There are few things that make a veterinarian happier than walking into an exam room to see a pet that's squeaky clean and perfectly groomed.
That’s because it’s a sign of a pet owner who’s paying attention to all aspects of preventive pet care and overall comfort.
How important is grooming to your pet’s comfort? Consider a simple mat, so easy to overlook.
Have you ever had your hair in a ponytail that was just a little too tight? A mat can feel the same way to your dog – a constant pull on the skin.
Try to imagine those all over your body and you have a good idea how uncomfortable an ungroomed coat can be.
Your dog need never know what a mat feels like if you keep it brushed and combed – but that’s just the start of the health benefits. Regular grooming allows you to look for lumps, bumps and injuries, while clearing such things as tangles and ticks from its coat.
Follow up with your veterinarian on any questionable masses you find and you may detect cancer early enough to save your pet’s life.
For shorthaired breeds, keeping skin and coat in good shape is easy. Run your hands over the dog daily, a brush it weekly – and that’s it.
For other breeds, grooming is a little more involved. Breeds such as collies, chows, keeshonden and Alaskan malamutes are “double-coated,” which means they have a downy undercoat underneath harsher long hair. The down can mat like a layer of felt against the skin if left untended.
To prevent this, divide the coat into small sections and brush against the grain from the skin outward, working from head to tail, section by section.
A tip: Yes, you can keep these long-haired dogs clipped short to keep grooming easier – and you’ll be rewarded with a dog that sheds the least of all, owing to the longer grow-and-shed cycle of long hair.
Silky-coated dogs such as Afghan hounds, cockers and Maltese also need constant brushing to keep tangles from forming. As with the double-coated dogs, work with small sections at a time, brushing from the skin outward, and then comb back into place with the grain for a glossy, finished look. Coats of this type require so much attention that having a groomer keep the dogs trimmed to a medium length is often more practical.
Curly and wiry coats, such as those on poodles and terriers, need to be brushed weekly, working against the grain and then with it. Curly coats need to be clipped every six weeks; wiry ones, two or three times a year. (But clipping every six weeks will keep your terrier looking sharper.)
A good professional groomer, along with your veterinarian, can be a dog’s best friend.
Good grooming is about more than keeping your pet looking beautiful and smelling clean, although those are certainly pleasant payoffs. Regular grooming relaxes the dog that’s used to it, and it becomes a special time shared between you both. A coat free of mats, burrs and tangles, and skin free of fleas and ticks, are as comfortable to your dog as clean clothes fresh from the wash are to you. It just makes you feel good; the effect is the same for your pet.
Some added benefit for you: Giving your dog a tummy rub after every session is sure to relax you (and your dog, of course) and ease the stress of your day.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are the authors of many best-selling pet care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.