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Pet tips: Grooming basics

Grooming is an important part of pet ownership. Just like people, dogs and cats need physical maintenance to look and feel their best. The amount of grooming necessary will depend on the breed and species of your pet. (AP Photo/file)

Grooming is an important part of pet ownership. Just like people, dogs and cats need physical maintenance to look and feel their best. The amount of grooming necessary will depend on the breed and species of your pet.

Most dogs and cats enjoy being brushed. Brushing prevents matting and tangling of the coat, excessive shedding, and it can actually be a relaxing experience for your pet. Regular brushings, about 2-3 times per week, depending on the length of hair, is sufficient for most pets. If you have a dog or cat with long or flowing hair, daily brushing may be needed.

Tip: brush out tangles and remove mats before bathing your pet. The water will only make it more difficult to remove. If your pet has serious matting, you’ll want to contact a professional groomer to take care of them. Matted fur can be extremely painful, pulling on the skin and in extreme cases, away from the muscle!

Most dogs only require a bath every two weeks to a month, depending on their level of activity, environment and breed. You want to avoid over-bathing your dog since it can dry out their skin.

Do-it-yourself dog wash facilities are a convenient way to get your best friend clean. They have tubs specifically designed for dogs, a fastener or lead available to keep your dog in place, and hand-held shower heads to easily wash and rinse your dog.

If you opt for the in-home option, remember to keep the bathroom door shut, and to have all the bathing products nearby (that’s towels, pet shampoo, combs, etc.). Secure your dog with either a lead or keep one hand firmly placed on their back/neck to keep them still. You don’t want them getting hurt by slipping or jumping out! Wash and rinse them from the neck down, only using a wash cloth to wipe their face and sensitive eyes. Remember to thoroughly wash the shampoo since excess residue can cause hot spots on your dog’s skin. Use a fluffy towel to dry them off and don’t be surprised when your dog shakes off excess water. If your dog is tolerant, use a blow dryer on a low, cool setting to minimize drying out their skin.

When bathing a cat, it’s easier to do so in a sink. Cats are usually meticulous about keeping their fur clean, but kittens and senior cats, those with long hair, and for cat owners with allergies, it may be necessary to bathe cats every month. Note that bathing a cat will likely require two people, but if you’re confident, using one hand to gently restrain your cat and the other to wash can work. Use a hand-held dish sprayer attachment otherwise going solo will be too difficult. Be sure all of the shampoo was removed so they don’t ingest it while grooming themselves. A towel should be sufficient when drying them.

Ear Care
Your dog’s ears can be a haven for bacteria and yeast if not kept clean. Dogs with floppy ears or long hair are often predisposed to having ear problems simply because the ear canal doesn’t have much air exposure. By nature, cats are expert groomers, but even cats can use our help in keeping their ears clean. Regular cleaning with an ear solution (ask your veterinarian for a recommendation) and cotton swab is an easy way to maintain healthy ears.

If your pet’s ears are red, swollen, have an unpleasant odor or they’re shaking or scratching at their ears, bring them in for a vet exam. These symptoms could be signs of allergies, mites or an infection.

Nail Clipping
Most dogs need their nails clipped every other week to every month, depending on rate of nail growth and whether or not they run on hard surfaces. A dog’s toenail is made up of the nail itself and the quick (the pink part of the nail that supplies blood to the nail). If you’re nervous about attempting a trim yourself or your dog is not comfortable with his paws being handled, ask your veterinarian or a groomer to show you how to trim your dog’s toenails to the right length. When clipping, go slow using the correct tools – either a guillotine or scissor type trimmer or use a grinder/file-like tool. Trim only a small part of the nail at a time to prevent cutting the quick. If your dog bleeds, use styptic powder or cornstarch to clot the blood – and always have it ready! Know that if your dog has a negative experience with nail clipping, cooperation is unlikely in the future.

Trimming a cat’s claws every few weeks is an important part of maintaining your pet’s health and protects him, you, your family and visitors as well as the sofa, curtains and other furniture.

The quick is usually visible in most cat claws, making clipping a little easier. Using cat clippers or human clippers with a sharp blade grasp the cat’s paw and clip just above the hook or curl of the claw – avoiding the quick. If you aren’t able to trim all 10 nails at once, don’t worry. Few cats remain patient for more than a few minutes, so take what you can get, praise your pet for cooperating, and then be on the lookout for the next opportunity!

Dental Care
Periodontal disease, or tooth and gum disease, is one of the most prevalent health disorders in dogs and cats. Studies have shown that most canines show some signs of this disease by 3 years of age.

If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to secondary disease conditions that can seriously threaten the health of affected pets. Bacteria can gain entrance into the bloodstream by way of the teeth and gums, seeding the body with infection. In advanced cases, these bacteria can overwhelm the immune system, leading to eventual heart and kidney failure.

Take preventative action, or look for the following systems in order to treat a pet that you might suspect already has oral hygiene issues:

Signs your pet has dental disease:
-Bad breath
-Tender, swollen gums
-Change in eating patterns
-Pawing at face

Look in the mouth for: yellow/brown tartar build up, reddened gums, broken/missing teeth.

As always, it’s recommended that you:
-Visit your veterinarian for a complete checkup and dental evaluation
-Start a pet dental care routine at home
-Perform routine in-home dental care in between veterinary checkups (ie. gentle teeth and gum brushing)
-Providing your pet with dental treats such as Greenies or rawhide sticks can also reduce the build- up of bacteria

If you’re still looking for a pet friend of your own, meet this week’s pet of the week: Nova Girl.

Listen to KIRO Radio’s “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs every Sunday at 1 p.m. for more tips from the Seattle Humane Society. Subscribe to the podcast to get all the info on caring for your pets.

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