tibetan terriers, etc. Often owners admire their carefree shaggy dog image. However, often, in spite of the owner’s best intentions, the daily brushing these breeds need is overlooked from time to time, (or most of the time!) Or the dog is brushed, but not down to the skin all over the body….(more about brushing in a future blog!)

Often the hairbrush only comes out when mats are found. Unless the dog is very tolerant, soon, he will start to dislike being brushed. He will be fine where there are no knots, but snappy when the brush hits a tangle.

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Winter grooming

Many dog owners think that their pet does not need to be groomed during winter months, because the long coat will keep it warm when it is cold outside. Here are some reasons why grooming all year round should be kept up:

1. A gap of a few months in the grooming regime can result in a matted coat packed with dead undercoat. Mats can also form between the pads of the feet, and nails can become overgrown if not trimmed regularly.

2. A matted coat does not allow air the reach the dog’s skin which can lead to skin problems. Also when the dog gets wet in the rain, the coat will be very slow to dry out, resembling a wet wool blanket and resulting in the dog being cold and uncomfortable for quite a while. A shorter coat that allows air to reach the skin will keep him warmer than a long matted coat.

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What to expect from a grooming session

A typical groom takes between 2-3 hours to complete. The time taken to do the groom will depend on the condition, type and length  of the dog’s coat, the size of the dog, and how easy the dog is to handle. In a grooming session the dog is brushed out, washed, conditioned, thoroughly rinsed, dried, trimmed or clipped, nails are cut and ears plucked if required and cleaned.

To help your dog have a pleasant grooming experience, it helps to get him used to standing on a raised surface, having all parts of his body handled, and to noises such as from hairdryers. Also regular thorough brushing and combing will keep the coat clear of mats and dead undercoat, and will help when the dog groomer comes.

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Autumn’s round the corner

With Autumn round the corner and walks set to get muddier here are some good reasons to get your pooches coat clipped:

1. to make the coat look nice and tidy

2. to keep the dog comfortable and cool.

3.  the coat is easier to keep clean and free of  knots.

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New website – dog grooming in Newbury and surrounding areas

I have recently launched my new website – TopDog Berkshire . We’re a brand new mobile dog grooming company, serving pooches in a 20 mile radius of Newbury

(click on the picture below to have a look).

We offer grooming at excellent value and makes the grooming experience a positive one for dog and owner. Your dog will end up looking tidy and smelling fresh, either in the comfort of his home or at our grooming facilities, where we offer a pick up and drop off service.

Our new website!If you have any feedback on the site – what you like and don’t like, or if I should add anything, post a comment.

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