Magen Stevenson, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist
Pet Poison Helpline
As social distancing and business closure mandates continue across the country, getting your pet to their regularly scheduled grooming appointments may come as a challenge. Besides keeping your pet smelling fresh, regular grooming has many benefits. Regular grooming prevents matting that can harm your pet’s skin, provides a glance at your pet’s skin for any developing issues, helps prevent overgrown or ingrown toenails, and helps keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy.
Performing a full Do-It-Yourself wash and clip can be a daunting challenge. However, some things can be performed at home to help extend the life of your pet’s professional grooming. With just a few tools, you can keep your pet clean and mat-free until a grooming appointment becomes available. If these practices are new to your pet’s routine, introduce them slowly and with positive reinforcement using praise and treats to help your pet adjust.
- Daily brushing will help remove dirt and debris from your pet’s skin and coat as well as prevent matting and tangling of longer hair. Brushing will also distribute your pet’s natural oils making the coat shiny and healthy-looking. Long-haired pets may require gentle use of a metal comb after brushing to reach matting that can start to form in the layers closer to the skin.
- When to call the vet: severe skin irritation or if matted or tangled hair has become painful.
- Pets with facial wrinkles, such as bulldogs, greatly benefit from a face wash. The folds and wrinkles can be wiped clean with a warm, damp cloth or even a baby wipe. Keeping these areas clean will help prevent odor and bacterial growth.
- When to call the vet: irritated and broken skin within the folds or a foul odor or discharge is noted.
- Monitor your pet’s eyes often, cleaning away any discharge or excess tearing with a clean, damp cloth using water only. Do not use any soaps, shampoos, or solutions around the eyes.
- When to call the vet: any signs of irritation, redness, or off-colored discharge are noted. These signs can be indications of infection or trauma that needs the immediate attention of a veterinarian.
- If a full shampoo and water bath are not an option, there are several waterless shampoos, freshening mists, dry shampoos, and moist doggie towelettes that reduce odor in between washes.
- Monitor in and around your pet’s ears. Long-haired pets are prone to matting and debris build up around the ears, so it is important to check this area frequently.
- When to call the vet: irritation, redness, or discomfort is noted. These signs can be an indication of infection or ear mites. Pet should always be evaluated before the application of any ear treatment to ensure the tympanic membrane (the eardrum) is intact. Itching that leads to head shaking can cause hematoma formation in the ears that are painful and require veterinary intervention.
- Lastly, are the nails. Nail trims are a lot of pets’ and owners’ least favorite part of grooming and can be challenging if your pet is unaccustomed to routine trims. In between professional nail trims, monitor your pet’s nail. Every couple of weeks, the nails can be “tipped” by removing small amounts of new growth without getting close to what is known as the quick. The quick is the blood vessel that provides nutrients and grows with the nail. The quick is seen easily in light-colored nails as the pink inner portion; however, in dark nails, it is hidden.
- When to call the vet: any signs of redness, irritation, swelling, or pain are noted. Ingrown nails are sources of pain and infection and need to be evaluated by a veterinarian. Monitoring for ingrown nails is especially important in older cats. Geriatric pets’ nails become thicker and more brittle, causing a higher risk of ingrown nails. Dewclaws on dogs are often at risk since they do not come in contact with surfaces that naturally wear the nail down.
Once your pet becomes accustomed to these routine practices, they can be continued throughout your pet’s life, increasing the human-animal bond and adding essential steps to keeping you and your pet happy and healthy. As always, when concerned about something you see with your pet, reach out and contact a professional for assistance.