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Cat & Dog Grooming
At what point does fluffy become scruffy? Most breeds of cats and dogs have particular styles that are considered to be their signature look, but what’s right also comes down to the owner’s preference and the pet’s lifestyle. For your reference breeder club websites will have grooming guides for each breed, and your veterinarian or veterinary technologist can offer more information about grooming safety along with any unique concerns that may apply to your pet.
The earlier you introduce your pets to grooming, and the more often you groom them, the more comfortable they’ll be with the process. Of course, some pets may be too young for grooming, so it’s best to consult with your veterinarian or veterinary technologist to know the best time to start grooming.
Regular grooming is more than haircuts and nail trimmings. It also includes regular hygiene and general cleanliness. Brushing and/or combing your pet’s coat regularly is the most important grooming step. When you brush your pet daily you prevent matted fur as well as finding bumps or rashes early. Keeping your pet well-groomed can help you to spot signs of illness early and prevent illness and infection by maintaining cleanliness. Ideally, you’ll want to bath your dog once a month however in dry Alberta winters that may be too frequent. Cats are a whole other phenomenon. Some cats love water but most absolutely do not. Most cats do an amazing job in grooming themselves and don’t need to be bathed. In fact, an ‘unkempt’ coat may indicate a sick cat. Some long haired cats need help to avoid matting, and certainly it is a good idea to get kittens used to being brushed or combed in case they need help as they get older.
If your pet is itchy after a bath try using a hypoallergenic non-perfumed shampoo and assure you have rinsed all the soap out. Just be sure not to get water in their ears when washing, as water left in the ear canal can lead to infection. Alternatively, bath less frequently to prevent dry itchy skin.
If your pet’s fur does become matted, try teasing the matt apart before bathing. If the matt is too dense to pull apart with your fingers, then electric clippers can be used. Start at the side of the matt and slowly pull it up and away from the skin. Using scissors to remove a matt is very dangerous because the matt is usually right down to the skin. You can imagine how uncomfortable matted fur is, as well as leading to skin infections below, so prevention is key!
Most often you’ll be trimming your pet’s hair with electric clippers, which can make the whole experience much easier than it is with standard scissors, but they do come with their own set of considerations.
Electric clippers can also heat up when turned on for extended periods of time. Dogs and cats have sensitive skin, so this heat may feel more painful to your pet than it does to you. Make sure to frequently check the temperature of your clippers and let them cool down if needed.
Some pets also have sensitive skin, and if the razor is not in good condition or not held flat parallel to the skin, clipper irritation can occur. As you are clipping, pull the skin taut and flat to avoid clipper irritation.
For some pets, the volume of electric clippers can also be upsetting. For these pets, consider using standard scissors instead to provide an easier experience for both you and your pet. Keep your pet calm and relaxed will also make the haircut safe by reducing the risk of cuts.
When trimming take note of the direction your pet’s hair grows in. Cut or trim along the direction of their hair growth to make the experience more comfortable for them while at the same time producing a more professional looking haircut.
One important routine that some squeamish pet owners met shy away from is expressing your dog or cat’s anal glands. These glands produce the "calling card' scent that is unique to every cat or dog, and are the reason for their social sniffing in that region. The anal glands are located at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock relative to the anus. Anal gland expression is not necessary for all pets though, so please ask your veterinarian if your pet could benefit from it.
Trimming your dog or cat's nails should also be performed regularly. This will reduce scratching, protect your floors, and prevent pain in the toes. Be mindful not to cut the nails too short though because a sensitive nerve runs into the toenail, which is painful if cut too short. If you accidentally trim a toe nail too short and it bleeds, and you don’t have a cautery stick, apply a small amount of flour to the bleeding nail and apply direct pressure for 5 minutes (no peeking).
Earlier we said that cats don’t require baths. If you, family or friends have allergies to pets, then regular bathing of your pet can help as people are usually allergic to pet dander (dead skin cells, etc.), and bathing removes dander. Get kittens and puppies used to being handled, especially their ears, teeth, and nails, so that grooming will go as smoothly as possible throughout their life.
When bathing your pet, to make it easier to rinse out all the soap, mix pet shampoo ½ and ½ with warm water. You will still get lots of suds but the dilution before putting it on the pet really helps with the rinsing process.