Dogs Don’t Have Opposable Thumbs — Here’s Why We Need To Remind Ourselves

Funny pug dog with man hands in striped sweater in headphones with laptop showing thumbs up over grey background

(Picture Credit: DeanDrobot/Getty Images)

It’s easy to forget that our canine companions have been domesticated and bred by humans over thousands of years. They’re very much like us in many ways, so we don’t often tend to think about our basic differences — like the fact that that dogs don’t have opposable thumbs.

Dog paws are made up of four digits and a dewclaw, which means they need some help from their human parents in a few areas. Without thumbs, they can’t do a lot of the things we humans take for granted.

Here are a few reasons why we need a reminder that our favorite furry family members do not have thumbs.

Dogs Can’t Cook Their Own Food

Our thumbs help us open the fridge, pull out pots and pans, and prepare our own meals. But dogs can’t use fridges, cooking utensils, and stoves to make their food. They don’t have the thumbs we use to do that.

This means that whenever a dog eats a meal, whether it’s home cooked or kibble, that food is prepared and made by humans. So we have to decide what to feed them and when.

Kibble is usually made by a company in a factory, and dogs may require additional supplements to digest it properly. Consider adding probiotics and enzymes to your dog’s meal routine with any cooked diet.

Always consult with your vet before adding any dietary supplements!

Dogs Can’t Brush Their Own Teeth

A purebred golden retriever dog is showing the importance of animal dental health. In this frame the dog is holding a toothbrush in his mouth.

(Picture Credit: FatCamera/Getty Images)

You probably use your thumb to grab a toothbrush, squeeze out some toothpaste, and scrub your teeth clean. Without thumbs, dogs rely on us to do the dental care for them.

Most dry dog food isn’t hard enough to scrape all the bacteria and plaque off of dogs’ teeth. Many vets recommend that you supplement your dog’s regular teeth brushing and professional cleanings by adding chews into their dental health routine.

Cooked bones have some teeth scraping advantages, but they can crack or splinter. Raw bones are great but can be hard on a dog’s digestive system if they’re not used to them.

Bully sticks are a happy medium!

Always supervise your pets when giving them something to chew on.

Dogs Can’t Refill Their Own Water Supply

In the wild, dogs get moisture from their diet and fresh running water. In the home, dogs get their water from bowls or water fountains that we humans need to refill.

If we don’t, they may find another water source, like the toilet. After all, it’s not like they can use their thumbs to grab a glass and turn on the faucet.

Always make sure your dog has access to clean, fresh water, especially if your pet doesn’t get enough moisture from their diet. Make sure they have lots of options for water, and that it’s always filled!

Dogs Can’t Open Most Doors

Portrait Of Dog Looking Through Glass Door

(Picture Credit: Davis Comeau / EyeEm/Getty Images)

Sometimes it’s a good thing that dogs don’t have thumbs to twist doorknobs and let themselves in and out at will. But they still need personal space and room to exercise, even if they can’t leave home without us holding the door for them.

It’s important to make sure your pet has areas where they can roam. You should decide where these areas will be before you leave your pet home alone.

If your pet gets trapped in a room, they may try to dig their way out! A lot of dogs can get stressed out if they feel trapped.

Dogs Can’t Groom Themselves

Some dogs can stay cleaner than others on their own, but they still need our help — and our thumbs — to help with their basic hygiene, weather they need bathing, clipping, or regular brushing. Canines need help keeping their coats clean and tidy.

Don’t forget their nails! Dog nails grow just like ours — well except for a thumbnail. Unfortunately, most nail clippers require thumbs to use.

Most dogs will need nail clipping once or twice a month. If you hear “click click click” when they’re walking on hard floors, they may be ready for a nail trim.

Hopefully all these facts will help remind you that dogs do not have thumbs, and they may require extra care because of it!

How else are dogs affected by their lack of opposable thumbs? What else should we keep in mind when caring for our fur babies? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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