Grooming is an integral part of caring for your pet and keeping him or her healthy. Both cats and dogs need regular brushing, and animals with longer hair (e.g., poodles, Yorkshire terriers) require frequent trips to a professional groomer. Fur that becomes matted can cause serious health issues for your pet. Dirt and oils can accumulate under mats and cause painful skin infections, and the mats themselves can be painful as they pull and stretch the skin underneath. Severe matting can even affect your pet’s ability to see, walk and eat normally.
Long and medium-haired pets generally require daily brushing. Short-haired pets should usually be brushed once or twice per week. The frequency of professional grooming and haircuts varies depending on your dog’s breed. Consult your groomer or veterinarian for a recommendation. Use the appropriate grooming tools for the coat you are combing/brushing.
All dogs also require regular bathing to keep their skin and hair coat clean and healthy. The frequency of bathing depends on your dog’s lifestyle, breed and coat type. Ask your veterinarian to recommend the best bathing regimen for your dog. Also, always use a shampoo specifically formulated for dogs. Many human shampoos can be too harsh for your dog’s skin. If your dog has itchy, red, dry, flaky or oily skin, you should consult your veterinarian.
Since cats groom themselves, they generally do not need to be bathed, unless they have fleas or a medical condition that warrants it. Before bathing your cat, always consult your veterinarian.
I worked part time as a groomer in the early 1980s, and I would occasionally groom a cat. The only time I got bitten during my grooming career was by a cat. Cats have the ability to contort their bodies quickly and easily. I was gently lowering the cat into a warm tub of water when he unexpectedly twisted around like a flash and bit me on the wrist. I treated the wound and finished bathing the cat. Although you are prepared and cautious, there are those times when the animal will just lash out to stop you. This is true of our pets as well. Be cautious, take it slow, and stay calm and aware.
When I owned my horse, he was regularly groomed. You would never throw a saddle on a horse that was not curried and brushed. The mane and tail would be combed, and the tack (saddle, bridle, blanket) would be clean. At the conclusion of my ride, I would always clean my horse’s hooves to check for any stones or debris he may have picked up during our ride. Horses love their summer baths with a garden hose.
Pets also require regular nail trims. For dogs and cats, long nails can become painful and interfere with their ability to walk. Keeping nails short also helps you protect your floors and furniture from being scratched and your clothes from being snagged. Here’s what you need to know to groom your pet’s nails. Parrots also require nail trimming and must have their beak also routinely checked by a veterinarian to see if it is in need of a trim.
Like our fingernails, a horse’s hooves must be regularly trimmed by a farrier to give the horse an all-important solid and healthy foundation.
Canine nail clipping
Before you clip your dog’s nails, be prepared:
- Get your pet used to having his paws handled. This is more easily done if you start when the dog is still a puppy, but with patience you can also train most older dogs.
- Begin by speaking softly as you massage each paw, gently separating the toes.
- Your pet may instinctively pull away. If this happens, repeat whatever it was your dog didn’t like, but do it more slowly and gently until he begins to accept it.
- When you think your pet is ready, cut one or two nails.
- Have a treat ready for positive reinforcement.
- For dogs that are nervous or resistant to handling, try having someone assist you with holding your dog still and gently petting and reassuring him.
- Dogs that are unruly or that try to bite should be taken to a groomer or veterinarian for nail trimming in order to prevent injury to both you and the dog.
Feline nail clipping
Before you clip your cat’s nails, remember:
- Most cats do not like to be restrained, so it is best to accustom them to being handled while they are still kittens. But if you have adopted an adult cat, don’t despair!
- Try the “less is best” approach first when it comes to restraint. Try clipping your cat’s nails while he is napping or snuggling on your lap. Be sure to pet him and reassure him after each nail.
- Give treats for positive reinforcement.
- If possible, have a friend or family member hold and pet your cat while you are trimming his nails.
- If necessary, wrap you kitty in a towel to prevent him from scratching you during nail trimming.
- Cats that are unruly or that try to bite should be taken to a groomer or veterinarian for nail trimming in order to prevent injury to both you and the cat.
How to clip nails for dogs and cats
- Use an appropriate pet nail trimmer. These are available at any pet supply store and come in a variety of styles and sizes for both dogs and cats. If you are unsure which one to use, ask your veterinarian or groomer for a recommendation.
- Hold the paw in your hand and locate the pinkish part of the nail. This is a blood vessel, often called the “quick,” and should be avoided. The nail should be clipped slightly above this area.
- If you cannot see the pinkish part, just clip the very tip of the nail.
- Always have a clotting agent on hand in case you accidentally cut below the quick and cause bleeding. This is usually in the form of a powder and is available at any pet supply store, or use cornstarch.
- Most pets should have their nails trimmed every two to three weeks. Some dogs that are frequently walked on paved areas will continuously wear down their nails and may need less frequent trimming.
- If you are unsure about the process, consult your veterinarian or groomer.
A great smile
Remember the teeth: Get your pet accustomed to having their mouth handled from a young age. Use a washcloth or rubber finger tip to clean teeth with a toothpaste made specifically for pets.
As with dogs/cats, a horse’s teeth are equally important in order for them to grind their forage. Occasionally, they will have to be filed, or “floated,” by the veterinarian, to remove any sharp points.
Keep your pets clean and trimmed for a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Judy Endo is the author of Paws-itive Pet Tales. A lifelong resident of the Wilkes-Barre area, she has been a professional dog trainer/competitor as well as a lifetime animal lover and strong supporter of animal rescue. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org