by Jean Hofve, DVM
While grooming “how-to” information is widely available, what seems to be
missing is the “why-to.” Shifting the focus from simple grooming techniques to
the real value of grooming your pet can help you get and stay motivated to give
your pet’s grooming and hygiene needs the attention they deserve. Staying on top
of those needs will help pets live happier, longer, healthier lives.
Dental disease is the most common problem seen by veterinarians; about 80% of
dogs and cats have some degree of dental problems by the age of three. The
infections that bacteria can cause in pets’ (and humans’) mouths are known to
cause heart disease, kidney damage, and liver problems, and they can even make
inflammatory problems like arthritis worse.
Many myths abound about cats’ and dogs’ need for dental care, and one of the
most common is the idea that dry food keeps pets’ teeth clean. This isn't true,
and never was. Many pets, especially cats, swallow dry food whole. Even when
they do chew it, the kibbles shatter, so contact between the kibble and the
teeth occurs only at the tips of the teeth. This is certainly not enough to make
a difference in the formation of tartar and plaque, which most commonly builds
up along (and underneath) the gum line at the base of the teeth. This causes the
gums to become inflamed (gingivitis). Left untreated, bacteria can erode the
connection between bone and teeth, and cause serious decay.
Keeping your cat's (or dog's) teeth and gums healthy requires a commitment on
your part. Special "tartar control" diets and treats are not enough. Bacteria
are always present in the mouth, and within hours of a professional cleaning,
they are already hard at work creating plaque, a sticky deposit on the teeth. In
24 hours, the plaque starts to harden into tartar (or more accurately,
calculus). Daily tooth brushing and regular veterinary checkups are essential.
But don't use human toothpaste; get a
toothbrush and paste designed for pets.
Your vet can give you instructions on how to brush, along with tips for getting
pets to accept the treatment.
There are also
dental products that have been developed to help combat plaque
build-up in pets’ mouths. However, without daily brushing, your pet will
probably need more dental care from your vet. Please view all of our dental care products.
Please visit our Holistic Healthcare Library to learn more about dental health
Longhaired cats are more prone to hairballs, and often become matted,
especially behind the ears and around the tummy and hind end. Longhaired dogs
are also victims of matting. Mats start out as small tangles but can rapidly
grow to monumental proportions; and as they do, they tighten up and pull on the
skin. This is uncomfortable because it pulls when the animal moves, and can't
feel too good when they lay down. Even worse, mats can eventually tear the skin,
causing an open wound that may become infected. In extreme cases, the wound will
attract flies, which lay their eggs there, which hatch into maggots.
It's not a good idea to try removing mats with scissors--it's very easy to
accidentally cut the skin. Serious mats should be removed with grooming
clippers, a task best left to professionals like groomers or vet assistants. But
preventing mats by regular inspection and combing is really the best way to go!
Shorter haired breeds also benefit from regular brushing (as does our
furniture!), and it gives each pet parent the opportunity to keep a good eye on
their cat’s or dog’s state of overall health. Many subtle health issues can be
caught early by vigilant guardians who groom their pets regularly; such as
fleas, ticks, and abnormal lumps or bumps on or under the skin. Good
tools will make the job easier!
Dogs and cats need regular manicures--but don't worry, it's a much easier
process than it is for us humans! You just have to take a look every week or so,
and trim where needed.
It's important to provide a suitable scratching surface, such as a horizontal
cardboard scratcher or sturdy vertical
If you don't, your cat will pick a surface for itself…such as an expensive rug
or your favorite chair. Nearly all cats can easily be trained to use the object
of your choice. For those who are more persistent in their unwanted behavior,
one of the other many alternatives, such as
Soft Claws Nail Caps, furniture protection like
Sticky Paws will do the trick.
Unfortunately, some people still take the lazy way out by declawing their
cats. They don't understand that "declawing" is actually amputation of 1/3 of
the cats' paws. To prevent nail regrowth, it is necessary to amputate each toe
at the last joint because (unlike humans) the claw grows directly from the bone.
Declawing is extremely painful, and is considered cruel in most civilized
nations. Medical complications are common, and long-term chronic pain affects
many cats. In addition, one in three guardians will discover too late that
declawing causes even more serious behavior problems, such as aggression and
biting, or failing to use the litter box. Common sense, and a little time and
effort, will resolve scratching problems and avoid a needless and inhumane
If you are willing to do the nail clipping yourself, you’ll need a
and good instructions on how to clip without hurting your pet. Your
vet’s staff should be able to show you how to do this. If you’re not comfortable
with the procedure, let a professional take care of this important grooming need
at least every 4 weeks.
If your cat gets into something yucky, like oil, antifreeze, trash, tree sap,
or paint, don't let her groom it off herself; use a
non-toxic pet wipe to
prevent her from ingesting potentially dangerous chemicals.
Dogs, of course, can get into similar problems, and are also frequent victims
of skunks and porcupines. If you're in an area known for skunks, you might want
to keep a special cleaner on hand, such as
Clean + Green De-Skunk Coat Cleaner & Odor Eliminator for Dogs.
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid walking your dog on dirty wet streets or
through road salt or other chemical de-icing products on sidewalks and other
paved areas. In addition to using grooming wipes for dogs’ paws, using a good
paw balm can protect them from ice and help reduce absorption of toxic residue
when used before outdoor outings.
One thing to remember: be careful when swabbing the ears. You can go too deep
and rupture the ear drum. Have your vet or tech show you how to clean the ears
safely and effectively.
Cats rarely need baths, but dogs more often do. If a bath is needed, never
use human products on pets. There are important differences between our skin and
that of our pets (different glands, to name just one) Many products that are
safe for human skin can be quite irritating to our pets. Many quality
bath products for pets like shampoos,
grooming sprays and
are available, so be sure you get one that’s just made for pets if you bathe or
use clean-up products on your pet at home. Be sure to rinse thoroughly; any
residue can be irritating. As well, chlorine and other processing chemicals in
tap water may be drying, especially when pets are exposed more often than
necessary. In general, cats don’t need bathing, and dogs don’t need it more than
every 1-2 months. However, they may be bathed more frequently if fleas, certain
skin conditions, or allergies are a problem. Your vet can advise you on products
Don’t overlook the benefits of a professional groomer. Some breeds have skin
and coat requirements that are better handled by a qualified groomer. A groomer
who sees your pet regularly may be the first to notice a cyst, lump, or other
potential problem. Even though a groomer’s services cost more, the savings in
time and stress may be well worth it!
If you’re looking for more
great information on pet health care topics touched upon in this article, please
use the links below to explore these topics in more detail through these
articles from our Holistic Healthcare Library.
Click links below to check out other articles that may be of interest:
Chronic Ear Infections
Ask the Vet: Fungal Infection on Paws
Treating Eye & Ear Disorders Holistically
Ask the Vet: Chronic Anal Gland Problems
When Is It Time to See the Vet?
Ask the Vet: Food Allergies & Diarrhea
Bath Anxiety in Dogs
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The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for
informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product.
The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian.
Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff,
guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care
© 2013 Only Natural Pet Store LLC - All Rights Reserved
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