I have written before about this topic ( but wanted to do an updated post.

Bing’s foot

Since my last post, several years ago, I did switch to a corded Dremel. I got tired of buying a new battery powered Dremel every year. Pros/cons of battery powered vs electric. If you have a coated breed, be careful with using the electric…it does not stop, so if you get hair wrapped in it, you can cause injury to yourself (put your hair back before you do nails!) or your dog. The battery powered one is safer from that perspective. The electric has more juice and lasts much longer, though.

My current Dremel for doing dog toe nails

I have also recently purchased a DiamaGroove Pinnacle, replacing the coarse sandpaper head I have used for years. This head will not generate heat nor does it wear out. So, you don’t have to worry about “tapping” the nails, you can hold the head to the nail. If you use the regular Dremel sandpaper attachment, you need to be aware of the fact it generates heat and will get uncomfortable for the dog if you hold it in place. You need to take length off with a tap method, short times held against the nail.

Keeping your dog’s nails short is a critical aspect of dog ownership. Long nails are hard on their foot structure.

Notice how the length of the toenail impacts the foot

Doing nails frequently serve multiple purposes. It obviously keeps the nails short and maintained, but it also helps the dog get used to it, so it becomes less of a struggle each time.

If your dog currently has long nails and is a battle to do nails, start slow. Introduce the Dremel without actually touching nails. Let them sniff it, then hold it back and start it. Offer a treat. Once they are not seeming too worried about the tool, you can move to using on them. The first attempt, you might only get some nails or maybe a whole foot done. End on a positive note. You won’t be able to get to the desired length in one session if the nails are currently long. Plan to do nails about every 4 days to bring back length. Once they are at the desired length, plan to do about every 6-7 days.

Don’t wait on doing nails either! Start as soon as you bring puppy home.

Picky Eaters

It is a very common issue with Danes, although certainly not limited to the breed, to experience picky eaters. It often starts around a year old (give/take) as their calorie needs have slowed. The owner tries all sorts of things to get the dog to eat…switching brands of food, adding tasty things to the food, hand feeding, etc. The problem is this all makes it worse! We exacerbate the issue and start the dog on a life (or at least many years) of being a picky eater. Not to mention, LOTS of owner frustration!

First, make sure there is nothing medically wrong with the dog. Any symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargic, etc. would definitely warrant an immediate vet visit. But a vet visit might be needed regardless, to rule out dental or tonsil issues.

Next, determine if the dog’s weight is truly a problem. If your dog is too heavy, or even at an ideal weight, LISTEN to them and cut back what you are feeding. Especially if they are a young adult, it is likely you are simply over feeding.

Dog body condition

If the dog is too thin, some ideas to get them eating. Assuming you are already using a quality food, there is no need to switch foods. You need scheduled feeding times. Ideally twice a day. No free feeding. Cut out the treats for now (unless in a training class), except for right before meal time. Give a little snack to get the stomach juices going. The pre-meal snack before a meal has been a big success for me. Although it seems counterintuitive, cut back what you are offering by half. Put the food down for 5-10 minutes and then pick it back up until the next meal. If they don’t finish the meal, they get the rest of it (no more added) for the next meal. If they still cannot finish the half portion on a routine basis, cut back even more. Once they learn to clean the bowl, then gradually increase the amount until they are eating an appropriate amount.

Try to remain calm after uneaten meals. Even once the eating habits improve, the dog might still turn down a meal. Keep in mind that caloric needs can fluctuate based on age, seasons, exercise levels, etc., so there is no need to fret from an uneaten meal.

Eventually most dogs tend to age out of picky eating habits. If you utilize the above methods, you’ll save yourself lots of frustrations though.

Kennel Cough At-Home Treatment

*Disclaimer – I am not a vet!

After we got home from the Great Dane National Specialty last fall, Bing started that hacking-gag sound that sounded like kennel cough. If you have never heard it before, a dog’s cough does not sound like a person’s cough. It sounds like the dog got something stuck in their throat, like a gag. Please note that other things can also cause dogs to cough/gag.

I had previously heard others recommend Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing as an at-home treatment. After reading up on the product, I felt it was a safe option to try. One drop, per gallon of water, in their drinking water.

Per Mrs. Stewart’s info, there are multiple uses for this cheap little bottle of liquid. You can purchase online at places like Amazon or at your local grocery/hardware stores.

Happy to report that this successfully worked for Bing. Nash did end up with a bit of snotty discharge (even though he didn’t attend the show, his exposure to Bing introduced it), so we did have to make a trip to the vet for some antibiotics for him.

This can be used a preventative, before going to a dog show, or can be used for a few weeks post show upon any symptoms.

If the dog’s symptoms do not clear up within a few days, or if they worsen, please see your veterinarian.

Puppy Toenails

Keeping your dog’s nails neatly trimmed not only looks nice, it also is less stress on the dog’s foot.  No long nails to splay the feet out.  No long nails to jab into your foot either!

We start when they are just babies, getting them used to getting the nails trimmed and also keeping the quick nice and short.

Having nine puppies means LOTS of nails to trim.  I use a Dremel to grind the nails, which keeps them nice and smooth.  For more detail, check out this old post.

grinding dog nails

Happy Tail & Tail Amputation

Danes are notorious for “happy tail” – they wag their powerful tails hard and sometimes it smacks walls and other objects, causing the end of the tail to break open.  While this doesn’t normally seem to cause the dogs discomfort, it’s not very fun for the owner.  Putting blood on the tip of a wagging tail equals blood spatters on every surface in a room in mere moments (hydrogen peroxide works wonders in getting blood out of fabrics).

Not all Danes have this issue, but it seems once a dog has done it, they will continue to experience issues with it.  In part, because the more the tail gets injured, the easier it is to break open again.  And, in part, because the ones that break it open once are likely to be the type of waggers that continually have the issue.

Of my Danes, Skyy had happy tail.  She wagged her tail all the time and when she got extra happy, that tail was almost lethal.  I joked that she could find something on which to smack her tail in the middle of an empty field.

None of her puppies seemed to have been as cursed with the happy tail problems, until Bree’s recent boarding experience.  Her owner had Bree boarding at a vet clinic and the hard kennel walls, mixed with an excited tail didn’t work well.  Bree, who hadn’t had chronic tail problems, busted her tail open so bad that a tendon was hanging out.  By this point, there isn’t much to do, other than amputating the tail.

tail amputation
Bree's tail amputation

If the tail is to the point of amputation, I would recommend amputating the majority of the tail and leaving a very short tail.  Trying to save “the majority” of the tail does not seem to be very effective as if too much length is left, the dog can still injure the end.  Take enough off so that it will not continue to smack into objects when the dog is wagging.  Word of caution – leave enough of a stub that if there are any healing problems, there is enough skin left for which the vet to work.

For owners dealing with happy tail, it does not always result in amputation.  (Most happy tails do not start out as severe as Bree’s situation!)  There are some taping methods that work fairly well.

You will quickly learn that attempting to tape just the end of the tail is worthless.  The taping method we used for Skyy, a tried and true method, worked really well.  The concept is to tape the dog’s tail up under their body, as if they were tucking their tail.  This keeps them from being able to whip the end of the tail around, allowing the tail a chance to heal.  You leave the injured part of the tail free to breath and heal.

You’ll need an O ring, swivel clip, some fabric to create a “belt” (I used the waist part of an old sweatshirt) and some cloth tape.

O ring
O ring, taped to tail

swivel clip

happy tail taping method

You can unclip the tail when the dog goes out to potty, although the dog will move their tail to the side, so I typically did not unclip it.

Get the tail taped up as soon as there is an issue and leave it taped for a couple of weeks after you think it is healed.  A dog is more apt to break open the tail again if it isn’t healed well.  There is the possibility that you’ll end up doing a fair amount of this taping method off and on throughout the dog’s life.  But, you stand a good chance at being able to save the tail and your sanity, as blood spattered walls are no fun.  For those showing their Danes, a docked tail is a disqualification in our breed, so amputation means the end of a show career.

In addition to taping while the tail is healing, there are other preventative ideas that help.  If the dog is breaking the tail open while kenneled, padding the sides of the crate/kennel might help.  Teaching the dog to sit when greeting you can help as well.

Kizzy has her CHIC number

Kizzy’s CHIC certificate came in the mail yesterday – woo-hoo!  Her CHIC page

CHIC certificate


CHIC stands for Canine Health Information Center and it’s a centralized canine health database.  To earn a CHIC number, a dog has to have all required health tests for their breed publicly documented (not all breeds are eligible for a CHIC number).

For Danes, there are four required tests – heart, hips, thyroid and eyes.  These four things are deemed the biggest (testable) issues for our breed and recommended prior to a decision to breed a dog.

A dog does not have to pass all their health test – their owner just has to be willing to publicly list the results.  Kudos to those who are willing to display less than perfect results.  Even if that particular dog isn’t being bred, the information is helpful to those who own related dogs.  And, less than perfect results don’t always mean the dog should never be bred.  It depends on the problem, the severity, and the strength of the dog’s other merits when weighed against those results and the dog’s other weaknesses.

The CHIC program is a wonderful tool for breeders and puppy buyers alike.  It allows breeders to make smarter breeding choices. The more information a breeder has – on the breeding candidate and their relatives – the more informed their breeding decisions.  For buyers, it allows an easy way to verify and research before purchasing a puppy.

Skyy health update

During her recent c-section, a large tumor was discovered on Skyy’s spleen.  Hemangiosarcoma (blood fed sarcoma) is suspected and the prognosis is not good.  We discussed the options available that day and decided not to attempt removal or even a biopsy, as the risk with her bleeding out was too great (the tumor had a very large blood supply feeding it).

There are various options I have to consider, including a splenectomy (removing the spleen and tumor), however the prognosis isn’t good for any of the options.

I have decided not to put Skyy through any additional surgeries and to simply keep her comfortable and well loved during her remaining time.

She did give me a scare earlier this week and she completely stopped eating on Thursday of this past week and was continually vomitting. I started treating her with pain meds, thinking it might be a pain related issue and fortunately, she has started eating again.  I imagine my time with her is very limited, but as long as her quality of life is good, I am going to enjoy her company.

She is still taking wonderful care of her baby boy, who is growing fast!

Titers (in lieu of vaccinations)

I used to believe that being a responsible pet owner meant diligent annual vaccinations.  I now realize that it is unnecessary and even potentially harmful.


I’ve used a limited vaccine protocol for over 10 years now.  I vaccinate for parvo and distemper at 8-9 weeks old, 4 weeks later and then a third, and final, booster at a year old.

Wait until the puppy is at least six months of age before vaccinating for rabies.  A rabies booster is then required 12 months later.  After that, I vaccinate every three years  for rabies (per Iowa law).

Note: Never give a rabies shot at the same time as other boosters – space them out by at least two weeks. Completely avoid 5- or 7-way combo shots (which many vets push).  The combo shots are risky for multiple reasons.  Read about the risk of combo shots.

I do not give any other vaccines throughout the life of the dog. Over-vaccination can be detrimental to your dog’s health.  Challenge studies have indicated parvo and distemper vaccinations give animals 5-7 years of immunity, possibly longer.  So, not only are repeated jabs most likely unnecessary, they also carry a health risk.

I was vaccinating for bordetella (kennel cough) annually, however the last time my dogs received the intra-nasal bordetella vaccine, Skyy suffered a reaction.  It turned out to be relatively minor (in hindsight; it did not seem that way when I was making an ER vet trip in the middle of the night), but it has made me nervous.  I’m still on the fence about using this in the future.

In lieu of vaccinations, I utilize titers.  A titer checks for antibodies present in the blood, which signifies the immune response level.  To titer, your vet simply needs to draw a small sample of blood and send it to an appropriate lab, like ANTECH (some vets might handle titers in house).  The results come back within a few weeks.  In the years that I’ve been titering my dogs, the results have always come back strong, showing an appropriate immune response level.

The lab will dilute the sample of blood to determine the titer levels.  The number of times the sample can be diluted before no antibodies can be detected are read as ratio’s.  If the sample can be diluted 100 times, still showing antibodies, the resulting ratio would read 1:100.  So, the higher the number, the stronger the titer.

My results from ANTECH Diagnostics state, for both parvo and distemper: “A titer of 1:5 or greater, with no clinical signs, indicates immunologic response to vaccination.  A titer of less than 1:5 indicates poor immunologic response to vaccination.”

Both of my girls results, for both parvo and distemper, were listed >1:5, showing appropriate immune response levels.

If titer results are weak, it doesn’t necessarily mean the dog needs a booster shot.  Read more about weak titer results.

The titers are used for “proof of vaccination”, for when my dogs attend training classes, are boarded, etc.  This is actually the primary reason I titer, as there isn’t concern on my end regarding lack of immunity.  Just need proof that the lack of vaccinations isn’t done out of neglect and my dogs carry an appropriate immune response level so they are not at risk.

Just had titers ran on my two dogs.  It was $57/dog for a set of parvo/distemper titers, so I walked out of the vet’s office paying $114 total.  This is more than shots, but this way my dogs are not subjected to something potentially harmful.