A Grooming Crash Course for Savvy Pet Parents



September 10, 2020

Grooming may seem like an activity reserved for overachieving pet parents. Not so. According to the pros, all dogs and cats need some degree of grooming, as a well-groomed pet tends to have a higher quality of life and better health.

So, what’s the scoop? Do you need to establish a savings account for a professional to tend to your pet’s grooming needs every couple of months? Is DIY-ing it all an option? Read on!

Nail Care for Pets

All of the care that follows can be done by you at home, but you can do some damage to your pet if you’re not educated and confident in your ability to execute it cleanly. Professional groomers and veterinarians, are specially trained to groom thoroughly and efficiently, without causing any harm or injury. Pet nail care is a prime display of where precision and care is critical. There is a vein in both dogs’ and cats’ nails called the quick. You’ve likely heard that if you cut down too far and sever the quick, it can be excruciating for your pet. So what you’re paying for, if you go the pro route, is their experience and the convenience to you.

Cutting down too far and causing significant pain is still a real risk. If you do make your pet bleed while cutting her nails yourself, you’ll want to use some styptic powder to stop it, or in a bind, flour or cornstarch will do the trick.

You should clip your dog’s nails once a month. If their nails are not cut regularly, the quick can actually grow and extend further down into the nail. Therefore, if you haven’t cut your dog’s nails in a long time, you should start with just tiny bits at a time, ideally with a grinder rather than clippers. In general, nail clippers are fine; just be careful to not cut too far. Grinders are perhaps preferable, but they can create a loud and traumatizing experience for your pet, so do what you can to warm them up to it. For cats, do all you can to get them comfortable having their feet handled beforehand, use specialty cat clippers, and cut off only the tip, just before the curl.

If your dog gets a regular “nail filing” treatment by regularly running on concrete or asphalt, or if your cat goes to town with the scratch pads, you can likely get away with not cutting their nails. Just keep an eye out to make sure they’re not growing too long. Long, curly nails are not only a bad look, but a health risk too. They can curve into the pad of the foot, making walking painful, and even causing bone deformities. DIY-ing your pet’s nails is very doable, but Bivvy pet insurance is a wise thing to have in case anything goes awry and you need emergency care.

Tooth Care for Pets

Are you brushing your pet’s teeth twice a week? You should be! The AKC says the majority of dogs have some kind of periodontal disease by age three, and NINETY percent of cats develop dental problems over their lifetime. Dental problems can be major, painful issues for humans, and we (ideally!) brush our teeth regularly. Your pet can neither brush their teeth nor tell you (verbally) when their teeth hurt. Brushing an animal’s teeth can be a pain, but it’s a worthy endeavor. Bacteria buildup in an animal’s mouth can lead to infection of the lungs, kidney, heart, or liver. Periodontal disease can be the first step towards jaw damage or heart disease. Brushing your pet’s teeth is the ideal way to keep them clean. You don’t have to do it every day, but the more, the merrier. Dental treats and wipes can be good too, though they’re not as effective as brushing. No pet enjoys having their teeth brushed initially, but they can be trained to be comfortable with it. Always use pet-specific toothpaste. These are often made in flavors appealing to your furry friend. If playing dentist at home isn’t the option for you, having your pet’s teeth cleaned professionally by a veterinarian may be the right route despite the added cost.

Fur Care for Pets

Experts suggest that you should be brushing your pet’s fur once a week. Brushing removes dirt and loose hair, and distributes their natural oils, leading to a shinier coat. But note: not all brushes are created equal! Research which one is best for your pet’s breed, and their coat type and length. Brushing is one step in the grooming process that cats, who are notoriously finicky about the others, may not mind so much. Removing their loose hair in this way will make hairballs less likely.

When brushing your pet, be gentle on their chest and belly. If they have long hair, you should brush more frequently, ideally a little every day. It’s best to use a metal comb first to get down deeper, then go over the coat again with a bristle or rubber brush to remove loose hair.

Bath Tips for Pets

It’s recommended that your dog be bathed every two weeks. For cats, bathing is not as necessary unless they’re not grooming themselves sufficiently, causing their hair to become greasy, or if they get into something sticky. Whether it’s a dog or cat you’re grooming at home, always use a mild, safe-for-pets shampoo. Depending on their size, bathe them in the sink or bathtub with a rubber bathmat to avoid slippage, in no more than 3-4 inches of water. Use a hose or a cup to pour additional water over them, but never pour directly into their ears, eyes, or nose.

So…DIY or pay a professional groomer?

As with a great many questions in life, there’s not one clear answer. There are pros and cons to both. You can do everything on your own, and this is probably more cost effective in the long run. But it’s costly on the front end, as you ought to buy your own brush, shampoo, conditioner, toenail and hair clippers, and you’ll need to replace or replenish some of those periodically.

Your pet will also be more comfortable at home. But if you don’t know what you’re doing when you attempt to groom them, the comfort that the pros are trained to provide your pet can alone be worth the cost. Professionals are well-informed on calming techniques and how to groom most thoroughly and efficiently. They will also know which products are best for individual breeds, ages, and health conditions. They’ll probably know medical conditions to check for as they groom too. All the aforementioned grooming steps can be hard to master; the pros are the pros. For some pet parents, the convenience of having an experienced professional do it is worth the added cost.

If you are grooming your cat or dog yourself, keep them comfortable. Perhaps start with one of the steps above and work them up to being comfortable with more. Be generous with treats! And make it a positive experience. And even then, you don’t have to do everything at once. Your grooming process can be a several-day-long affair. Cats are usually trickier and finickier than dogs, so if you’re doing it yourself in their case, be especially patient. Groom when you’re in a good, calm mood.

Face it—if you want your dog or cat to live their best life, grooming ought to be part of your routine. And whether you opt to save some money over the long haul by doing it all yourself, or make a standing appointment with a pro, keep your dog or cat insured. That way, if anything goes wrong during the grooming process, or while your well-coiffed dog or cat is out living their life, you’re covered. With Bivvy, pet insurance is simple and affordable.

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