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Grooming and Hygiene Keeps Pets Healthier
From Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 8 November 2004 Issue

Grooming and Hygiene Keeps Pets Healthier
By Dr. Tracy Acosta

Proper hygiene and grooming have a number of benefits and are important aspects of your pet's overall health.

A pet that is groomed regularly is more likely to be comfortable being handled by a veterinarian, professional groomer and all who enjoy the pet's company.

Grooming is a great way to keep tabs on what is going on with your pet's body. By establishing a grooming routine early in your pet's life, you will quickly learn what is normal for your pet. Anything unusual will stand out, often allowing you to catch problems such as ear infections, skin disease, parasite infestations and tumors before they become serious.

Following these few concepts produces a lifelong trust between you and your pet and will allow you and others not only to perform routine grooming practices but also other procedures too.

Coat and skin care

Brushing is the foundation of good grooming. It loosens and removes dirt, dead hair, and skin cells, distributes the skin's natural oils through the coat; and prevents tangles in long-coated pets.

The type of brush you will use depends on your pet's coat. Be sure to brush down to the skin, not just over the surface of the coat.

The amount and frequency of brushing your pet will need depends on its hair coat and lifestyle. Consult your veterinarian or professional groomer on what is best for your particular pet.

Bathing

Use a shampoo that is specially formulated for pets. Their skin has a different pH level than ours, so a human shampoo (even human baby shampoo) will strip away beneficial skin oils. You'll find a wide array of pet shampoos available for everything from normal skin to oily skin to dry skin and other dermatological conditions. There are even shampoos that will brighten or deepen coat colors. Consult with your veterinarian and help your pet's skin/coat to be in optimum condition.

Thorough rinsing is a must to avoid your pet having dry, flaky skin, no matter what shampoo you use. A light conditioner may also be used, but again use a product that is designed for pets and rinse well. After that you can towel dry or blow dry your pet's coat, depending on the type of coat. Regardless, be sure to keep your pet from getting chilly after a bath.

Ear care

It is important to check and clean your pet's ears on a regular basis. Obviously, some pets will require more attention than others, such as those with long, floppy ears. Typically, pets whose ears stand erect have far fewer problems than those with floppy ears. Always clean and dry your pet's ears after bathing or swimming.

Again, it is imperative to use a product that is made for cleaning a pet's ears, since the ear canal and ear drum are very sensitive areas. So, it is preferable that you not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide as cleaning agents, because they can be too harsh.

Plucking hair from the ear canals of some dogs such as poodles and many terrier breeds is also a part of routine ear maintenance. Be sure that you or your groomer actually pluck the hair out since trimming it with scissors will not do the job.

Foot care

Most pet's nails grow quickly, so regular trimming is a must. Puppies and kittens especially have sharp, fast growing nails, so keep them trimmed regularly, both to accustom the pet to trimming and to prevent painful gouges in your skin.

Nail trimming often involves much howling on the part of the pet and flinching on the part of the owner. With care and early training, you can accomplish this task without trauma for either you or your pet.

Remember to clip only the tip of the nail; avoid clipping past the curve, or you risk hitting the quick, a blood vessel inside the nail. Being ``quicked'' is painful and will cause bleeding. If you cannot stand the fuss your pet puts up and if your budget allows, simply take your pet to your groomer or veterinarian to have the nail clipping done. You will both be happier.

Tooth care

Dental care is an aspect of grooming that many pet owners ignore, but it can pay off in fresh breath and better health. There is a large array of dental products for pets that includes everything from specially designed tooth brushes and toothpaste to easy-to-use oral rinses. Consult with your veterinarian on what is best for your pet's lifestyle.

Remember to end your pet's grooming session with a treat, so that your pet associates the process with at least a happy ending. Also, keep in mind that if you are a busy pet owner, you may simply find professional grooming more convenient.

Both the pet and the pet owner benefit in many ways by keeping grooming an important priority. The owners will enjoy being around a cleaner and happier pet while the pet's basic hygiene is maintained for better health. It is definitely a win-win situation for both.
 

Return to Animals in Print 8 November 2004 Issue

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