As responsible pet owners, we want to do all we can to keep our companions healthy and happy. The routine things we do for our pets, like providing nutritious meals, fresh clean water, and exercise, should always include proper pet grooming. I’ll cover some of the basic needs of our pets and how we can take care of them with 7 pet grooming tips that are easy to follow.
PET GROOMING TIP #1: BRUSHING HAIR
It’s ideal if you can take a few moments out of every day to brush your cat or dog. All types and sizes of brushes are available for purchase online or at your pet store. Not only will it keep their coats shiny and healthy, it will help remove dirt, untangle knots, and distribute their natural body oils along their hair. This is especially important for long-haired breeds of dogs and cats.
Consistent brushing also helps during the warmer summer months when our pets shed extra hair. Because cats groom themselves, they end up swallowing a lot of extra hair, creating hairballs that can make them vomit or cause an internal obstruction. You can help keep hairballs to a minimum by daily brushing.
Be thorough, brushing the head, back, sides, stomach, tail, and legs. This is a perfect time not only for bonding with your pet, but to also check their hair and skin condition. Hair should be shiny, full, and pliable. Dull, dusty-looking,
thinning hair may signal a problem. Skin should be clean and free of dry spots, scabs, or scales.
You can also pay attention to how they smell. Normal, healthy skin and hair shouldn’t have much odor. Even if your dog or cat got dirty, they should just smell like whatever made them dirty in the first place. If they smell oily or rancid, they might have a problem that should be checked by your vet.
PET GROOMING TIP #2: TRIMMING HAIR
Some breeds of cats and dogs grow very long hair. This can sometimes become uncomfortable and potentially unhealthy if left unchecked. Regular trips to a professional groomer will keep hair from tangling and keep animals from overheating during the warmer months.
If you’re going to tackle the task yourself, be sure to educate yourself on how to trim your pet and gather the appropriate pet grooming tools.
PET GROOMING TIP #3: TRIMMING NAILS
It’s a good idea to keep your cat’s nails trimmed if he/she is strictly an indoor cat. Use appropriate nail clippers (available at any pet store) and trim only the tips of the nails. The best time to do this is when they are relaxed
and sleepy. You should also stay relaxed and keep it a positive experience. Give your kitty a treat afterward.
Dogs also need their nails trimmed. If they get too long, it will be uncomfortable for them to walk. Again, get an appropriate trimmer for your dog. Keep it a positive experience and give treats afterward.
For both dogs and cats, DO NOT clip too close to the quick (or colored part of the nail). Your pet will feel pain if you accidentally clip too far and the nail will bleed. If that happens in either your cat or dog, use a styptic pencil or powder to stop the bleeding.
If you’ve never clipped nails before, you might want to have your vet or groomer show you how to do it before attempting it yourself. Again, get the proper tools for the job. There are special nail trimmers made for dogs and cats available at pet stores.
PET GROOMING TIP #4: BATHING
Regular bathing with water and pet-friendly shampoos (don’t use human soaps/shampoos) is also an important part of pet grooming routines. For dogs, a bath every month should be adequate. You don’t want to over bathe because that
will strip the natural oils away and dry out the skin. Brush your pet before you bathe him or her. You can put a cotton ball in each ear to prevent water from getting in. Fill your tub, sink, or buckets of water beforehand.
First rinse with warm water, and avoid spraying water directly into your pet’s face. Use a shampoo designed especially for pets and work your way from head to tail. Leave your pet’s face for last though. Be sure to wash under the chin, behind the ears, between the toes, and around the rectum. You can use a washcloth and warm water to wipe the
Rinse your pet well with warm water because shampoo left on your pet will cause skin irritation. Then dry him or her off with a towel or a pet dryer, or hair dryer. Make sure you do not use too hot of a setting for drying them. You do not want to burn them.
Of course, most cats don’t really like being bathed, so it won’t be as simple. Cats are generally clean animals because they groom themselves, but there might be a time when you need to bathe them. They might have something on their hair you don’t want them to lick off, like car oil or grease, or you might need to give them a medicated bath to kill pests or to care for a skin condition. Clip the cat’s nails before you bathe him/her. Wear long sleeves and maybe gloves.
I used to bathe my cat Emily in a glass-enclosed shower so she could not escape before her bath was completed. You will also benefit from having an assistant! One person can hold the cat while the other one shampoos and rinses the cat. It depends on the cat. Emily was a rampage if you tried to do anything like that normally, but in the shower she was gentle as an angel. Again, rinse off all the shampoo well.
PET GROOMING TIP #5: BRUSHING TEETH
Dental hygiene is as important to pets as it is to us. Regular brushing can prevent plaque build-up, gum disease,
cavities, and bad breath. Also, bacteria from a diseased mouth can travel from your pet’s mouth, and travel to their organs, causing disease in the liver, heart,and other vital organs, shortening their lives. (See more details on how to brush your pets teeth in the previous article: “The Importance of Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth.”)
Be sure to check the condition of your pet’s teeth and gums when you brush them. Look for inflamed or red gums, chipped or discolored teeth, or foul breath. Be sure to consult with your vet or have your pet looked at if you see anything unusual.
PET GROOMING TIP #6: CLEANING EYES/EARS/NOSE
You can clean eyes gently with a soft washcloth dampened with warm water, but don’t put anything into their eyes. There are also pet eye cleaning solutions available.
Look into your pets eyes and check for excessive tearing, discharge, redness, discoloration, or irritation. Some dog breeds with protruding eyes like the Shi-Tzu and Pekingese produce a fair amount of tears for lubrication. This can cause “staining” of the hair, which can be removed with a commercial tear stain removal product. Some pet’s eyes might get irritated because long hair or eyelashes may scratch the cornea. Make sure hair is kept clear of their eyes.
If an eyelash is curling into their eye, you should take your pet to the vet. Also, keep a lookout for cloudiness in your pet’s eyes. This could be a symptom of cataracts or glaucoma and needs to be treated by a vet. Other reasons you should go to the vet include: red eyes, if your pet is excessively tearing, rubbing, or squinting, blood in or around
the eye, swollen eye, or a dilated pupil.
There are a number of common eye disorders that your pet may contract, so if you notice anything unusual, get it checked out immediately.
Check your pet’s ears every so often to make sure everything is okay. You can keep your pet’s ears clean by using ear wipes designed especially for dogs and cats. Wipe the inner flaps of the ears and slightly into the ear canal, but not too deeply. Some problems to watch for include redness or irritation, excess wax, discharge, or foul odor.
Another sign of something wrong is if your pet is excessively scratching and shaking his or her head. Late Spring to Fall is the season for foxtails (a spiky grass also known as “spear grass”), so keep an eye out for them on your pets. If they get lodged into the hair, they can make their way into the skin, causing infection. You may have to have them surgically removed.
Look for them especially between toes and in the eyes, ears, nostrils, and genitals. Of course, if you see any problems, the best bet is to take a trip to the vet to diagnose the problem and get the appropriate treatment.
As for noses, check for anything unusual. Discharge from the nose, swelling, and difficulty breathing might be a symptom of a foreign object in the nose or some type of respiratory or sinus infection. Also look for dry, scaly, or
cracked skin on the nose.
Pet’s noses can also get sunburned and could develop skin cancer. Just keep an eye out for what your pet’s nose looks like normally and if anything looks different, take a trip to the vet.
PET GROOMING TIP #7: CHECKING FOR ABNORMALITIES
When grooming all parts of your pet, it’s the perfect time to check for abnormalities.
When you’re brushing your pet, check their hair and skin condition. When you brush their teeth, look around and check for teeth that look discolored or chipped/fractured. Look also for red or inflamed gums. When trimming your pet’s nails, look at their toes as well as their nails to see if they look healthy and normal.
One dog owner I know noticed a lump between her dog’s toes when trimming his nails and it turned out to be a tumor.
When cleaning eyes/ears/nose, look for any unusual discharge. Again, if you see anything unusual, take your pet to the vet for a check-up and any necessary treatment. Maintaining a regular grooming schedule for your pets will ensure that they will be at their healthy and happy best, and also allow you to keep on top of any problems or illnesses that present themselves.