Instant Traction on Slippery Floors Changes Dogs' Lives

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance -

  • Dr. Julie Buzby was nominated for a Healthy Pets Game Changer Award by Jaime P. for co-creating ToeGrips
  • ToeGrips are non-slip nail grips that fit around your dog’s toenail to provide instant traction on hard surfaces and stairs
  • A dog's natural mechanism for getting traction is to engage their toenails; ToeGrips allow dogs to regain this natural mechanism even on slippery floors
  • The transformation for most dogs occurs in just minutes, helping them regain confidence and freedom while avoiding injury

If your dog struggles to walk on hard floors or is terrified when walking on tile or hardwood, you know how much it interferes with your dog’s quality of life. Our next Healthy Pets Game Changer, who was nominated for this award by Jaime P., is Dr. Julie Buzby.

Dr. Julie is a former colleague of mine, and I became familiar with her ToeGrips product more than a decade ago. At the time, I thought they were brilliant, and they’ve been changing the lives of dogs ever since their “official” launch in 2013. So what are ToeGrips? In a nutshell, they’re non-slip nail grips that fit around your dog’s toenail to provide instant traction on hard surfaces and stairs.

“A dog's natural mechanism for getting traction is to engage their toenails,” Dr. Julie said. “So that's why I've never really been a fan of boots and booties and socks for traction. They certainly have their place in dog healthcare, but for traction, a dog uses their nails, and it's like soccer cleats digging into the earth.”

“But of course,” she continued, “hard nails can't grab hard floors. And so, it's the simplest thing, it's just these little bands of a custom engineered rubber material that we … apply onto the distal, the very ending, of the toenail, so it's not in contact with soft tissue or skin or anything like that.

The dogs really don't even notice them because there's not any innervation that they're directly touching. And they allow the dog to use that natural biomechanics of grabbing with the nails.”

A Transformation in Minutes

Dr. Julie likes to say that she’s the “cheerleader” for ToeGrips, as they were the invention of one of her clients — a third-generation inventor — who originally developed them to keep his dog’s nails from ticking on their hardwood floors.

But, knowing that dogs naturally use their nails for traction, Dr. Julie saw the value that ToeGrips could provide to her clients, and then said she felt an “almost ethical obligation to be able to offer this technology, for lack of a better word, even though it's the simplest thing in the world, for other dogs” that she knew struggled with slipping.

In the video above, you can see the dramatic transformation in a dog once he has ToeGrips. “In general, the transformation is literally minutes, it's that fast,” she said. Those who work in rehabilitation were quick to recognize the potential that ToeGrips offered, as they help dogs feel comfortable and confident walking, which is so important for senior dogs or those that have been injured. Dr. Julie said:

“I'm super thankful for the rehab people because they were the early adopters. In 2012, I went to the University of Tennessee to their rehab program, and they were so kind to host me and take this seriously, and they were the first veterinary school to sell our product, ToeGrips, and really understood, not only what it meant for traction, but they actually brought me back feedback that it improved dog's proprioceptive stimulus all the way down, as low as it could go on the paws. So helping dogs with neurologic conditions, apart from traction …”

When I used ToeGrips for my own pets as well as hundreds of patients, I noticed that they allow them to use their musculoskeletal system in a way that is no longer compensatory. When animals begin shifting their weight and holding their adductors so tight because they're just trying to keep their feet underneath of them, they take on a very unnatural posture.

Over time this can lead to injury or loss of confidence as they try to compensate for the shifts in their musculoskeletal system. So one of the greatest benefits of ToeGrips that I witnessed was that they facilitate the ability to reduce risk of injury, which extends quality of life.

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Helping Dogs Rejoin Their Families

For dogs that are fearful of walking on hard surfaces, it can drastically interfere with how they interact with their families. “Often these dogs that struggle on the floors, they'll isolate themselves maybe to a dog bed or to a part or a room of the home, and they're not engaging with their family,” Dr. Julie said.

She described the case of one dog that had not walked on tile floors in three months, that was up and walking around the tiled floor at the veterinary hospital after using ToeGrips.

“It really just brings them back to their family, being able to have full run of the house, being able to have that joy and confidence to know that they can trust their feet, they're not going to slip, they're not going to fall. I love feeling like I'm impacting people's lives in such small ways by being able to help their pets,” Dr. Julie said.

She also shared that helping your dog regain traction is just one way you can act as part of your dog’s health care team:

“It is a team. And the information that they bring us — they're the ones that sleep in bed with their dog, and they're with them 24/7. I think, too often, or in years past, it's been like the veterinarian was considered to be the one who was supposed to solve it all and figure it all out.

And I certainly love that aspect of my job and respect my colleagues so much that that's what we do, but I want veterinary clients, the pet owners, to feel welcome, to know that what they have to say is valuable, and their intuition matters a ton, and they're on the front lines, and so we're a team and caring for that pet.”

Learn to Cut Your Dog’s Toenails the Right Way

If you’d like to learn more about ToeGrips, you can find them at Dr. Julie’s website, ToeGrips.com.1 She also has a blog and social media presence, and offered a special promo code for Healthy Pets readers to access her how-to course on dog toenail trims. The course is available at courses.drbuzby.com,2 for free with code HP2020.

“Toenails are not just cosmetic,” Dr. Julie said. “They’re a key part of your dog's posture and gait. And the simplest, easiest gift that you can give your dogs, and that I give my patients, is just a good quality, safe toenail trim. So, I made a promo code for Healthy Pets, HP2020, and that allows listeners to sign up for the course and take it for free.”

It often is the simplest things that make the most profound difference in an animal’s life, and this is certainly the case in giving a dog back his confidence and ability to move freely throughout his home, no matter the surface.

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