Basic pet grooming 101

With spring upon us, so is a seasonal shedding period. Not only is having a clean and comfortable pet important, but starting a regular grooming routine now is a great way for your pet to get used to the experience and bond with you at the same time. Grooming can involve everything from haircuts, bathing and brushing, to nail trimming and ear cleaning/care.

Routine grooming can also often lead to the discovery of dirt, burrs, thorns, ticks, matted fur, lumps, scratches, skin irritations/rashes, infections and the like. It may save you time and money in the long run.

Haircuts

Many breeds of dogs and cats require minimal or no hair clipping or shaving. Others with long or dense coats may need regular attention with clipping or cutting, especially during the coming warmer months. Be aware that if you do the clipping or shaving yourself, it is easy to cut a pet –use caution at all times and be prepared for your pet to wiggle.

Bathing

Regular bathing can help the skin and coat remain in good condition while keeping visible dirt and smells at bay. Remember to only use a shampoo specifically created for dogs and cats. Time between baths will vary according to breed and coat type.

  • Depending on size, pets can be bathed in a sink, tub, or if it’s warm outside, in a kiddie pool or with the hose.
  • You’ll need shampoo, towels, a non-skid mat or surface and perhaps a bucket or pitcher.
  • Lukewarm water works well.
  • Avoid getting shampoo or water in your pet’s eyes, nose, ears and mouth.
  • Be sure to rinse well and try to prevent water from getting in his/her ears while rinsing.
  • A hair dryer can help with the drying process if a towel isn’t sufficient, but proceed with caution; if not used carefully, a blow dryer can cause discomfort, hyperthermia and even severe burns to your pet.

Brushing

Some dogs and cats don’t particularly like being brushed while others do. It depends on whether they’re used to it and if it has been a positive experience. You should brush them every day and have a professional do the job every four to six weeks. A good brushing reduces shedding, improves circulation and can detect unhealthy parasites such as fleas and ticks.

If you use the wrong kind of brush or one that is poorly made, you might end up hurting sensitive skin. The right tool will help you do the best job.

  • Use an appropriate brush depending on the type and length of your pet’s fur.
  • To start with, a hound glove or curry comb (has nubs) is great for short-haired pets to loosen dirt and fur and then be followed up with a soft-bristled brush. A long-haired or double-coated pet may require a small wire brush or a shedding rake.

Nail trimming

Overgrown nails are more likely to break, split or be torn away. They can also cause discomfort or injury when your pet is walking. Nails should be trimmed every one to two weeks, but it depends on how fast they wear. Some pets won’t need it this often.
 
  • Use a nail file or grinding tool specifically for pet nails.
  • It’s important not to hit the “quick,” a collection of blood vessels distinguished by a pink line running down the middle of the nail (often hard to see in dark or black nails), because this will cause excessive bleeding and pain.
  • Trimming the nails will be easier if you hold the pet on its back on your lap or if you stand him/her on a nonskid surface while you hold up the pad and extend the nail.
  • Don’t forget the dewclaws and trim any excess hair that may be growing between the toes.
  • If you’re uncomfortable trimming your pet’s nails, contact your veterinarian or groomer.

Ear cleaning/care

Some pets’ ears can be susceptible to infection, wax buildup, yeast and fungal infections. A careful cleaning with the right products can control or eliminate most problems. However, alert your veterinarian if you notice excessive scratching, head shaking or a foul odor from your pet’s ears.

  • Warm the solution to a temperature that is comfortable when tested on the back of your hand. Do this by either leaving the solution in a warm area for a few hours or placing the container in warm water.
  • Apply a generous amount of the warmed cleaning solution into the ear canal. Massage the base of the ear to disperse the cleaning solution deep into the ear canal.
  • Allow your pet to shake his/her head to remove the solution. This is best done outside to prevent soiling carpet, walls, etc. If there is a lot of debris in the ear, you may have to repeat the application until the cleaning solution is clear of debris.
  • As a final step, you can use cotton balls to absorb the excess solution from the pinna (outer part of the ear) and external ear canal and to gently wipe away any loose debris from the surface of the ear. Do not use cotton swabs for cleaning as they can push cerumen (wax) further into the ear canal. The frequency of cleaning will vary according to your veterinarian's recommendations.