Grooming your pet isn’t just about aesthetics (although it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a good looking pooch). When you regularly groom your dog, it gives you an opportunity to assess their overall health and well-being.
If you neglect to follow a regular at-home grooming schedule, you could miss the early signs of skin disease, tooth decay, and more.
So, grab those nail clippers and toothbrushes—it’s time to give your pooch a well-deserved spa day. Here are the top 5 grooming practices you should conduct at home, and why they are essential for the overall health of your dog.
Brushing and Coat Maintenance
Most dogs should be brushed once or twice a week to maintain a healthy coat—however, this will vary depending on the length and thickness of your dog’s fur.
Why is a brushing routine so beneficial? The act of brushing distributes your pup’s natural oils, thereby protecting their fur and skin from drying out. This time with your pet can also alert you to any skin conditions, fleas, or mites that may be lingering below the surface—if you notice any lumps or irritated skin while brushing, immediately call your veterinarian.
Before you purchase a brush, it’s important to keep in mind that dog brushes are designed to perform different functions. Here’s what you can expect from different dog brushes on the market:
Rake combs are ideal for heavy shedding dogs with thick undercoats; think German Shepherds, Huskies and Golden Retrievers. These combs penetrate deep to remove dead skin, excess fur, and debris. Not only will this brush keep their coat healthy, but it also reduces the amount of fur they’ll leave behind on your furniture (thank goodness).
Pro tip: Heavy shedding dogs develop an extra thick undercoat in the winter season. You may need to brush more routinely during this time period to reduce excess shedding.
Slicker brushes are designed for detangling medium to long fur. This brush is essential for breeds such as Shih Tzus and Yorkshire Terriers, who have a tendency to become matted without routine brushing. A specialized de-matting comb may also be necessary if your dog has any stubborn tangles. Don’t forget to brush behind the ears, as this area has a tendency to become matted.
Grooming Gloves/Bristle Brush
If you have a dog with very short or fine hair, such as a Pitbull, Labrador Retriever, or Greyhound, you only need to brush every so often to release excess fur. Since they have such a short coat, grooming gloves or a basic soft bristled brush should do the trick to distribute those natural oils and keep their coat looking healthy.
Most dogs generally enjoy being brushed; as long as you brush gently and create a calming environment, your dog will likely look forward to this special grooming time. It’s good for them, and good for you too.
You may be surprised to learn that bathing your dog actually isn’t much of a necessity when it comes to at-home grooming—in fact, when we bathe our dogs, we’re mostly doing it for our own benefit, and not theirs.
So, how often should you bathe your dog at home? Most veterinarians recommend bathing no more than once a month, as excessive bathing can strip their natural oils and leave their skin dry and irritated. Unless your dog just got back from a romp in the mud or a dip in the lake, it’s safe to skip bath time until they’re noticeably dirty, oily, or smelly.
And you can skip the blow dry—allowing your dog to air dry is much safer, as the blow dryer will dry out their skin and potentially cause them to overheat. A good towel dry with a microfiber towel should do the trick.
Keep in mind, some dogs will need more or less bathing based on their health, coat length, and genetics, so consult your veterinarian on an at-home bathing routine for your breed. For example, hairless breeds or dogs with skin conditions will need regular bathing with medicated shampoo to stay healthy.
Pro tip: A thorough brushing before a bath is always a good idea. You’ll remove excess fur and debris, while distributing the natural oils that protect their coat, so their skin won’t dry out during bath time.
You’re not the only one who needs a regular trip to the nail salon; if you can hear your pet’s nails hitting the floor, then that means it’s time for a trim.
While it may be intimidating at first, you should trim your dog’s nails about every 3-4 weeks. If you don’t trim your dog’s nails regularly, their nails may split or become infected—not to mention, overgrown nails can easily snag on area rugs or furniture, leading to a painful situation for your dog.
Be sure to purchase a set of high-quality nail trimmers for your pet, and make sure you’re taking their size and age into account. If you use a small set of trimmers on a large dog, you won’t have enough force to get a clean cut. Always ensure you’re using the right size nail trimmer for your dog.
Before you begin, associate your dog with the nail clippers and get them used to you touching and handling their paws (if possible, it’s best to start this early while they are still a puppy). A calm animal is more likely to relax and allow you to clip without incident. Use lots of treats and praise!
When your dog is relaxed and ready to let you clip, you want to ensure that you’re not going too short—your dog has sensitive nerves and blood vessels in their nails, referred to as “the quick,” and trimming too close will cause pain and bleeding.
To avoid trimming too far, hold up your pet’s paw to ascertain where the quick begins (you can also use a flashlight if it’s difficult to see). As long as you trim below the blood vessel, your pet shouldn’t feel a thing. If you’re nervous about trimming too close, these clippers have a built-in quick sensor to guide you.
If your dog’s nails are already overgrown, you may want to break up the trimming session over a few weeks, trimming just a little at a time. Trimming too much all at once can be painful for your dog, and you want to make this experience as painless as possible.
Pro tip: Long walks and outdoor activities can also help to keep your dog’s nails worn down and healthy—maybe Roxy deserves that extra walk today!
Dogs rely heavily on their ears to understand the world around them—did you know they can detect ultrasonic sounds, and that their hearing is 4 times better than our own?
And yet, ear infections are one of the top reasons why dogs find themselves in the vet’s office. With a little bit of preventative care at home, you can avoid these painful infections and keep their ears healthy.
It’s important to note that some breeds are more at risk. Dogs with floppy ears are more likely to develop ear infections because the folds in their ear provide ample humidity for bacteria and yeast to grow; so, if you’re the owner of a floppy eared breed (we’re looking at you Basset Hounds) then you’ll want to make sure you have an ear care routine at home.
To keep your dog’s ears clean and healthy, you’ll want to gently wipe out the ears with a damp cotton ball or medicated ear wipes. It’s good to do this about once a month, or after any strenuous outdoor activity such as swimming.
During this time, make sure the ear looks pink and healthy, and that the ear is free of excess hair, wax, and debris. If you notice any of the following, you should schedule a trip to the veterinarian:
- Strong odor
- Redness, discoloration, or swelling
- Pus or discharge
- Excessive pawing or scratching at the ear
Pro tip: Much like with bathing, you don’t want to overdo your ear routine, as too much cleaning will do more harm than good. Your dog needs a thin protective layer of wax to keep their ears healthy.
Oral Care/Tooth Brushing
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention oral health, which is arguably one of the most important aspects of at-home pet care and grooming. Yes, your dog needs to have healthy gums and clean teeth just like you.
So, how do you maintain your dog’s oral health? Aside from regular dental check ups at the veterinarian, you should brush their teeth at home at least once per day. If you fail to do so, then your pet is at risk for developing gum disease, tooth loss, and more—which can shorten your dog’s lifespan by about 3-5 years.
To properly clean your dog’s teeth, you need to purchase toothpaste and toothbrushes specifically made for dogs. Our products are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, so you can rest assured that they are safe for your pooch. Focus on the gum line and areas where you notice plaque and tartar buildup.
If you have never brushed your dog’s teeth before, you may think “my dog will never sit still for that,” but with a little training and positive reinforcement, your dog will be sitting and staying in no time (also, our delicious flavors certainly help). If you’re looking for some training advice, be sure to check out our previous blog post on training your pet to get their teeth brushed.
And the best part? Our key ingredient Calprox ensures that your dog’s teeth will be cleaned even with minimal brushing—you can coat their teeth with a cotton swab, and their tongue will do the rest. You can even put a little toothpaste on their favorite chew to help keep their teeth clean.
Brushing your dog’s teeth every day is a simple and effective way to add healthy years onto their life—so be sure to load up on Petsmile before you go. Your dog (and your veterinarian) will thank you for it!