If your aging dog has trouble rising and walking on hard floors, you may feel helpless. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Integrative veterinarian and founder of Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips®, discovered a tiny dog mobility aid that’s a surprisingly simple and natural solution. Recently, in a podcast interview with Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioners Cathy Symons and Chris Cranston of Petability, Dr. Buzby shared her passion for helping senior dogs restore mobility. If your dog struggles to walk on smooth floors, read the excerpt from the interview below or listen to the entire Petability episode, Help Your Dog Get a Grip, and learn how Dr. Buzby offers hope through a solution that’s as tiny as a dog’s toenail.
Cathy Symons: How did you come up with the idea for ToeGrips®?
Dr Buzby: Well, I love to brag about how brilliant ToeGrips® are because they’re not my idea. One of my veterinary clients came up with them. I had performed canine acupuncture on his 15-year-old Australian Shepherd, Morgan, several times. One day, Morgan arrived wearing tiny cylinders on each of his toenails. My client said, “Look what I did for Morgan!”
Looking back, it was a life changing moment in so many ways. I understood how dogs use their toenails for traction. But until then, no one had ever thought about putting tiny mobility aids—little traction devices—on a dog’s toenails to restore natural traction!
Now, I’m a practicing veterinarian. I have eight children and I homeschool them. The last thing I was planning to do was start a company to sell a dog product. But this invention was brilliant and could improve the lives of so many senior dogs! My client and inventor, a brilliant man who was working on other projects in the art world, wasn’t interested in launching a new product. He said, “Julie, if you feel like you can help dogs with this, go for it.” So ToeGrips dog nail grips were born.
Can you explain what ToeGrips are and how they work?
Dr Buzby: First of all, if you live in a home with wall-to-wall carpet, your dog doesn’t need ToeGrips because getting traction isn’t a problem. But if you live in a home with smooth floors, your dog must engage the toenails to get enough traction to rise and walk. But hard nails can’t grip hard floors. Sadly, many aging dogs slip, slide, and struggle to rise and walk. That’s where ToeGrips come in. ToeGrips are dog nail grips that work by allowing the toenails to grip smooth surfaces like hardwood floors.
Placed on a dog’s toenails, each little cylinder gives just the right amount of grab so the nails can grip the floor. Normally, the hard toenails would just slip against the hard floor, but now, they have just enough traction to make contact and “grab” the floor.
Symons: I’m a big fan of them because they are natural. Before ToeGrips, both Chris and I were scrambling to come up with solutions for our canine rehab patients. Dog boots and socks with grip just seemed to make it worse. Can you enlighten?
Dr. Buzby: Since humans wear boots for traction, it might seem logical for dogs to wear boots for traction. But, as we know, dogs are quadrupeds and have a completely different gaiting system. Boots have their place for other canine issues, but not for traction. Here’s why: Boots and socks cover up a dog’s paw pads and toenails, so the paws can’t contact the ground.
I remember reading an interview from the head veterinarian who cared for the search and rescue dogs that worked following the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon. His story illustrates my point.
The veterinarian explained why the dogs working in the rubble weren’t wearing boots. The dogs needed every little bit of proprioception, which is basically awareness of their body position and movement. It was critical for these dogs to have every bit of proprioception that they could muster to maintain their balance and navigate the piles of rubble.
That story illustrates just how critical a dog’s paw pads are to a dog’s proprioception, a dog’s body awareness. By putting dogs in socks and boots we are doing them a disservice—especially our grey-muzzled senior dogs or dogs who have some sort of a disability. Boots and socks cover the paw pad and disable a dog’s natural mechanism for proprioception. However, not only do ToeGrips help with traction, but they improve proprioception a little bit by adding proprioceptive stimulus.
Symons: For many dogs, the fear of falling is very real so they isolate to rugs or carpet. I call this “getting trapped on carpet island.” Can you speak about the impact this has on a dog’s confidence?
Dr. Buzby: It’s a real thing. Whether a dog is isolated to “dog bed island” or “carpet island” or one room in the house, many times it erodes the bond between a dog and his people.
Dogs are pack animals. They don’t want to be isolated to one place. But they can’t physically make it to the location where their family—their pack— is enjoying time together.
Since the dog is isolating himself, this may be misinterpreted by the owners as tiredness, painfulness, or even old age. Of course, not in every case, but in many cases, ToeGrips can get dogs back in the pack again.
When a dog is feeling more mobile—is interacting and engaging with the family again—there’s a change from fear, tension, and anxiety to confidence. You can see this change though happier ear set, posture, whole top-line, even facial expression. When ToeGrips are first applied, dogs often go through a stage of wonder. Then the confidence kicks in.
The happy stories of dogs transformed ToeGrips are really what it’s all about.
Chris Cranston: As a rehab practitioner, I recommend ToeGrips for dogs with conditions like arthritis, for blind dogs, and dogs that use wheelchairs. Let’s talk about some of the conditions where ToeGrips have helped improve a dog’s mobility and confidence.
But one of my favorite uses of ToeGrips is for dogs with cruciate issues, which can cause pain and lameness. One time, I went into work at the vet hospital and a woman was standing at the reception desk shedding tears of joy. She asked me, “Are you the inventor of ToeGrips?” I explained that I was just the cheerleader.
Then she said, “Well, my dog hasn’t walked like this for three months. She hasn’t done that for three months,” she said while pointing to her senior Labrador Retriever walking around the veterinary office and bearing weight on all four legs.
I palpated her dog’s hind leg and felt certain that he had a cruciate issue. We weren’t the dog’s regular vet at the time, so I recommended follow-up care. The woman had learned about ToeGrips though an article she’d read, and had come to the vet office to try them for her dog. While her dog wasn’t walking perfectly with ToeGrips, he was bearing weight on that leg.
Of course, ToeGrips aren’t a miracle cure for every dog. As with any dog mobility aid, proper sizing, fit, and application are all important. And because I stand behind my product, I offer a money back guarantee.
Cranston: What would you like dog parents to know about your business?
Dr. Buzby: There’s a proverb that says a good name is worth far more than great riches, and that is the foundational mantra of our company. Ultimately, we want to do right by our customers. We want to help people help their dogs. It’s what our business is all about.
Cranston: Do you have other mantras? What’s one you would like to share?
Dr. Buzby: I’d like to let dog parents know this:
You are a critical member of your dog’s healthcare team!
Your information, your feedback, your observations of your dog at home are a critical piece of what, as veterinarians, we base our decisions on to help your dog. I’m blessed to be, in some minuscule way, a part of your dog’s healthcare team.
Cranston: If you could choose one takeaway point from this interview, what would it be?
Dr. Buzby: Chris, you mentioned something about ToeGrips that was brilliant, and I’d like to summarize it…
Traction gets dogs through the day. Traction means getting off “carpet island” and going to the groomer, going to the friend’s house with the gleaming hardwood floors, and going to the vet. If I may borrow from you, my key takeaway is…
ToeGrips are traction that travels.
Cathy Symons and Chris Cranston believe in treating your dog as a whole, both mind and body. Using their vast expertise as Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioners (CCRPs), Cathy Symons CVT, CCRP, and Chris Cranston MPT, CCRP, offer relevant information and provocative interviews on their podcast, PetAbility.
About Dr. Buzby:
Dr. Julie Buzby has been an integrative veterinarian for nearly 23 years. Having earned certification by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association in 1998, and by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society in 2002. Dr. Buzby is passionate about the power of our relationships with dogs and our ability to positively impact quality of life as dog’s age by engaging higher quality of care along the way.
Does your dog struggle to rise and walk on smooth floors?
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