Grooming your pet should be a reward for both you and your pet. It is a good time for pets to become use to being touched. Dogs should learn to stand patiently when it is time for inspection and grooming. This only comes with practice. You should be easily able to touch your pets’ ears, face, lips, teeth, feet, toes, and the rest of the pet. It is important when your pet is in good health that they can be touched. This is particularly so that when they are ill or injured, they are already use to being handled and are not fearful. Grooming is a good time to assess your pets’ health, and any changes that occur.
The skin and the hair coat of your dog or cat reflect overall health, nutritional status, and wellness. Many pets maintain a healthy skin and hair coat with minimal assistance by their owner. Some require regular brushing and bathing, especially some of the longhaired or curly haired breeds. If your pet has a coat that does not shed, and grows continuously, regular grooming by yourself or a professional groomer should be done every 4 to 8 weeks. This commitment should have been made before selecting such a pet. It is particularly important if your pet has hair that grows within its ear canals. If this hair is not removed regularly, severe ear infections can occur. Lack of regular grooming can lead to other problems and infections.
Dogs -- The need for bathing and grooming depends on the breed of dog, its age, its skin and hair coat, owner preference, and just how dirty your pet gets during the week. Some bathe their dog every week, others every few months. There are numerous products available to help maintain a healthy skin and coat.
Bathing your dog every month or two is not unreasonable, but some dogs will require more frequent cleanings (such as weekly), while others need even less. Excessive bathing can dry the skin, and there are special bath soaps and rinses that can be used to diminish the effect of frequent bathing. It is also quite important to thoroughly rinse soap from the coat. Medicated baths and shampoos are available for specific coat problems, such as excessively dry skin or oily skin. We will guide you in product selection for your pet.
Cats -- Some cats never need to be bathed. Cats are such fastidious animals, that they clean themselves well. Indoor cats rarely need bathing unless they have underlying conditions that prevent them from caring for themselves. If your cat is not grooming himself or herself well, it is time for an examination.
Once daily or at least twice weekly, brush your pet’s coat to reduce shedding and maintain a healthy unmatted coat. If you find mats, they should be removed. Small mats can be brushed out. Larger mats are best to be pulled apart, then brushed out. Very large mats may need to be clipped off. We do not recommend scissors, as many times scissors cause lacerations. Use a pair of clippers, or seek professional assistance. If you find stickers adhered to the coat, hold on to the sticker, and gently pull the coat away from it.
When you are brushing/grooming your pet be sure to check the skin for any problems, including fleas or ticks. Abnormal findings include redness, hair loss, moist areas; bumps on or under the skin, scales, crusts or odors. Remember that a consistently poor hair coat with lots of skin flaking may indicate a deeper medical problem or the need for nutritional supplementation. If you detect any abnormal findings, it is time for a veterinary examination and advice.
We know that some cats have an aversion to being touched particularly by a brush. Some cats actually are hyperesthetic. They actually feel more than normal animals. We will help you deal with this issue if needed.
Cats may also use a self-groomer. Special brush type apparatus can be mounted to a wall, or a corner. Many cats will rub against these and help groom them that way.
Some breeds with long or silky hair that do not normally need to visit a groomer may still need some trimming. Any hair that catches fecal material, or urine, should be kept trimmed to prevent this. Specifically keep hair clipped away from the prepuce or vulva and the anus. Some dogs need the hair just under and behind their ears trimmed. Trimming allows for better airflow to the ears, helping prevent ear infections.
Know what is normal for your pet’s eyes. Eyes normally should be clean and shiny without discharge. The eyelids should open well. There should be no excess blinking or redness. A small amount of debris may be noticed in the morning. Any debris that collects around your pet’s eyes should gently be wiped away. If there is discharge that occurs regularly or if the discharge has a greenish color, your pet should be examined. Pets with epiphora that cannot be corrected should have the overflow tears wiped away 3 or more times daily. A thin layer of petrolatum jelly (Vaseline®) can be applied on the hair at the corner of the eye – ask and we will show you. The petrolatum will help keep the tears from macerating the skin and allow the tears to fall off the face. It can also be used to train the hair to lay around the eyes and not poke into the eyes. Special solutions can be purchased to reduce the tear staining. It is essential that pet’s with epiphora have excess hair removed from the area, and the area be kept as clean as possible to prevent infection around and in the eye. Keep hair trimmed to prevent it from poking into the eyes. You may be able to train the periocular hair to not poke the eyes with a thin layer of petrolatum.
Facial folds in short-faced dogs should be cleaned daily with either a dry swab or a tissue. Typically you can use a rinse that is also used for rinsing/flushing the ears. These products help remove excess moisture and control pH.
Inspect the ears for discharge, redness or odor. Ears may also require cleaning, especially in dogs with an oily skin or allergies. If there is a small amount of wax or debris, gently wipe this away with a tissue or cotton ball. If your pet resists, or this is not sufficient to remove the debris, or if there is redness, your pet should be examined. Many dogs will need regular ear cleaning as maintenance to help keep the ear canals healthy. We will demonstrate how to properly clean the ears, as well as recommend an appropriate ear cleaner and rinsing solution. If your dog swims, you should have a flush or rinse to apply to the ears afterwards. This helps flush out bacteria and yeast, helps remove excess water from the canals and adjusts the pH to lessen the chance of infections.
Cats -- Most cats do not need to have their nails trimmed. However, many indoor or older cats may need assistance. It is important for cats to have a good surface to scratch. Scratching posts must be sturdy. Since when cats are scratching, they are many times also stretching themselves out. Cats may avoid scratching at sites that wobble. Another recommended item for cats is the cardboard ‘cat scratcher’. These can be purchased in a variety of places. Many times, they incorporate some catnip. Even declawed cats like to “scratch” on these surfaces.
Dogs – Most dogs will require their nails to be cared for. See our hand out on Nail Care and Torn Nails. We recommend you accustom your pet to the rotary tool method of nail care.
You should look at your pet’s teeth frequently. The mouth should be clean, and relatively odorless. Teeth should be white and without build up of plaque and tartar. We recommend daily oral hygiene. Brushing is recommended. Many pets will even become accustomed to electric toothbrushes. It should feel good to them, just as it does for us. Pet dental paste comes in a variety of flavors and is safe if ingested. Do not use toothpaste meant for humans on your pet.
Enzymatic sprays are available. They assist in reducing bacteria in the mouth, and in breaking down or reducing development of tartar and plaque. We carry a product which is simply added to the pet’s water which helps keep their breath fresh and may reduce tartar buildup. Occasionally your pet will probably need us to thoroughly clean and polish their teeth. These services are not needed as frequently in pets that have regular in-home dental care.
We recommend that if there is no apparent problem; anal sacs not be expressed in most dogs. If your pet visits the groomer regularly, the groomer may empty them. We do not recommend you do this otherwise. If your pet is scooting, or licking or biting at its rear end, first check to see if there is any fecal material causing the problem. If all is clean back there, it is best to have him or her examined. Anal sacs can become impacted, infected or abscessed. Caring for them can be painful.
Rectum, Vulva and Prepuce
These areas should be checked regularly to be sure the hair is not catching debris and discharges. In female dogs the vulvar area should be gently cleaned and rinsed when the dog is bathed. If regular bathing is not performed, this area should be cleaned if needed. If the area has any reddish discoloration to the hairs or other obvious debris or change, the area should be cleaned. Wear a latex glove and use antibacterial hand soap, then rinse thoroughly. As dogs get older, particularly if they are fat and/or hairy, their needs in these areas increase.
We feel your pet should look clean, smell good and feel good to the touch. Regular care for your pet will help keep him or her healthy. Owners that take good care of their pet also will detect when changes occur that indicate the pet may need medical care. The sooner a problem is detected, the better for your pet.
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