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The Art of Pet Grooming

Based on an article that first appeared at

Drowning in dog hair? Coughing up cat fur? You’re not alone! Pet grooming is important, especially now that spring is coming, and our furry friends leave more and more bits of themselves everywhere they go. It’s up to us as responsible pet owners to keep them clean, well-groomed and free of troublesome mats and tangles. Of course, that can be easier said than done – especially if you have a fluffy cat or dog (or one who particularly adores mud puddles).

Max came to see our groomers – he looks like a new dog with his spiffy new haircut! Plus, he doesn’t have any more hair in his eyes. When it comes to pet grooming, it’s true that some dogs and cats require more attention than others, but no matter what kind of coat your furry friend has, he can benefit from grooming attention. In general, longer-haired and medium-haired pets benefit from daily brushing and periodic haircuts. Shorter haired pets can be brushed once a week. Regular baths are important for all dogs, but a healthy cat may take care of that chore all on her own! It’s important to get your pet used to baths, brushing and haircuts at an early age so it’s easier to do later. But even pets that weren’t trained young can be taught to accept grooming if you go slowly and make it a positive experience for them (treats help).

While you may be less concerned with keeping your pet “pretty,” there are some important health reasons why pet grooming is a necessity. In general, brushing stimulates your pet’s skin to produce helpful oils and it improves muscle tone. Brushing your longer-haired pets, of course, is necessary to keep their hair free of tangles and mats. In addition to being really uncomfortable, mats allow dirt and oil to accumulate underneath so bacteria can grow, leading to sometimes serious skin infections. Shorter-haired pets don’t get mats and tangles, but they benefit from regular brushing, nonetheless. For them, brushing helps keep their skin and coats in good shape, eliminates loose hair, and allows you to spot any problems (lumps or bumps on the skin, problems with the ears or eyes, etc) before they become serious. Fluffy gets brushed regularly, but sometimes even that isn’t enough and he needs a haircut. He gets a “lion cut” that leaves his head, ankles and tail fluffy and shaves down the rest.

Sometimes brushing alone won’t take care of everything, and a haircut is in order. If your pet has gotten mats, he may need to be shaved or the mat cut out of his fur. Additionally, it’s important to your pet’s visual health to keep the hair surrounding his eyes short. (You don’t like it when hair pokes in your eyes, do you? Some dog breeds need their hair cut every 6-8 weeks to look and feel their best. Talk to your groomer or veterinarian to determine the right frequency for your pet.

What’s a good haircut without a wash to go with it, though? While dogs don’t need to bathe as often as we do, they do need regular baths. Healthy dogs without any special breed requirements may only need a bath every couple of months. Other dogs (and some cats!) – especially the wrinkly ones (e.g., English bulldogs), the hairless ones, the ones that spend lots of time outside, or ones with skin problems – may need more frequent baths. Finally, most human shampoos can irritate Fido and Kitty’s skin (and some are toxic to them), so you want to be sure you use shampoos and conditioners specially formulated for them.

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