HUMANE SOCIETY: Do-it-yourself pet grooming |

HUMANE SOCIETY: Do-it-yourself pet grooming

As the days get longer, our pets’ coats start changing. Now is a good time to think about the kind of grooming that will keep your pet healthy, keep the house cleaner and, if you do it yourself, save money, too. Most pet owners work in partnership with a favorite professional groomer and with their veterinarian for the jobs that require formal training to do safely and correctly.

When a winter coat starts to shed out, at home grooming might include twice a day combing to prevent mats in cats and dogs. Grooming starts at the head and brushing or combing is in the direction of the hair growth. Be gentle and take breaks if necessary. Small mats of hair can be separated with fingers or a comb. Thick mats usually need professional care. Shaving by vet or groomer is a last resort.

Starting young, handling paws and toes, helps develop calmness in a pet about to be groomed. Some actually love the attention. Willingness to be handled also helps a veterinarian to treat an animal in an emergency and an animal control officer to help your pet when it is endangered.

Nails are probably the most often neglected part of pet care. Long nails can cause foot and joint pain. Nails should just touch the ground when a dog walks. Nails may wear down naturally if your pet walks on cement or other hard surface. Dark colored nails are more difficult to trim because it is hard to see the quick. It’s a good idea to do a few nails at a time so the process remains positive for both of you. Ask your veterinarian or your groomer to show you how to trim your pet’s claws or nails.

Regular trimming makes the job easier because the quick of the nail – the vein – stays shorter and the new nail growth is easier to see and clip off. Plier and guillotine type clippers are used on dogs while scissors types are for cats, birds or small dogs. A good how-to demonstration is on the web at the Washington State University site: www.


Bathing can be done at home or at a pet wash. However, too frequent bathing can dry out skin and coat. Use only pet shampoo and check the label for use on the particular type of pet and even for the age of your pet. Human shampoo is too harsh. Cotton balls in ears protects the ear canal from water which can lead to chronic ear infections. Wipes can be used between full water baths. Some moisturize the coat and can be used every day. Comb and brush both before the bath and after drying to avoid tangles and to really get all the loose hair removed.

For those with allergies, research shows that weekly pet bathing can reduce the level of allergens on fur by as much as 84-percent. Check with your veterinarian for directions on how to do this properly, and what shampoo is recommended. One study simply used distilled water as a weekly cat rinse without shampoo.

Check ears regularly and clean only what you can see. Avoid probing the ear canal. Ear odor may be caused by infection or a fox tail. Fox tails can kill a pet when worked into organs. Check between toes, especially if your pet is licking or biting at a paw.

Dental cleaning is a must. Pet toothpaste on fingers or a pet toothbrush should be applied once a week. Bad breath can signal gum infection. Regular scraping and cleaning under anesthesia by a veterinarian or dental specialist is expensive but considered critical to maintaining good general health.

Grooming can be a relaxing time with a pet getting lots of one on one attention. During the process, check for unusual lumps, scratches, or wounds as well as parasites like fleas and ticks. A combination of DIY and professional services is a good budget and preventative health plan.

– Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive

director of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA.

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