Grooming you can (and should) do on your own vs.
What you should leave to a professional groomer
The grooming needs of pets vary widely from not much needed to very complex and high maintenance depending on several factors. Species, breed, climate, temperament, behavior, heath condition, age, etc. all factor in to how much work is required on your end. If you've got a young and rambunctious lab that runs 4 miles a day on concrete and goes swimming a lot, you may only need to worry about the occasional brushing and ear cleaning. However, if you've got a 14 year old overweight Persian cat, you've got a lot more work ahead for yourself.
It's always best to keep in mind that even if it doesn't seem like your pet needs grooming now, they most likely will in their senior years. It's best if they are used to it from the beginning so it doesn't become a stressful requirement in their later years. Getting an animal comfortable with being touched not only makes them a more enjoyable pet but it also helps out your veterinarian and groomer greatly (and we appreciate it!).
Although the grooming needs vary between pets, in general all pets should be regularly groomed either professionally or by you, their owner. Grooming your pet not only keeps them fresh and clean, but it is also a great way to keep track of their health. Your pet will likely be the recipient of more attention (who REALLY wants to pet a dirty animal?), and they won't be carrying around things like mites, fleas & ticks. If you groom your pet frequently, you will be very familiar with their body and what is "normal" for them. It will be much easier for you to notice and track anything physical going on with your pet. You can monitor any changes you find relatively easily. Are the ears dirtier than usual, the eyes goopy, or the skin flaky, is their breath unusually stinky? If you have a regular groomer, they often note these and other things like lumps and bums and will be easily able to tell you if something new or concerning pops up. Catching things like lumps at an early stage can significantly help with the success of treatment. Not only will you be benefiting from the cleanliness of your pet, but they (and their humans) will be healthier for it.
Grooming needs of dogs you can do your self.
Bathing. The frequency at which dogs should be bathed really depends on how dirty they like to get. Most dogs need to be cleaned approximately every 6-8 weeks. Dogs can be bathed as often as weekly as long as you use a gentle shampoo such as the Cloudstar Pet Buddy Wash.
Brushing. Generally a dog will re-grow their coat about every 6 weeks. The type of brush needed to groom your pet varies depending on their coat, as does how frequently they will need to be brushed. Longer, double or curly coats will need more attention than a flat or single short coat. As a general rule of thumb, use these guidelines:
Ear Cleaning. Dogs should also have their ears periodically cleaned with a general ear cleaner such as the Only Natural Pet Ear Care with Tea Tree Oil.
Dental Hygiene. This is a very important and often overlooked part of grooming. Bad teeth and gums can have a very negative and often initially hidden effect on the over all health of your pet. Over time the bacteria associated with gingivitis can have detrimental effects on the blood system effecting the heart, liver and kidneys. In addition, no one wants to snuggle up to a dog with a mouth that smells like a garbage can. Teeth can become loose, broken or abscessed and that is not only costly to take care of, but it is extremely uncomfortable for your dog. This can even lead to anorexia, which many unaware pet owners might just presume is a "picky eater". Bad breath or red and inflamed gums are the first sign of a problem, which are followed by dark plaque & tartar build-up. The easiest way to keep you dogs teeth clean is to give them Raw Meaty Bones to chew on. Prevention is the best option here. However, a great addition to the routine is an oral care spray. If your pet does need to have tartar and plaque scraped from the teeth, look for "anesthesia-free dental cleaning" if available in your area.
"Grooming your pet not only keeps them fresh and clean, but it is also a great way to keep track of their health."
Grooming needs of dogs you should leave to the professionals:
Hair Cut. In general, trimming a dogs coat should be left to the professionals. It's more complicated than it looks, and unless you want to be known around the neighborhood as the owner of the "home-made hair cut dog" you should probably not attempt it on your own.
Mats. should never be removed with scissors, it's very dangerous and you can cut your dog very easily. In general if your pet is matted, they should see a groomer. Mats generally appear in areas like behind the ears, arm pits, and rear ends; places where skin folds are easily hidden & dogs making sudden and unexpected movements can cause an injury even if you are being extremely careful. If you catch mats early in their development you may be able to brush them out, but at some point they become so tight they will need to be shaved off. Do not bath a matted dog, water makes the situation worse, not better.
Undercoat Removal. This can be a big and tedious job. If you've got the time, patience and correct tools you can do it on your own. However, most prefer to leave this to the professionals to be sure you get a great job done, plus you don't have to deal with cleaning up the mess!
Anal Glands. Simply put, it's a pretty unpleasant job. If your dog starts the carpet scoot they may need to have their anal glands expressed. A groomer can tell you if there appears to be a problem and refer you to the vet if needed. In general, this is typically more of a problem for smaller dogs and dogs with extremely short cropped tails. However, dogs with digestive issues or chronically soft stools may need assistance with their anal glands periodically as well.
Toe Nail Trim. Some pet parents are comfortable trimming their dog's nails, but most are not. This is sometimes best left to the professionals, especially if either party is nervous about the situation. Even if your dog doesn't need them trimmed now, you should "practice" with them so they are used to having it done for when they are older.
Grooming needs of cats you can do yourself:
Brushing. Cats do a pretty good job of taking care of themselves. However, as they get older their need for help from you may increase. Long haired cats should be brushed on at least a weekly basis and more often if they can't do much for themselves. It's important to remove the shedding fur so they don't get matted up and so they are not ingesting a large amount of fur that can contribute to hairballs and other digestive issues. Short haired cats generally need less brushing as they don't mat up quite as easily. However older cats and larger cats that have a hard time reaching all areas of their body will need regular assistance with this. The best tool to use on your cat is a Cat Comb.
Toe Nail Trim. In addition to brushing, it is a good idea to keep your cats toe nails trimmed. Aside from just being a good hygiene practice, this can also help with scratching issues. Senior cats often get lazy with the upkeep on their nails and can eventually start getting their claws stuck in carpet or draperies if it is not addressed. You can trim your cat's nails with a simple nail trimmer.
Bathing. Cats should be bathed infrequently and really only need it once or twice a year at the most unless they get into something that gets them extra dirty. For the most part they don't exactly appreciate water, but the younger they are when you start the more tolerant they become of the process.
Ear Cleaning. Cats should also have their ears periodically cleaned with a general ear cleaner.
Dental Hygiene. This is a very important and often overlooked part of grooming. Bad teeth and gums can have a very negative and often initially hidden effect on the over all health of your pet. Over time the bacteria associated with gingivitis can have detrimental effects on the blood system effecting the heart, liver and kidneys. In addition, no one wants to snuggle up to a cat with a mouth that smells like a garbage can. Teeth can become loose, broken or abscessed and that is not only costly to take care of, but it is extremely uncomfortable for your cat. This can even lead to anorexia (which can be detrimental for a cat), which many unaware pet owners might just presume is a "picky eater". Bad breath or red and inflamed gums are the first sign of a problem, which are followed by dark plaque & tartar build-up. The easiest way to keep you cats teeth clean is to give them Raw Poultry Necks to chew on. However, some cats aren't interested in these so a great alternative is an oral gel or liquid. If your pet does need to have tartar and plaque scraped from the teeth, look for "anesthesia-free dental cleaning" if available in your area.
Grooming needs of cats you should leave to the professionals:
Mat Removal. There are some things that should always be left to a professional. If your cat is matted, you should never try to remove the mats yourself, and you should especially never attempt this with scissors. Cats have very thin skin and it is extremely easy to accidentally cut them and turn a small problem into a very big problem needing immediate medical attention. If your cat is matted this is a painful and unhealthy state to leave them in and you should have a groomer remove the mats immediately.
Anal Glands. Simply put, it's a pretty unpleasant job. If your cat starts the carpet scoot they may need to have their anal glands expressed. A groomer can tell you if there appears to be a problem and refer you to the vet if needed. Older cats or cats with digestive problems will need more assistance with this than a young and healthy animal.
Stickers, Burs, Oily, Gummy or Other Substances. If your cat gets into something it shouldn't and needs more than just a regular bath, you should seek the help of a professional.
For the most part, a pet parent should be able to handle the basic grooming tasks listed above. However if you have a difficult or special needs pet or just plain don't want to do it, just call a groomer and they can take care of it for you!
Deanne Stowers is the proud owner of Persnickety Pet Grooming a mobile pet grooming service operating in the Boulder area. She has been grooming for over 7 years and has been operating the mobile business for 2 years.
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