General Problems But Nothing to Worry About

Dogs are very different from people. They have some special features that you will notice as you’re checking over your dog, and although they might look like a symptom of something quite alarming the first time you see them, they are perfectly normal. There’s no need to panic, and don’t go rushing off to your vet. You’ll soon be so used to these canine peculiarities that you’d think something was odd if they were missing – and you’d be right.

The Third Eyelid:
This is not the canine equivalent of being able to see into the future. All dogs have an upper and a lower eyelid, or nictitating membrane. The third eyelid or nictitating membrane. The third eyelid sweeps across the eye on a diagonal from the inside bottom to the outside top.

“It works like a windshield wiper in a car clearing debris from the surface of the eyes,” says Dan Lorimar, D.V.M., a veterinary ophthalmologist in private practice in Southfield, Michigan. Your dog’s third eyelid not only helps protect the eye, it also produces some of the tears that keep her eyes moist and lubricated.

You can catch a glimpse of the third eyelid in the inner corner of the eye. If your dog is ill, and especially if she’s dehydrated, it may protrude a little bit more than usual.

Extra Teeth:
Just like people, pups have two lots of teeth – the puppy teeth, which they lose, and the ones the replace them, the permanent teeth. However, puppy teeth don’t always fall out before the permanent teeth arrive. So you may see two teeth pressed very close together, especially the pointy canine teeth three along from the front teeth. If you life your pup’s lips, you may see a curved puppy canine tooth wedged next to a straight permanent canine tooth.

“Don’t worry,” says Kenneth Lyon, D.V.M., a veterinary dentist in private practice in Mesa and Tucson, Arizona and the co-author of dog owner’s guide to proper dental care. “Most of the time, the puppy tooth will fall out on its own.” When you take your pup for her first dental visit at six month of age, the vet will make sure that all of her permanent teeth are coming in properly. He will also advise you on what to do about any puppy teeth that want to hang in there.

Black Tongue:
A black tongue sounds like the first sign of something nasty, and it looks kind of unusual if you’re not used to it. But it is simply a natural skin pigmentation that you will see in some breeds, especially the Chow Chow. Other breeds may have at least a few dark spots. This is normal and nothing to be worried about.

Your dog has a bellybutton, just like you do. It’s the place where the umbilical cord was attached when she was born. You will find it right in the center of her body at the bottom of the rib cage. It may show up as a scar or a slight bulging area.

If you have a puppy and she has a little outie, it may mean she has a hernia, where the stomach protrudes slightly through an internal layer in the bellybutton region. It’s no big deal, and your vet will explain what needs to be done to correct it during one of your early visits.
“In most cases, an umbilical hernia can be easily repaired during the operation to neuter your dog,” says Lynn M. Harpold, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Mesa, Arizona.

Calluses are hairless patches of thickened skin. If your dog is big and heavy and likes to “drop” to the ground to take a rest, then you might find them on her elbows. If she’s a small dog, such as a Dachshund, and likes scooting along on her belly, then she might develop calluses on her breastbone. It’s the constant action wearing away at the skin and toughening it that causes a callus, just as your elbows get rough when you lean on them too often. This is just ordinary wear and tear and not a medical problem, unless the callus becomes infected.

If your big dog is prone to roughened elbows and you think she’d look better without them, put pads on the offending areas for protection. If breastbone calluses are her problem, you’re going to have t encourage her to use her feet rather than her stomach to get around.

Dewclaws are those “extra” digits, or toes, on the inside of each of your dog’s ankles, that just flop along doing nothing. If we wait around few thousand years, dogs will probably lose them entirely through evolution, but for now, most dogs have them. They’re not usually a problem but because they don’t get down to ground level, the nails never get worn down.

You’ll need to trim your dog’s dewclaws regularly so they don’t become overgrown or loop around and grow into the skin. And like any of her nails, they can sometimes catch on the carpet and bleed when they tear. For some breeds, it’s de rigueur to have the dewclaws removed – that’s what the standard for the breed calls for. In these instances, a dog’s dewclaws are surgically removed by a vet within a few days of her birth.

Your dog will have sets of nipples running down each side of her body from the chest to the belly. Dogs evolved so many nipples to make sure all the pups in their litters – and they can have from one to more than twelve – get fed. In male dogs and neutered females, the nipples remain quite small. They develop into breast tissue only during pregnancy and mile production.

The genitals of male dogs are a bit unusual. They always have a semi-erect penis and for good reason; there’s a bone in there, the os penis. So he’s not that way just because spring is in the air, he’s like that all the time.

When a male dog is erect, you might be able to see the pink penis extended past the foreskin and then a large lump at the base of the penis. It is this bulbous penis that creates a “lock” when a male dog is mating so that he and the female dog will remain joined together for about half an hour, to increase the likelihood of the female getting pregnant. This bulbous penis may look a little odd, but don’t worry, it is exactly the way he’s supposed to be.

Stud Tail:
You might notice a bald spot above your dog’s backside. Some dogs, mostly males that haven’t been neutered, develop a thick, oval, hairless patch on the top of their tail base, known as stud tail. Sometimes, the skin becomes scaly or oily. It could be a kind of acne, because hormones seem to exacerbate the problem. And although it might look a little alarming, it’s usually harmless. Only if it becomes irritated or infected will your dog need to see the vet.