Exclusively Setters

Home for Irish Setter Lovers Around the World

     I want to start a discussion that encompasses a more complete understanding of where Irish Setters ( Bench/Field ) are today - worldwide.  I ask ahead of time that this discussion be kept non-denominational and unalligned to any preconceived national/kennel  biases.  It is posted  to teach and  enlighten, not to divide and separate.  Please respect these parameters!
      So let me start with Feet!  How important do you think they are to the whole picture of an Irish Setter?  Let me hear your routine foot care, your parameters for evaluating healthy feet  and what you view as great feet, plus  any  problems that you have encountered  with feet  and the solutions that you found, etc. 
     Once this facet is exhausted,  I will post the next anatomical consideration for discussion.  I openly admit that I have much to learn about the most elemental aspects of an Irish Setter-so I am asking all of you to share so that we can all be educated for the overall benefit of our beloved Irish Setter-OK?   

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It's pretty obvious that a dog is a quadruped, a sure-footed, four-footed critter with specialized paws that help him get around the block, across the field, and off the sofa. What is not so obvious is just how special those paws really are.
First, a bit of anatomy is in order. A dog walks on his toes like a horse, not the soles of his feet like a bear or a human. The dog's front limb assembly resembles the human arm with shoulder, upper arm, and forearm, but there the direct correlation ends. The human wrist is analogous to the canine pastern joint, the back of the hand is the dog's pastern, and the fingers form the dog's paws. In back, again the upper part of the dog's body parallels the human leg structure with upper thigh joined to hip at one end and knee at the other and lower thigh leading from knee to heel. The dog's heel doesn't touch the ground, however; it is represented by the hock joint and the human foot becomes the dog's rear pastern, and the human toes are his rear paws. The dog's paws provide both traction and shock absorption and come in handy for digging. Thick pads absorb more shock and increase endurance. Rough pads allow for better traction for quick turns and effective sprinting. Each foot has four pads on the ground, each with its own toenail. Some breeds also have dew claws, a fifth toe on the inside of the paw that doesn't touch the ground. Dew claws are generally left on the front feet, but usually removed on the hind feet as they can catch on obstacles and tear. Dew claws are removed when the pup is a few days old, before his nerves are completely active so he feels no pain.

Dog toenails grow as do human fingernails and toenails. The nails should be kept in good trim to avoid scratching when the dog paws at a bare human leg and to keep the dog's structure as sound as possible. Long nails can cause the dog to rock back on his paws, causing strain on his leg assemblies and interfering with his gait. Sometimes, dog nails grind down if the dog exercises on concrete. Otherwise, the nails should be trimmed regularly. Dog nails have a blood supply or quick but the end of the nails are dead tissue and can be clipped without pain. The trick is to trim as close to the quick as possible without actually cutting it and causing it to bleed. The quick appears as a dark line in white nails but is almost impossible to see in dark nails. The best way to begin trimming is to clip only the sharp, curved portion of the nail and then work back a bit towards the paw. Clip only a small bit at a time to avoid trouble. The easiest way is to accustom puppies to having their feet handled daily so they'll sit still for this essential part of good grooming. Adult dogs may be more difficult, especially if they hate having their feet handled or have been quicked at some time.
Some dogs have lots of hair on their feet and between their toes. Exhibitors usually trim this hair for a neat appearance in the show ring, and pet owners may consider trimming to avoid caking of ice in the hair during the winter months.
The dog's paws and the pasterns work together to absorb the shock of jumping and running and to provide flexibility of movement. However, these body parts are only as good as the dog's total structure. Structural faults such as straight or loose shoulders, straight stifles, loose hips, and lack of balance between the front and rear structure, can all cause gait abnormalities that in turn lead to damage to pasterns and feet. Purebred dog breeders try to correct poor structure when they breed. Good breeders do not use animals with poor structure in there breeding programs, and they compensate for minor structural faults when choosing a mate for a dog or bitch. Although minor structural problems seldom interfere with enjoyment of a companion dog, understanding the value of tight feet and limber pasterns helps owners understand their pets better. Owners who wish to do some obedience work, hiking, jogging, agility, hunting, or other potentially strenuous activity with their pets should take careful note of limb structure before putting the dog through training.
Frito Feet
Some dogs’ feet have a rather pungent odor. Bacteria and yeast naturally reside on the skin of all animals. The feet contain many folds and pockets, such as the areas between toes and the spaces between the foot pads. These areas have increased levels of moisture and decreased air circulation at the level of the skin. The increased moisture and decreased air circulation in these environments enables the resident bacteria and yeast to proliferate exuberantly. These micro-organisms give off odors. Naturally occurring harmless yeast contribute to the slightly musty smell that tends to emanate from dogs’ feet. Frito feet smell a bit like leavening bread. Most dogs with Frito feet don’t have infected feet. Rather, they have mildly increased numbers of micro-organisms on their feet. The best way to prevent the smell is to regularly clean and dry your dog’s feet.

I should point out that most dogs with Frito feet don’t have infected feet. Rather, they have mildly increased numbers of micro-organisms on their feet. The best way to prevent the smell is to regularly clean and dry your dog’s feet.
Keeping Your Dog's Feet and Nails Healthy
Examine your dog's feet frequently. Check between his toes and pads, especially if he spends time in places where he may pick up burrs, stones, small sticks, and other debris. Remove foreign matter carefully with your fingers or tweezers. If necessary, trim the long hair between his toes, especially on the bottom, so that it doesn't form mats or collect debris that can hurt him, and so that he will have better traction on smooth surfaces.

Keep your dog's nails trimmed. Long nails hit the ground, forcing the dog's toes out of their normal position. Long nails can distort the foot, especially in a puppy, and cause lameness and permanent deformity. They may curl into the foot or, in the case of the dew claw, into the leg. When your dog walks on a hard surface, you shouldn't hear the click of nails. If you do, it's time to trim.

As with bathing, you can take certain steps to make nail trimming much easier. If the only time you touch your dog's feet is when you're going to clip his nails, he's likely to object. Teach him that having you fiddle with his feet is no big deal. When you're snuggling your dog, hold and gently massage each of his feet. If you start this with a young puppy, he'll get used to it quickly. If he doesn't like it, start with short sessions and slowly extend the time. If he fights having his feet held, keep some treats nearby. Gently take a foot in your hand, and give him a treat with the other while still holding the foot. If he pulls his foot away, don't give him a treat until you're holding his foot again. You want to reward him for having his foot held, not for getting it away from you. When you can hold your dog's foot for at least 30 seconds without a struggle, you can begin trimming his nails. If necessary, do just one nail, give him a treat while still holding his foot, and quit. Do another nail later. Eventually, you'll be able to do all his nails without a fight. If your dog is relaxed, then go ahead and do all the trimming in one session.

Use good, sharp dog nail clippers. A dull blade will not cut cleanly and may cause pressure and pinching, hurting or scaring your dog. You may want something handy to stop any bleeding if you cut into the quick. Pet supply stores carry styptic powders to stop bleeding, as do the shaving sections of drug stores. An inexpensive and effective alternative to commercial products is corn starch. If you accidentally cut the quick, put a little styptic powder or corn starch into a shallow dish and dip the nail into it. The powder will stick to the nail and seal the blood vessel.

When you're ready to trim, find a comfortable position. If your dog is small, have him lie on your lap or on a towel on a table at a comfortable height in front of you. If he's bigger, have him stand, sit, or lie on the floor or on a grooming table. Hold his paw gently but firmly. Press on the bottom of the pad—that will extend the nail and make it easier to get at. Trim the nail below the quick. If the nail is light colored, you'll be able to see where the quick ends (the quick appears pink from the blood it contains). If the nail is dark, look for the place where the nail curves downward and narrows. Cut a little and then check by looking at the nail end-on. When you see a black dot near the center of the nail, you're at the start of the quick and it's time to stop trimming.
I'm surprised that nail trimming is a big issue.
I dont have to cut nails on any of my dogs until they are old. Up to about nine or ten years they get enough exercise to keep their nails worn down. No problem
Nor do I remove the hair between the toes and pads, it protects the feet on working setters
And what kind of feet you want on your setter depends on what you do with your setter. In the show ring, small round tight feet seem to be what show judges are looking for, although one sees a depressing number of show setters with quite flat feet and weak pasterns
Working setters tend to have slightly larger feet in proportion to their body size, with longer toes, and their feet are strong, a flat foot and sagging pastern would be a disaster in a working setter. And plenty of hair between the toes protects their feet
Before the days of dog shows (before about 1860) pointers and setters had hare feet, The small round foot looks neater and tidier on a show dog, but actually isnt particularly functional
And he didnt use the opportunity to sell you the latest and very expensive nail clippers? Sensible vet, glad to hear there are still some like this around :))
I have noticed with my Irish that some of them have needed more trimming than others. I have owned a couple of Irish with flatter feet and they don't wear them on the hard surfaces as much as the ones that I have who have very firm feet with good arch.

My old boy, Monty had the flatter feet, they were quite compact, but were flatter which allowed the nail to grow longer and not be ground down by running and exercising on hard surfaces. We trained for an Endurance Test which is a 20km run, which he did with ease and no damage to his pads, but the distances we trained 6kms plus, did not remove the necessity to trim his nails! He also had a couple of nails where the quick grew out quite a way, so it was always a challenge to trim them enough without getting a bleeder!

My two young dogs have more correct feet and don't need much of a trim, usually just the tips off about every 4 weeks. They don't run on bitumen, mostly grass and a bit of concrete around the house.
Cheryl wrote
"have noticed with my Irish that some of them have needed more trimming than others. I have owned a couple of Irish with flatter feet and they don't wear them on the hard surfaces as much as the ones that I have who have very firm feet with good arch."

Thats a good point. Dogs with strong feet and arched toes will naturally wear down their nails better than dogs with flat feet
Well, I am not an expert on the breed - very far from that!
I do believe that the feet are extremely important. I don't like to look at a dog that has duck-like feet! Nice round firm paws that will support the dogs activities whitout causing disterss. Apart from the looks, my concern with feet is related to the dogs motion and confort - after all they walk and run standing on their bare feet. If they are not confortable while standing and playing, their life and confort is higly afected. My young girl broke her arm as a puppie and one of the consequences was that one of her fingers became incorreclty positioned and she standed on 3 fingers on that paw - the outside finger did not even touch the floor. It does not seem much, but it affected her balance deeply! I managed to correct it almost fully and she now uses all of her fingers, despite the fact that this one clearly has not the same use as the others - you can see it by the nail growth.

So to this dog in particular I have some more concerns: I have to check the feet and the way she stands every day looking for any sign of disconfort.
I have another dog (not a setter) that has the 5th (and 6th in one leg) finger, so I have to watch the nail growth more regularly to avoid accidents, like the nail getting into the flesh.

To all my dogs I trim between the fingers all year long - because of seeds and ice. Nails are cut whenever needed, wich is not very often because they walk on hard floors a lot. Then I check for seeds or any thing that may have loged and search for cuts or anything that might need a closer atention. All my dogs (and cats) are pleased to have their paws checked and taken care off, because they are used to it since from the moment they arrive at my home, but I have met some very difficult dogs!
Much the same here.....so won't repeat it...just to say We used to have a boy who suffered interdigital cysts frequently, in spite of lots of attention to footcare. First sign would be lameness and it could be literally the next day following a foot check. I can't say we ever got to the bottom of why he was so prone to them, but we did manage to clear it up for long periods at a time, thankfully.
And, years ago, another boy had a toe off his front foot due to a synovial sarcoma...Due to the resulting gap, his middle toe then flattened a bit, but with judicious trimming we kept him in the show ring and no one ever commented on the missing digit! His balance never suffered, nor his movement (although I have to say he was happiest when on his two back feet anyway! :-)))....NB I hasten to add we did get permission to show from the KC and funnily enough I found the letter when clearing the show bag the other day...brought back memories.....
I would also like to promote the virtues of examining the feet after exercise.

I had one boy who got a Pine needle embeded in one of his front feet pads. I evidently didn't notice this for a day or so, and when he eventually let me know there was a problem, the pine needle was stuck fast. I just could not get it to pull out. My vet cut open the pad to release the needle, but within a week or so it became evident that the needle had begun to track upwards and an abcess formed on his pastern. Further surgery cleaned that up, and the report afterwards confirmed that ''plant matter'' had been removed.

I regularly remove grass seeds from between toes, so clearly this is a common problem. Can you imagine the pain of one of those working it's way under the skin? Ouch !!
We regularly trim the hair between the toes and underneath between the pads. I was always told that the hair growth underneath between the pads will cause the pad to not hit the ground properly. And in the winter months it allows too much snow and ice to build up on the hair if it isn't cut down. Also the long hair on top and underneath causes too much dirt and mud etc. to attach to my dogs feet and it is so much neater looking in my opinion to have it trimmed. Sometimes we have done it and othertimes like yesterday I have the groomer at our local petstore do it. She does a much nicer job than I do, he fusses too much when I do it. I also had a setter years ago that kept getting a cyst between two toes. He eventually also had surgery to remove it and they had to cut quite far in to keep it from returning again.




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