Health Benefits of Regular Grooming

Dr. Tammie

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June 14, 2022

Did you know there are several health benefits to grooming your pet on a regular basis? Both dogs and cats, short or long-haired, benefit from a tangle free coat and frequent brushing. Pets also enjoy the extra time spent with them and bonding with their pet parent. Bathing can help find parasites on both dog and cat skin besides having the added benefit of a clean smelling pet.  When the coat is wet, skin masses, small cuts or wounds and skin cysts can be seen easily.  Sometimes even rashes become apparent or changes in the skin color can be seen on a long-haired pet whose coat is saturated for a bath. Swollen toes and broken nails can also be seen during a pedicure.  Today we are going to discuss some basic grooming methods and some tricks of the trade to help you and your pet enjoy grooming.

Brushing

Depending on your dog’s coat and coat length your pup may be more high maintenance than other pets.  The coat should be thoroughly brushed before saturating the coat with water for a bath.  Pets with longer hair like Shih Tzu, poodles, some terriers, Afghan hounds and other breeds will require daily to weekly brushing and combing of the coat.  Brushing before a bath prevents mats from felting or setting further. Some breeds that have corded coats, like Puli’s or Komondors, should be corded before and after bathing to help keep the cords in top condition.  Terriers that have hard coats like wire haired fox terriers or Airedales should be brushed with a slicker before bathing to remove any loose hair and mats in the coat.  Some stripping of the hard coated terriers with a stripping knife can occur before and after bathing to keep the coat tidy.  Breeds with short coats like Labradors or double coats like Shepherds or Huskies can be brushed with a rubber curry or glove to remove shedding fur.  How much brushing is needed, will depend on the time of the year since most dogs shed in the spring and the fall.  Dogs with double coats like the German Shepard, Malamute, Samoyed or Husky require deep brushing or a curry brush with longer teeth to help remove the fluffy shed undercoat.  Double coated breeds generally require more brushing to keep their coats in top condition and less bathing. 

Long haired cats require more grooming than short haired cats.  Some cats are more fastidious about their own grooming but if you kitty stops grooming there is likely a health problem that needs to be addressed by your veterinarian.  When brushing or combing your kitty’s fur also look for areas of over grooming, short barbered hair or bare skin which can indicate stress, skin infections or skin mites.  Running a flea comb through the fur can also reveal fleas and other skin parasites. If your long-haired kitty has a lot of mats or the matted fur is extensive you may want to have the mats removed by a groomer.  Don’t attempt to cut mats with a scissor since that can lead to cutting delicate skin.  Mats and excessive loose hair ingestion may also lead to hair balls and vomiting.  It is a good idea to give occasional hair ball remedies to help prevent problems.  There are many types of hair ball preventatives including foods, treats as well as pastes.  Use the one that your kitty will consume and helps the hair to be defecated out rather than vomited up. 

It is worth mentioning hairless dogs and cats can also be brushed with a baby hair brush with very soft bristles or very soft rubber bristles.  Using this type of brush is more like stimulation of the skin and can remove some dust and dander from the skin.  Do not use sharp comb or slicker brushes on hairless pets.  Besides frequent petting, brushing with very soft bristles can help bonding with your pet.

Bathing

Dog usually require bathing after swimming, when they seem itchy, or when their coat is dirty.  Flea and tick shampoos tend to be very drying to the skin and coat and do not work very well to help prevent flea and tick bites. Fleas and ticks are better prevented with monthly oral or a top spot product applied after bathing the skin.  Most oral and top spot products last at least thirty days to keep your pet free of external parasites.

Dogs that have two layers to their coats, like the German Sheppard Dog, Huskies, Malamutes, Elk Hounds, etc., benefit, especially when shedding, from a bath and removal of the dead hair with a stripping brush like the Furbliss® for long hair, a slicker or curry type brush.  Some pets require bathing more often every 2 to 6 weeks, for skin health and maintenance.  Hairless breeds of dogs and cats may also require more bathing and skin care to keep their skin in top condition.   Hairless breeds include the Chinese Crested and the Xoloitzcuintle dogs and the Sphinx cat.

Haired breeds of dogs, for example many terriers long haired or soft coated breeds, poodles, Shih Tzus, Afghan hounds, Powder puffs, cocker spaniels just to name a few need more maintenance since their hair coat usually requires weekly to daily brushing and more frequent bathing. Short haired breeds like beagles, Labradors, sight hounds, Boston Terriers, French or English bull dogs, Dobermans, Staffordshire terriers, and others should have a bathing schedule based on any skin concerns but in general can be bathed every 2-3 months. Most dog’s coats benefit from a dog coat conditioner but make sure like the shampoo, it is rinsed well from the coat.

Pets with allergic skin disease may require more often bathing with either a medicated shampoo, an oatmeal shampoo or a probiotic shampoo. Topical probiotics for the skin have become more popular. The Scout’s Honor® line of shampoos helps to care for the skin’s microbiome or good bacteria which improves the skin barrier, restores the natural PH balance and improve immunity of the skin to infections. Probiotic products can help any pet’s skin maintain health and is a good choice for many pets’ whether they have skin allergies or not. If you want help with bathing ideas, reach out to the 24/7 vets at AskVet. Use code BIVVY2022 to sign up for two free months!

How to bathe your pet

If you have a bath tub or shower that has a sprayer or shower wand that will make bathing easier.  There are even bathtubs made for pets.  Some pet shampoos require dilution, always read and follow the directions on the bottle.  To wash your dog, wet the coat with warm water, not too hot, test on your own skin. Try to avoid getting water or soap into your dog’s ears or in eyes.  Apply shampoo from the top of the head to the tail no more than a table spoon of soap and a small amount of additional shampoo to each leg/foot. Rub in gently massaging the shampoo into the coat and skin. Make sure to wash the belly, neck and under the tail also. You may need to apply more soap to areas as you wash and massage the skin and coat.  Rinse well with more warm water until the water runs clear.  If your pet is very dirty you may repeat the shampooing process.  At this point you can apply a conditioner to the coat and then rinse again. Towel dry and make sure to dry inside of the ears with the towel.  Once your pet is dry brush hair again or apply appropriate lotion to hairless breeds if needed.  Keep your pet in a warm and clean area of your home after the bath.

If grooming your pet for show or special occasion and you have a pet blower you can also brush and blow out the coat (this step is not necessary). You can use a forced cool air dryer which blows a strong stream of air on the hair and skin. Your pet should be introduced to the blower slowly.  Keep in mind the blower can hurt if too close to the skin, any loose hair, water or debris missed by the bath will come flying out of the pet’s coat. Most groomers use the blower on a stand or with one hand while brushing in the stream of air with the other.  It takes some getting used to and your pup needs to be trained to stand on the grooming table while drying their coat this way.  Long haired breeds of dogs benefit from blowing out the coat to help dry and straiten the fur from the skin to the tips.

Cat bathing can be difficult if your kitty is not used to or hates being wet.  Sometimes kittens need to be bathed to help remove fleas if they are too small or too young to have topicals or oral medications.  Kittens can be bathed with Palmolive® or Dawn® dish liquid to help remove fleas. Spraying water and high velocity drying scares most kitties so it is a good idea to use warmed towels to help dry their fur.  Go slow and introduce bathing slowly.  Many show cats enjoy their bathes which help keep their coats sparkling.  Cats can also benefit from a probiotic or oatmeal-based shampoos and conditioners help with tangles. 

Nails

It is best to start trimming puppies and kittens toe nails and get puppy and kitty used to having their feet handled when they are very young.  Starting at six to eight weeks of age give a gentle massage to the feet and each individual toe.  Make the foot massage fun and part of petting and bonding with your new pet. Work up from just a gentle foot massage to manipulate the toes individually to isolate the nails for trimming later.  Always praise your pet give treats or move your petting to a different part of the body if they allow handling of their feet.  Make a foot massage part of your daily routine like tooth brushing.  If working with an older pet the same slow steps can be applied.  Older pets may also respond to marking the behavior with a “yes” or clicker even a treat.  If your pet is particularly scared of nail trims this may take some time and you will need to introduce the nail clippers to them slowly.  You can also ask for help from your veterinarian or groomer. 

Always have all your tools ready before starting a nail trim: 

First, locate the quick (the blood and nerve supply to the nail) in your pet’s nail (see links below). Start slow and only clip a small amount if you are unsure. You can always clip more of the nail or file the nail if not quite enough nail is removed with the clippers.  Again, pets that are very sensitive and are afraid of rotary nail files or nail cuter you may need to have a groomer or veterinarian help you cut the nails.  If your pet is very sensitive you can try just filing your dog’s nails with a glass file—they are fragile and will break if dropped— or emery like nail file.  Filing can also smooth off rough edges or points sometimes created by cutting the nails.  If your pet is very sensitive and will not even let you touch their feet may have to do some desensitization training first to get your pet used to having toes and feet handled. Your groomer or veterinarian will also be able to help with retraining your pet without fear to allow handling of his/her feet. Always make nail trimming and handling of the toes positive by using praise or treats to help your pet understand pedicures are enjoyable.            

Everybody quicks or cuts a nail too short now and then and pets do move.  Use the quick stop powder (Kwik Stop®) to pack the end of the nail and help seal over the blood supply and nerve.  If the nail continues to bleed or will not stop contact your veterinarian right away.  Sometimes nails will split or get snagged on something causing a break of the nail above the quick.  You can use the same quick stop powder (Kwik Stop®) to help stop the bleeding and have your pet seen for repair of the nail by your veterinarian. Your pet may need a short course of antibiotics to prevent a nail bed infection.

Final thoughts

Routine and frequent grooming benefits both you and your pet. Grooming helps promote bonding with your pet and problems with skin or nails can be quickly resolved.  Different breeds as well as cats and dogs require slightly different grooming methods. But the basic principles are the same, brushing, bathing and nail trims help keep your pet smelling great and your pet happy and healthy. If you have any additional questions about possible skin problems in your pet, contact us any time at Ask Vet to chat with a Care Coach or veterinarian about you and your pet’s needs.

 

That's another pawsitive tip from AskVet's Dr. Tammie! To learn more about pet care, you can chat with an AskVet veterinarian 24x7 on the AskVet app any time, day or night. Sign up to be a member with code BIVVY2022 for two months free of AskVet membership!

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