Grooming your pet is not only important to their overall health, but it can provide a great opportunity for bonding. And with some patience, you teach your dog or cat to enjoy grooming at any age.
The first step is to make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need on hand:
- An appropriate shampoo for your pet’s age and species (for example, puppies and kittens need a gentle shampoo made for the youngsters)
- Detangler or conditioner (to comb through long hair before the final rinse)
- Towels (lots of towels)
- Hair dryer
- Safety scissors for trimming hair
- Toothbrush and toothpaste made for animals
- Cotton balls
- Ear cleanser
- Metal comb
- Nail trimmers or nail file
- Styptic powder (in case you accidentally cut a nail too short)
Make sure your pet is comfortable with being touched on all areas of its body, including the ears, tail, belly, back and feet. This also gives you an opportunity to check for any lumps, bumps or soreness that should be reported to your veterinarian.
Here are tips for the best ways to keep your dog’s or cat’s fur, skin, nails, ears and teeth healthy and clean:
For dogs: While the ASPCA recommends bathing your dog at least once every three months, your pet may require more frequent baths if they spend a great deal of time outdoors or if they suffer from skin problems. The water should be warm – very cold water can make your pet feel chilled and create a negative association with bathing. Small dogs should be supported in the tub so they feel safe. After lathering up and shampooing your pet, rinse thoroughly and, if you wish, comb conditioner through their coat before a final rinse. All pets should be dried on cold days; young, old, or ailing pets should be dried regardless of temperature to keep them from becoming chilled.
For cats: Give your kitty a good brushing beforehand to remove all dead hair and mats. Then place a rubber mat in a sink or tub and fill the sink or tub with about three to four inches of lukewarm water. Use a spray hose to wet your cat’s coat, but take care not to spray in its ears, eyes or nose. Gently massage in the shampoo from head to tail, then rinse with the spray hose. Dry your kitty with a large towel.
For dogs: Your pup should be brushed or combed at least a few times a week to keep tangles or mats from forming. Brush before bathing to remove dead hair and tangles. If your dog’s coat is long, make sure you comb all the way to the skin. Be gentle and patient to avoid pulling tangles or irritating the skin.
For cats: If your cat has short hair, brush once a week with a metal comb from head to tail. Then use a bristle or rubber brush to remove dead skin and loose hair. If your cat has long hair, brush daily, starting with the belly and legs. Then brush the fur in an upward motion with a bristle or rubber brush. When brushing the tail, make a part down the middle and brush out the fur on either side.
For dogs: A dog’s nails should be trimmed when they just touch the ground when walking. Pick up each foot and handle the nails. Look carefully for the quick (where the blood supply ends). Then gently trim the nails. If you cut into the quick, cover the nail end with styptic powder and put pressure on the nail for 30 seconds, or until it stops bleeding.
For cats: Apply gentle pressure to the top of your kitty’s foot and the cushiony pad underneath so the claws will be extended. Use sharp, quality cat ail scissors to cut off the white tip of each nail, just before the point where it begins to curl. Use styptic powder if you cut into the quick.
For dogs: You should perform regular ear checks to make sure they are clean and free of debris or wax. If they are dirty, smell, or look sore, make an appointment with your veterinarian. If cleaning healthy ears, dampen a cotton ball with appropriate ear cleanser and wipe the folds of skin, beginning near the head and moving toward the ends of the ear flaps. Never insert cotton swabs or other items in your dog’s ears – this can cause trauma or infection.
For dogs: Regular brushing can prevent bacteria and plaque from building up on your dog’s teeth. You also can gently massage the gums, which will make you more aware of any potential dental issues. Make sure you use an animal-appropriate toothpaste for your pup.
For cats: While most cats will allow their teeth to be brushed, you will need to be very gentle and patient. A good way to start is to let them lick the cat toothpaste from your finger, then off a finger brush or small cat toothbrush. Gradually place the brush in your cat’s mouth and gently brush the teeth.
These tips, coupled with patience and a gentle touch, will help keep your four-legged friend looking and feeling their best.