In my book, 8 Weeks to a Healthy Dog, I list “grooming” as one of the steps necessary to have a healthy pet. It’s an overlooked but vitally important part of pet care for several reasons. First, any time spent with your pet increases the bond the two of you share, which is important for both you and your pets mental, physical, and emotional health. Second, regular grooming can prevent problems such as matting of the hair and overgrown nails. Third, regular grooming can actually uncover problems such as skin infections, skin tumors, ear infections, and dental disease. In this article, I’ll share with you some of the things you can do at home to properly groom your canine companion.
Regularly bathing your dog will remove dead hair and skin cells, improve the natural luster of your pet’s hair, and reduce its allergies as well as your own! Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that pets cannot be bathed frequently. While it is true that many chemical-based shampoos can be harsh on your pet’s skin and hair, using an organic shampoo such as Dr. Shawn’s Organic All-in-One shampoo, which is designed for frequent and even daily use, is safe and effective. I recommend pets without skin disease be bathed at least weekly (or more frequently if needed) and pets with skin diseases such as allergies or skin infections be bathed every 24 to 48 hours with this organic shampoo. Regular bathing will decrease problems with your pet’s skin.
It’s amazing how many dogs don’t like having their nails trimmed, despite the fact that having properly trimmed nails is extremely important in helping the dog walk normally. I recommend that all puppies have their feet handled frequently and nails trimmed as needed in order to get them comfortable with this procedure. If you have an older dog who does not like having his nails trimmed, your veterinarian can show you how to properly perform the procedure with minimal stress to your pet. Overgrown nails cause pain and lameness for dogs. This can easily be prevented with regular trimming of the nails. And because dewclaws are unnecessary and can easily overgrow, I recommend having them removed during the spaying or neutering procedure when your pet is a puppy.
Next to skin disease, ear infections are frequently seen in dogs. The most common cause is undiagnosed and improperly treated environmental allergies. Regular ear cleaning with organic ear drops (such as Dr. Shawn’s Organic Ear Wash) several times per week and even daily if needed will greatly reduce ear infections in your dog. Simply putting a few drops of the organic ear wash in your dog’s ear and gently massaging the ear is all that is needed in most cases.
Brushing Your Pet
Regular brushing removes dead hair and prevents matting of the hair. Brushing also can restore luster to a dry coat. Finally, brushing can uncover tumors, warts, and skin lesions that may not be apparent simply by looking at your pet.
Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth
Periodontal disease is the leading infectious disease in dogs of all ages. Most dogs do not mind having their teeth brushed, especially if you start this procedure when they are puppies. Using a soft gentle toothbrush and a dental product approved for dogs will decrease plaque and harder, reducing the number of times your pet requires a professional dental scaling at the doctor’s office. In general, I recommend brushing your pet’s teeth every day if possible or at least several times per week. Having your pet’s teeth cleaned professionally at the doctor’s office will remove infected tartar that brushing can’t remove, allow a thorough inspection of your pet’s mouth to check for oral cancer, and will allow identification of any specific problems with your pet’s teeth and gums that may require additional treatment. “Anesthesia-free” dental care is not the same as a professional dental treatment than a doctor’s office under anesthesia, and should never replace a proper dental cleaning done by a trained veterinarian.
While it’s easy to overlook your pet’s grooming needs, most pets enjoy having these procedures done. Additionally, regular grooming not only increases the bond between you and your dog but also allows you to thoroughly examine your pet and uncover any hidden medical problems. On more than one occasion I’ve had an owner find a problem during routine grooming at once properly treated, literally saved the pet’s life. Your veterinarian can help you learn to properly and gently perform any of these procedures on your pet.