Grooming is important to your dogs health and happiness. Different breeds will have different grooming requirements however every pet owner should be able to do basic grooming at home. Regular grooming can help prevent skin disease, overgrown and broken nails and ear infections.
Skin and Coat
Thorough brushing is the most important part of good grooming. Getting your puppy used to being brushed will make this job easier when he/she is an adult dog. Be gentle and provide positive reassurance and rewards. It is a good idea to brush your dog on a regular basis to prevent matting and knots from forming. Prior to bathing, brush the coat first as tangles often worsen when the coat is wet. When bathing your puppy be sure to use warm water and a gentle hypoallergenic shampoo. The Animal Hospital carries shampoos that are appropriate for puppies as well as dogs with sensitive skin or allergies. Wet your pets fur prior to applying the shampoo. Try to avoid getting water and shampoo in your pets eyes and ears. Dilute the shampoo with an equal volume of warm water prior to applying it to the puppy, gently work it into a lather and be sure to rinse all the shampoo thoroughly. Dry your puppy well and keep him/her indoors until completely dry to prevent him/her from becoming chilled. Grooming is a great bonding time and will decrease shedding, help remove dirt and debris, help distribute natural oils and leave a nice, shiny coat.
It is a good idea to get your puppy used to having their ears touched and cleaned at an early age. In breeds prone to ear infections this is especially important. Start by carefully looking at the outside and inside of the ear. Reward your pet for allowing this. The inner ear should be light pink or grey-white in color with no odor or excessive wax or debris. Talk to your veterinarian about an appropriate ear cleaner for your pet. Never use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide as these can be harsh and irritating to the sensitive skin of the ears. Use a clean cotton ball, piece of gauze or makeup pad to and appropriate ear cleaning solution to wipe out the ears. Do not use Q-tips to clean your pets ears as they could puncture the ear drum or become stuck in the ear canal. If your pet is prone to ear infections we would be happy to teach you how to clean your dogs ears and discuss the frequency of cleaning and recommend a cleaning solution for your pet.
Many dogs do not like having their nails trimmed even though it is an important part of their care. Overgrown nails can become ingrown or broken leading to unnecessary pain for your pet. To prepare your puppy for nail trimming start by getting him used to having his toes touched and held. Reward him for sitting quietly while allowing you to do this. Invest in a good quality pair of nail trimmers. For most dogs the Roscoe guillotine type of nail trimmer works well. Have lots of treats ready for rewards and get your puppy used to the noise of the trimmer first, while holding his paw. In dogs with white toenails look for the pink color to determine where the quick is. Avoid cutting into the quick as it will bleed and be uncomfortable for your dog. Take one paw in your hand, hold the nail clippers at the nail tip and cut the thinner tip at the end of the nail. You are just cutting the narrow tip that extends below the bottom of the pad. Remember the dewclaws (nails on the inner surface of the front or hind paws). These nails may need more frequent trimming as they do not wear down on walks. Trim only a couple of nails on the first day and reward your puppy for allowing this. Spend time daily on nail care until your dog is relaxed and cooperative about allowing nail trims. If your dogs nails are black or if you are nervous about trimming nails, we are happy to teach you how during one of your visits to the hospital.
Oral hygiene is one of the most important aspects of pet health care. The same conditions that lead to our tooth and gum problems also occur in your pet's mouth. Cavities are not common in dogs, but diets high in carbohydrates can contribute to their formation. Periodontal disease causes pain and discomfort. It also puts your pet at risk for other problems, including lung, heart, kidney, and joint infections. This occurs because bacteria can get into the bloodstream and become widely distributed throughout the body. Just like humans, dogs will have two sets of teeth during their lives. A puppy's first set of teeth is replaced by the permanent teeth at about three months of age. They will continue to grow until the puppy is about six months of age. As the permanent teeth erupt they should remove or push out the puppy teeth. Two teeth should never be in one spot. If you notice this occurring, you should consult your veterinarian and have the puppy tooth extracted immediately to prevent the adult tooth from settling in the wrong position. Do not give your dog a bone or cow hoof to chew on. These often cause tooth fractures that require root canals or extractions. Rubber chew toys or rawhide dental chews are preferable. They are available at many veterinary clinics, and at most pet supply stores. You should start brushing your dog's teeth daily when it is three to four months of age. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and try to make brushing an fun experience. It takes an average of two months for your pet to get used to having its teeth brushed, but the health rewards (reduced risk of gingivitis, tooth loss and infection of internal organs) are well worth it. There are good toothpastes and toothbrushes specially designed for pets. Consult your veterinarian for the one best suited to your dog. Human toothpastes, salt, and baking soda should not be used. The foaming action of human toothpaste is irritating and the amount of fluoride human toothpastes contain may be toxic if swallowed.