Touches to save a dog life
| |

10 Touches To Save a Dog’s Life

touch dog

Dogs make our lives better: They are ready at a moment’s notice to be mood enhancers, help people recover better after a heart attack, and just sitting and petting a dog can make both parties involved feel better. Touching a dog, in fact, can save a life.

When a tiny raised lump appeared on my first Cocker Spaniel’s shoulder blade about two weeks after getting her then yearly vaccinations, I felt a twinge of “something isn’t right” course through my veins. My gut instinct was right: Getting it checked right away most likely saved her life: It was cancer.

The next time you sit down to pet your dog, consider these 10 touches that just might save your dog’s life (note: If your dog is not accustomed to touching, now’s a good time to start: From veterinarians to groomers, getting a bath to getting his nails clipped, touch should be an acceptable, positive behavior throughout a dog’s life). Remember the 10 for 10 rule: 10 minutes, 10 touches. We do this at least weekly.

Full body scan: Glide your fingertips across your dog’s body. Gently move fingertips across the dog’s back, stomach, head, ears, and even his face. Most dogs will tolerate this touch, especially if you do it while he is resting next to you and relaxed. Feel anything? Any new lumps or bumps? Take a snapshot of any growths so that you are able to show the veterinarian.

Ears: Hold the ear between your fingers and caress gently, praising your dog for being such a good pooch. Ticks have a tendency to cling onto ears, the face, or head since dogs spend a lot of their time outdoors with their nose to the ground.

ear touch

Lymph Nodes: The lymph nodes filter foreign invaders/particles from a dog’s blood stream. The lymphatic system includes organs like the thymus gland and spleen, so the regulation and production of cells of the immune system are involved. Touching the lymph nodes of the body and knowing where they are located is an important part of understanding your dog’s anatomy. Gently palpate the neck, legs, and groin region. Feel into your dog’s armpits.

Mouth: One of the many reasons we are strong proponents and advocates of regular dog teeth brushing is to screen for lumps, bumps, growth, or sores. Dog parents who know what normal feels and looks like will be the first to know when something abnormal is touched or seen. If your dog isn’t into teeth brushing or having your finger gently probe around his gums, here are some ways to help a dog adjust to teeth brushing (and gentle probing).

Tail: It wags, it alerts us, it has many positions, and we can often tell what a dog is thinking by the way of his tail. When is the last time you touched your dog’s tail and felt around for anything unusual? You can train a dog to trust touching any part of his body using positive reinforcement. Praise a dog, have a friend or family member reward with a treat in association with touch.

[Tweet “Never scold a dog for not allowing your touch: Positive reinforcement is key.”]

Top of the Head: One of the first places most people touch a dog is on their head. Even the most friendly dog might not like this: Especially if an unsuspecting stranger does it. As his pet parent, gingerly massage the head and feel around for anything out of the ordinary.

Paws and Pads: A broken nail can be very painful. An overgrowth of fur between the pad surfaces means dogs can slip on flooring. Any cuts or wounds on a paw pad need immediate attention. Visually inspect the paw while using touch to feel for anything unusual.

dog paw

Belly: Ah, the delightful belly rub: Incorporate an incognito exam into a belly rub for a win-win. Gently press fingers along the dog’s stomach to feel for any signs of swelling or abnormalities.

Tush Touch: Most dogs love a good butt scratch: Gentle and massaging, across the tush and hips, feel for any bumps or lumps and take a peek, too: The sensitive anal glands are located in this area, so any unusual odors should be checked out by a veterinarian.

Chest: Increased panting is a common occurrence for dogs in the winter months, particularly when the heat is on indoors and dog’s are adjusting. However, if dogs are excessively panting, it’s time to get checked. Feel your dog’s chest and notice of there is any discomfort or pain while petting the chest area. Just behind the elbow on the left side of the dog’s chest is here you should be able to feel a heartbeat.

As a bonus 11th tip, check the eyes: Is there any unusual discharge or buildup in or around the eyes? Do the eyes look red or cloudy? Is there any increase or decrease in tear production? Does the dog squint or paw at the eyes?

How often are you touching your dog?


  1. These are such important reminders for all dog parents. I get overly paranoid when I do these type of checks to Chuy. I recently had a scare with his throat but his vet confirmed that it’s actually part of this throat I was feeling, so now I feel better! (Paranoid dog mom!!!) Part of this is educating myself a little better on their anatomy so I don’t freak out!

  2. This definitely is going to make me pay attention more to my Simba. Thanks for sharing these tips. I will definitely have to share this on Twitter.

  3. Rolo gets a rub down & massage every night, Always checking to make sure there isnt any bumps or anywhere he hurt himself. As well as massaging his arthritic legs.

  4. Emma gets bumps all the time. The first time she was only 1, and I panicked. Now I know they usually go away in 2-3 months, it is a known thing with the breed, but I’m always feeling her up and checking for bumps. Very important. My Kuvasz has one on her belly but it is nothing dangerous, had it tested, still I check it regularly for changes.

  5. Interesting! My huskies all love the good ‘ol bum scratch!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  6. I found a lump on Wynston about 2 years ago. I panicked and took him to the vet. Turns out, it was a flare up from a vaccination he had gotten. It went away within a few weeks. I give my animals massages regularly and feel for any imperfections that may need attention.

  7. This is such a great reminder to help keep our pets healthy. I’ve found two lumps on Mauja from doing a similar rubdown. Thankfully, both were nothing to worry about, but I’m glad I was able to find them before they were something serious.

  8. Wow, now you’re making me feel bad for not having done all this before – shame on you! Thanks for these tips, I will go spend some time with my lurchers right now 🙂

  9. Great post! Thank you. Daddy is always joking about mommy “feeling up” the animals but she’s found lots of lumps and bumps on us that way! Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.