Pet Blogs We Love: Julie Buzby DVM, Toe Grips
Julie Buzby, DVM was a full-time veterinarian for many years. “The reason I sold my practice was because of my family,” she shared. “I was a solo practionioner, the only vet in the practice and I realized one day that I was being a full time vet and a part-time mom. Theoretically, there shouldn’t be such a thing as a part-time mom and as much as I loved veterinary medicine, my clients and my patients I sold my practice to someone who would be fully focused on it.” Dr. Buzby has eight children. “Now I devote my my time to pets in a practice that offers complementary and integrative medicine and this is the best path for me. I get to help the people and pets in my life, my patients and be with my family.”
Her changing priorities led her down the path of Toe Grips.
The history of Toe Grips
Dr. Buzby shared, “There I am practicing part time and doing chiropractic and acupuncture work on a dog; a client who was also a friend and his wife were talking about their senior dog. They came up to me and said, ‘Look what I did to Morgan (his dog).’” The man pointed to his dog’s toes and Dr. Buzby said, “My hair stood on end! I had all of these patients passing through my mind who could benefit from the concept my client had come up with for his dog.” Toe Grips originated because her client wanted to keep his dog, Morgan’s, nails quiet on the hardwood floors. “They noticed, though that Morgan was able to move around the house more confidently when she was wearing the Toe Grips.”
The natural mechanism, she explained, for a dog to get traction is to engage its nails on the dirt or carpet. This is ideal for those surfaces, but doesn’t help a dog on hardwood floors or tiled floors. “I felt like I’d been looking for a solution for senior dogs for my entire career and my client shows up and shows me this prototype of the rubberized tips for his dog’s nails,” she said. “I supported him in his vision and we used these for my patients but I knew I had to get this idea out there to help other dogs.”
Her client told her he was working on other passion proudcts and that his heart was not in it for what it would have taken to bring the product to market to help other dogs. “He said, ‘If you can help other dogs, be my guest.’ I felt like I’d been given a Nobel Prize winning product,” she said.
Dr. Buzby calls herself an “accidental entrepreneur.” “I didn’t set out on this path, but when it was placed before me I felt compelled to follow the path to help change the lives of senior dogs. I am not the toe grip inventor, but I am the toe grip cheerleader!” she said.
Passionate about senior dogs
From childhood, Dr. Buzby said, she has always had a heart for the underdog. “I am drawn to senior dogs because they have lived full lives and have been such faithful companions for so many years and when they get old they struggle with mobility and mobility is a dog’s greatest asset,” she said. “I want to see senior dogs be successful and be involved with their families for as long as they can.” Through providing chiropractic and acupuncture treatments for aging pets to help them regain mobility she knows that keeping the senior pets active is crucial to their quality of life and now Toe Grips assist with that.
“All dogs have a story, but senior dogs have shared so much life with their people and they are heroes for having been companions for so many years,” she said. “My passion is helping senior dogs be successful, be mobile and be fulfilled in their golden years. That’s what brings me joy.”
How Toe Grips fit with Dr. Buzby’s integrative veterinarian philosophies
She explained integrative medicine involves the best that Western medicine has to offer and supplements it with alternative practices that could include supplements, chiropractic modalities, acupuncture, herbs and more. “I was already on a soap box about the importance of nail trimming before toe grips even came onto my radar,” she said. “I was working with older dogs to help them with pain and mobility management, but none of the things veterinarians were doing was helping prevent a dog from slipping.”
Slipping, she shared, is a biomechanical problem and, “There is no medicine or treatment that would prevent slipping.” She is not a fan of booties or dog boots or socks. “I feel that disables a dog’s natural mechanism for walking, but toe grips enable their natural mechanism.” Prior to toe grips, she advised her patients with senior dogs who were slipping on hardwood or tiled floors to put a yoga mats down. “This helps, but if the dog wanders off or decides to sleep on the hardwood floor, they can’t get up. The beauty of toe grips is they go with the dog and are an appropriate solution for slipping without interfering with the dog’s natural movement.”
Dogs don’t need to adapt to wearing toe grips as they do to wearing shoes or booties, Dr. Buzby said adding, toe grips let them live and walk naturally. “When you cover your dogs feet with boots or socks you remove their ability to interact with their environment. Shoes or booties decrease a dog’s natural ability to ‘feel’ the ground beneath them with their proprioception receptors. These receptors are in the toes and pads and provide feedback to the dog’s brain as to where his body is and it helps them walk and remain upright.” Putting booties on a dog puts a barrier between his pads and the surface upon which he is walking.
Long nails are a problem for dogs as well, she said. “Because with long nails the dog isn’t stepping naturally. In a fragile older dog this is another issue.”
Of all the heartwarming and life changing moments Dr. Buzby has been involved in because of Toe Grips is the story of Gus. “One of the early dogs I put Toe Grips on was Gus, a fifteen-year-old Scottie. He was owned by people who loved him very much and had an estate and a caretaker for Gus because they traveled a lot. I worked with Gus’s caretaker, Frank, and asked if I could put some Toe Grips on Gus. Frank said, ‘Sure, let’s do this!’ Frank carried Gus up the thirteen stairs from our front door to our house, I put the toe grips on Gus and set him down and he went tottering off on our hardwood floors. Frank got emotional and teary-eyed because he said Gus hadn’t walked like that in months, in fact he’d been unable to make it across the floor,” she shared. “Gus had also been diagnosed with cancer and his family was thinking he was nearing the end, but Frank brought him back every month to replace the toe grips. Many months into the visits, Frank got out of his car and Gus hopped up the thirteen stairs – this is a dog who couldn’t walk and now is kind of spryly jumping up my stairs! Frank said, ‘We haven’t changed anything else in his life, but the Toe Grips did change his life because he could once again walk and be more active.’ Gus was using muscles he hadn’t used in a while and he was getting back into the groove. You know, it’s about the ‘move it or lose it’ lifestyle and Gus started moving it.” He did pass away from cancer, but prior to that he lived a more active and fulfilled life, she said.
“We have many stories of dogs having a better quality of life because they’re more mobile because of Toe Grips.”
Giving back and helping senior shelter dogs
“My heart is for rescue dogs,” she said. “It’s inconcievable anyone wouldn’t have a heart for rescue dogs. We have three beautiful rescue mutts and we love giving back.” Because Dr. Buzby knows how Toe Grips can can help seniors with mobility, we offer them to shelters
and to dogs in foster homes. “We want to help make the dogs more comfortable. If they are comfortable, they are happier and are more mobile. Being happy and mobile will increase their chance at finding a forever home.”
The “big plan”
“My plan was never to own a pet product business,” she said. “I love helping people help their dogs and as a vet I am able to help the dogs whether it’s extracting teeth or doing acupuncture and now with Toe Grips we are, in a tiny way, helping the dogs of the world. I am honored and privileged to see the impact Toe Grips are having on the dogs and their families.”
Dr. Buzby said, “We are in the process of broadening our reach through a podcast, we’re adding new products and are going to be sharing blog posts to help pet parents more fully understand their dogs and for those pet parents who love their dogs and want to do all they can to help them. My goal is to support pet parents and educate them in ways to help their dogs.”