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Grooming Your Pet At Home

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

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Grooming Your Pet At Home

In many locations, groomers are not open while cities and states deal with the threat of the coronavirus. That leaves many pet owners wondering what to do without the ability to get their dog or cat groomed, especially when it's a rather fluffy critter whose fur gets tangled easily.

The good news is that you can learn to groom your pet at home, particularly if you have a patient pet (and a rather patient nature yourself)! You'll need a few basic tools, but many pet stores are open during these unprecedented times, or you can always order the necessary gear online. Who knows, maybe you'll find you rather enjoy grooming your pet yourself, and it offers a pleasant way to build the human-animal bond.

Be Prepared to Brush

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The type of coat your dog or cat has will dictate the type or types of brushes you need. Some companies, such as Furminator, offer brushes designed for dogs or cats, long-haired or short-haired. Gather all of your tools in one easy-to-reach location so that you don't have to stop grooming your pet to get another grooming tool.

You'll want to brush regularly to help minimize the possibility of mats. Make sure you brush with the hair and don't do it too forcefully -- think of how you want your hair to be brushed and use the same gentle touch with your pet. If you encounter a mat, use a specially designed tool to get around it rather than trying to pull the mat out with a brush or cutting it out with scissors, which could hurt you or your pet.

The Battle of the Baths

When it's time to bathe your dog or cat, you need to have patience, particularly if they aren't fond of water. Arm yourself with lots of treats and no matter what else you do, go slowly. You might consider starting by putting your pet in a dry tub or basin and letting them get used to it with treats before adding water to the mix.

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When you're ready to bathe your cat or dog, add a few inches of water to the tub. You'll want to use lukewarm water, as cold water won't make for a pleasant experience, and warm water can dry their skin out. Gently pour water over your pet, taking care to not get water into their eyes or ears. Lather them up with pet shampoo and make sure to rinse it completely.

Towel dry your dog or cat well after bathing them and make sure to brush their coat out well again. Don't leave them damp, as you don't want them to catch a chill. Use caution if you plan on using a hair dryer as that can make your pet nervous or cause them to bite or scratch. It can also dry their skin out more than just using a set of towels.

Trimming Those Nails

Get ready to trim your pet's nails once they've been brushed out and had their bath. You'll want to exercise a lot of caution here. There's a blood vessel and tissue within the nail known as the quick and cutting into it can cause your pet to bleed and be in pain.

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When you trim the nails, cut parallel to the ground and only take off a little at a time. If your dog or cat has white nails, it'll be easier to see the quick than with darker nails. Shining a light through the nail can enable you to see the quick more easily. Consider having a quick-clotting substance nearby such as Quik-stop. Even cornstarch can help if you accidentally cut into your dog's quick.

You might also consider filing your pet's nails. This can get rid of the sharp edge. Some people file the nails with a Dremel or other tool rather than cutting the nails. Doing this regularly can minimize the need to ever actually cut the nails. Just go slowly with it and give your dog time to get accustomed to the sound of the tool first. Even just getting one or two done a day is better than nothing.

You've probably seen the videos of people wrapping Saran Wrap around their head and smearing it with peanut butter but many experts have cautioned against using this method. Nail trims can be stressful for many dogs and having your face down and unable to read their body language puts you in a vulnerable position, increasing the likelihood of being bitten in the face.

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Brushing Your Dog's Teeth

Oral care is just as important for your dog or cat as it is for you. Brushing with an enzymatic toothpaste can help fight plaque and freshen your pup's breath. Start slowly and get them used to having a toothbrush in their mouth, or even use a finger brush to get the toothpaste on their teeth. Focus along the gum line to help fight dental disease.

Ear & Eye Cleaning

Cleaning your dog or cat's ears is also incredibly important, especially if you have a breed such as a Scottish Fold or Bulldog with wrinkled ears, or even a dog like a Basset Hound. Use an ear cleaner that has been formulated for your pet's needs (if you dog needs a medicated cleaner, use one recommended by your vet).

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You can fill the ear canal up with solution or saturate a cotton ball with cleaner. Make sure to massage the base of your dog or cat's ear canal to help break up wax in the lower part of the canal. Then wipe away any wax you see in the upper part of the canal. Don't use cotton swabs like Q-tips in the ear, which can push wax further in and damage the ear drum.

The reddish brown tear staining that many light colored dogs have can be very difficult to remove. From the AKC, “Flush eyes with an appropriate canine eye-wash, such as saline eye-wash solutions or Terra Septic eye drops. Moisten a cotton ball with the same eye wash or a contact lens solution, and rub underneath and around the eye area. Opti-Clear and Bio True are two pre-made options; a do-it-yourself option is to mix one tablespoon boric acid powder boiled in one cup distilled water. (Be sure to keep refrigerated, and remake a fresh batch weekly.)” The key to using this method is to keep at it daily.

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Cutting Your Pet's Hair

If you're not sure how to trim hair, you might consider waiting until your pet's groomer is open and just brush and bathe them in the meantime. You can trim hair using grooming scissors or even trim their coat with clippers. While not all pets like the sound of clippers, the advantage is you can place a guard on them that will help protect your pet's skin from nicks and cuts.

In Summary

You don't have to be scared to groom your pet. Regular grooming is essential to keep your pet's coat and skin healthy, and long nails can become twisted and embedded in your pet's paw pads, making it a medical emergency. Start slowly and use treats or toys and lots of love to encourage your pet to hold still!

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