A GUIDE TO GROOMING
Although it’s often overlooked, grooming is an important part of your dog’s health program. Routine brushing and combing removes dead hair and dirt and prevents matting. Because it stimulates the blood supply to the skin, grooming also gives your pet a healthier and shinier coat.
WHEN TO START
Start regular grooming when you first bring your dog home and make it a part of his routine. Purchase a good-quality brush and comb and get your dog used to being handled. Praise your dog when he holds still and soon he will come to enjoy the extra attention. Some breeds have special grooming needs, so ask your vet or a professional groomer for advice on particular equipment necessary for your pet.
Your dog’s skin and hair coat reflect his overall health and nutritional status. Many dogs maintain a healthy skin and hair coat with minimal assistance; others – especially some long-haired or curly-haired breeds – require regular brushing. For most dogs, a good brushing once or twice a week will do the trick.
The need for bathing depends on the breed of dog, his skin type and hair coat, owner preference and just how dirty your pet gets. Bathing your dog every month or two isn’t unreasonable, but some dogs will need more frequent cleanings. A good rule of thumb is to bathe your pet only when his coat gets dirty or begins to smell “doggy.”
When bathing your dog, make sure to rinse all the soap out of his coat. If he has persistent problems with scratching or flaky skin, he may need a special medicated shampoo or have a skin problem that your veterinarian should examine.
Skin problems – including fleas, ticks and mites or allergies and infections – are common among dogs. Most conditions are manageable with early detection and treatment. If you notice excessive scratching, hair loss or flaky skin, contact your veterinarian. If your pet is continuously exposed to fleas and ticks, speak to your veterinarian about products to minimize the impact of these parasites on the skin. Remember that a consistently poor hair coat with lots of skin flaking may indicate a deeper medical problem.
Ears may also require cleaning, especially in dogs with oily skin or allergies. This is a delicate task and is probably best left to your vet. However, if your dog is easy to handle (and there is no chance that you will be bitten), you can learn to do this chore yourself. To remove excessive wax and debris from the ears, consider an ear cleaning every two to four weeks. Ask your veterinarian about products you can use at home, and be sure to ask for a demonstration of proper ear cleaning techniques.
While clipping nails is a painless and simple process, it takes practice and patience to master the skill. Ask your vet to show you the correct technique, then get started by getting your pet used to having his paws handled. Once you start using the clippers, go slowly: Try clipping just a few nails in one sitting. Maintain a regular schedule and be persistent. Your pet will eventually develop patience and learn to cooperate.
Learn the anatomy. Within the center of each toenail is the blood and nerve supply for the nail called the quick. In clear white nails you can see the quick, a pinkish area in the middle of the nail. Unfortunately, the common black nails do not allow an easy view. Cutting into the quick will result in pain and bleeding. You cannot see the quick on dark colored nails, making them more difficult to trim without cutting into the quick. In dogs with dark nails, make several small nips with the clippers instead of one larger one. Trim very thin slices off the end of the nail until you see a black dot appear towards the center when you look at it head on. This is the start of the quick that you want to avoid. The good news is that the more diligent you are about trimming, the more the quick will regress into the nail, allowing you to cut shorter each time.
Although you will take great care not to hurt your pet, sometimes accidents happen and you will cut into the quick. Have silver nitrate products on hand – you can get them at your veterinarian’s office or pet store. You can also use flour or cornstarch to stop the bleeding. If that doesn’t work, apply a light bandage for about 15 minutes. If the bleeding continues, call your veterinarian.
Use the proper instruments – be sure to use only nail trimmers that are designed for dogs. Trim nails so that when the animal steps down, nails do not touch the floor. There are a variety of nail trimmers available at pet stores or your veterinarian’s office.