Pet Grooming for Optimal Health and Well-being

September 11, 2019

We all want our beloved pets to live as well as they can. Solid nutrition, plenty of exercise, and habitual veterinary care are all essential factors in keeping your pet in good shape, but what else can you do? Pet grooming is an often-overlooked aspect of wellness, but it should not be: the evidence is clear on how important it is! The proper techniques and supplies for bathing, brushing, dog nail trimming, and dental hygiene are crucial. You may not realize how important it is to your pet’s health to have regular grooming rituals. You’ll catch teeth problems, hair matting that hurts, and more by doing regular ritualistic grooming. Your pet will learn to accept this as bonding time and begin enjoying it and so will you.

The Benefits Of Regular Grooming

The small tasks and time commitment required for grooming can add up to equal major benefits for both of you.

Of utmost importance, careful brushing can allow you to spot rashes, moles, and other skin abnormalities. You can watch for any changes that could suggest a skin cancer. Tumors and ulcers can be noted and reported to your vet as they appear.

Ensuring your pet's skin and coat are healthy is the first step to making sure he is comfortable and clean, and early detection and treatment of these potentially devastating medical conditions could save your pet's life.

Clearing mats (tangled up knots of hair) and debris from your pet's coat will mean he does not smell. Removing dead hair, flaking dander, and any dirt embedded in his coat will encourage his skin to produce healthy oils that condition his hair and keep him naturally cleaner for longer.

Getting rid of the excess hair and dander also means there is less for you to clean up! Regular healthy pet grooming reduces the number of irritants in the air and on your furniture and is an effective way to curb potential allergens if you suffer from environmental allergies or asthma. It also makes for less work when you dust and vacuum!

During grooming is a great time to check for bugs too. Search the skin for ticks and evidence of fleas or mites. These pests can be more than just a nuisance for your pet - they can also carry diseases that could cause major illness and even death.

Also worth noting is the relaxation factor for both you and your pet. If you start grooming them periodically when they are young, they may even enjoy a good thorough brushing session as they get older. Physical affection, especially when combined with low-pitched verbal encouragement, can calm an anxious dog.

Learning the basics of healthy pet grooming yourself (instead of hiring out the job to a groomer) can mean more time and money, too.

Aside from the potential for pet grooming affecting health (and your wallet!), it can also be a great way for you to bond with your cat or dog. Paying special attention to your pet makes them feel secure and carefree.

How To Groom Your Pet

Grooming your pet does not have to be difficult. With the right set of pet grooming supplies and a little time, you can both be on your way to excellent pet health in no time!

First, most veterinarians recommend NOT bathing your dog very often. It can cause skin irritation and dryness. A bath is only required if your pet is unbearably smelly or extremely dirty (but make sure to brush as much dirt out as you can first or it may end up being a bigger mess!).

It is important that you brush your dog at least three times a week, if not more often.

Start by wiping away any visible dirt or debris from his coat with a warm wet washcloth.

Use a brush specifically for the type of coat your pet has. For double-coated dog breeds like huskies and border collies, use a metal pin brush. For curly and wiry coats, a slicker brush (with short wires on the surface) is best. Dogs with short, fine hair can use a natural bristle brush. You may also want to invest in a good shedding blade.

Start to brush in small sections, ensuring there are no tangles. Pull the hair away from the skin, watching for bugs and unusual skin ailments.

Ticks, in particular, seek out warm folds of skin, so look in your pet's toes and around his footpads, around his genitals, underneath his collar, in his ears, and on his face (especially is he has flappy jowls!).

During the warmer months, daily tick checks and removal can keep your pet from acquiring dangerous blood-borne diseases.

This is a perfect time to check his ears, too. Dogs’  ears, in particular, may trap water, leading to a yeasty-smelling discharge. Wipe the outside of the ear if necessary.

If there are signs of infection in your dog’s ear, your vet may recommend you use diluted peroxide to help clean it up - but only do so under medical supervision.

Many pet owners are uncomfortable trimming or grinding their pets' nails down. The quick is the soft cuticle full of sensitive nerve endings and blood vessels. If accidentally nicked, it can be painful and bleed profusely.

It does not have to be scary, however.

Ask your vet or groomer to show you the proper technique for dog nail trimming. Make sure to use high-quality pet grooming supplies and have a styptic pencil or powder on hand to stop the bleeding should you cut too close to the quick.

Take the time to ensure your dog’s fur is not hampering his ability to move his toes. If there is built-up dirt or mats around his toe pads, trim them carefully with sharp scissors.

Pad lotion can keep your pets' feet from getting too dry and cracking. Split foot pads can cause immense discomfort to your active pet and can allow an infection to fester in the fissures.

If your dog is in need of a haircut, leave your kitchen shears in the drawer! Clean, sharp, professional-grade grooming scissors are clutch.

Trim hair when it is DRY and only cut small bits at a time, carefully avoiding any contact with your pet's skin. 

Overall, it is not difficult or time-consuming to learn the fundamentals of grooming. A few minutes and a couple of readily-available tools can help ensure your success.