While most cats and dogs are capable of basic, every day hygiene, they do benefit from additional grooming help.
Brushing your pet helps detangle and remove lose hair. It removes extra dirt, spreads natural oils throughout the coat, stimulates circulation, and keeps the skin clean and free of irritants.
For animals with long hair, daily brushing is crucial. When hair is allowed to get too tangled, it develops densely knotted clumps of hair (mattes) that pull at the skin and are very painful. Mattes that are left too long often result in having to shave the hair. For animals that go outside, this daily brushing is also a good way to check for any debris or ticks that may have gotten stuck.
Dogs can also benefit from occasional bathing, although not too often. Over-bathing your dog can result in dry, irritated skin. Sometimes a good spot cleaning may be all that’s necessary. Cats generally don’t need baths unless they get something greasy, sticky or smelly on them that can’t be removed without one.
How often to brush or bathe your pet really depends on the breed, length of fur, whether they go outdoors, etc. It’s always a good idea to check with your veterinarian or a professional groomer if you’re unsure about your own pet’s needs.
Another important bit of grooming is trimming your pet’s nails. Left untrimmed, nails can break and cause pain or infection. They can grow too long and affect the way your dog walks, or can curve under and grow into your cat’s paw. Unfortunately, nail trimming is often very stressful for both the pet and the owner. There are many resources available online that will show you the proper techniques and tools, but if you feel too uncomfortable doing it on your own, you can take your pet to a professional groomer or ask to have the nails trimmed at your vet’s office.
As your pets grow older, or if they are severely overweight, they will probably have a more difficult time grooming themselves. Be sure to check that they are reaching all of the areas they need to (like the back end). If they are unable to clean themselves, you may need to give them a little help in some areas.
As with any activity with your pet, start gradually and give plenty of positive reinforcement and encouragement. Grooming can become another way that you and your pet enjoy being together.