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The PawPlunger: why having one might save your dog’s life

This daily habit could be a life-saver

Care4DogsontheGo guest blogger and doggy family friend, Sarah, explains why she has changed her doggie walking habits.

We were shocked to read this autumn that a lovely young springer spaniel had contracted Alabama Rot in Cornwall. It’s a very rare disease in the UK, but nevertheless, it’s here and cases continue to confound our veterinary community. It has made us very thoughtful about our daily dog walking routines for more reasons than one.

Alabama Rot is a scary disease causing kidney failure in healthy dogs of all breed, age and size. It’s contracted in wet woodland areas and cases rise in winter and spring . The advice from vets is to wash woodland mud off your dog’s paws and legs. Of course that’s easily doable, but, as with anything else you ask your dog to do, only if it’s part of their daily routine! If you are not in the habit of washing or spraying down your dog after a walk, trying to do so can lead to all kinds of high jinks and shenanigans.

Wash your dog’s paws

My dogs hate the cold garden hose treatment. One will crawl towards me in abject misery, and I have to say, I can’t blame him for not liking a blast of cold water on not just his paws – his belly and bits get done too, and he’s not a happy boy!  The other is a rescue girl, and horrified at having her paws touched at the best of times.  I have trained her to give me paws, and I regularly pick them up and touch between the pads for familiarisation, but I still get the ‘I really don’t like it, Mum’ body language.  Hosing her down is not an option – she screams and the neighbours think I’m beating her – so I run a bucket of water (yes, warm as I am a softy) and dunk both pairs of front and back paws in as quickly as possible.  There can be some wriggling – and swearing – and splashing.  Doing all this at the back door when it’s raining or blowing a hoolie is a palaver.  It’s not a nice way to finish a lovely walk with my buddies, and not helped by him indoors commenting on the racket and toing-and froing with water, towels etc.

The PawPlunger: an essential travel kit item

So, the solution. A bit of useful kit called the PawPlunger. A portable paw cleaner you can keep in the car or at the back door. It’s got a tight fitting lid and is neatly designed for a quick thorough dunk of each paw. My dogs looked slightly surprised at the first experience but that was it. It’s full of soft bristles to ensure the paws are cleaned efficiently.  The Medium PawPlunger holds water to the depth of about 20cms so you get a decent clean. It won’t, of course, clean the whole leg or belly, but it does a great job of cleaning the paw pads which are most vulnerable to contact with pathogens and chemicals. Mine gets filled up as part of the pre-walk routine, but does get a few raised eyebrows from the neighbours as it looks like a giant over-sized travel mug. “Has her coffee habit got that bad?”

Why not just wait until you get home to clean your dog off, I hear you ask? Well, yes, it’s an option. But using a Pawplunger at the end of a walk limits the amount of mud in the car boot considerably. Plus, and this is a biggie for me, I want to make sure anything my dogs have picked up isn’t tracked into the bedding in the car, or onto towels, or our home environment. If there are nasties out there, I’d rather remove them at source. Having a PawPlunger in the boot gives me peace of mind. It’s quick and neat, and it does the job.

They come in Small and Large sizes as well as Medium – perfect for my collies – and are well worth the money in my opinion.

Hidden cancer risks for dogs

I am  fortunate to walk my dogs on our Cornish coastal path and use footpaths that cross farmland.  Spraying pesticides and herbicides is a part of modern farming practice and I don’t always know when or where these chemicals have been used.  It’s my job to protect my dogs, and washing their paws seems a sensible, quick preventive action.

I have to say I lost my darling Maddie to cancer last year.  Was I careful enough about where I walked her, or what her paws came into contact with? I don’t know, but there is a scientific study which links cancer in dogs to herbicides and pesticides, and having read about it, I’m now using the PawPlunger very regularly with my current dogs.  If you use something like RoundUp in the garden or around your driveway, I’d be super-cautious and minimise your pet’s contact as much as you can. These chemicals are easily absorbed by dogs through paws, licking their coats and by eating treated grass.

The Vets for Pets website will give you more information about Alabama Rot and there is ongoing research supported by the Forestry Commission – thank goodness!  Meanwhile, I’m routinely washing eight paws and legs for my own peace of mind.

Care4dogsonthego team, Jacqui, Bonnie Puggle, Beattie and little Bertie thank Sarah for this important post. My three little dogs will now be using their Paw Plunger after every walk!

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