Having a well-groomed dog not only makes for a clean-smelling companion, it also keeps your canine more comfortable and allows you to spot health problems before they become serious. Read on to learn why good grooming habits are an important part of your dog's happiness.
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BRUSH TO PREVENT MATS AND HAIRBALLS
Brushing and combing your dog's coat certainly helps it look good, but it’s also important for your pet’s comfort and health. Regular brushing removes dirt and dead hair, and it stimulates your pet’s skin to keep it healthy. Maintaining your pet’s coat also prevents mats and tangles, which aren’t just an eyesore — they’re uncomfortable and even painful.
INSPECT YOUR PET FOR INJURIES
Not all wounds and injuries to your pet’s body will be obvious. Sometimes all that luxurious fur conceals cuts, scrapes, bumps, bruises, irritations and abrasions. Your pet’s pain or discomfort may not always be obvious to you, and even small cuts sometimes turn into big trouble if left undetected and untreated. When you brush or bathe your dog, take the opportunity to inspect it for minor injuries you might not otherwise have noticed. If necessary, apply antiseptic and bandages to prevent infection.
GROOM AS AN EXCUSE TO LOOK FOR TICKS
It’s time to go through your pet’s coat with a fine-toothed comb. Literally. It’s important for you to know how to look for and remove ticks if your dog spends any amount of time outdoors (and probably even if it doesn’t). Start from your pet’s head and check every inch of its body, especially dark, hidden areas like under its collar and between its toes. You can choose to use your fingers like a comb, but an actual comb is a better choice, especially if your dog has long fur. Using tweezers or a special tick-removal tool, pull the tick straight out to remove it without leaving the head embedded in your pet’s skin. For more information, refer to our guide to ticks and your pet.
KEEP YOUR PET’S COAT AT AN APPROPRIATE LENGTH
Fur is much more than just a layer of warmth. An animal's coat is part of its body and helps to regulate body temperature in both cold and hot conditions. That means that fur also provides a way to stay cool in the summer. It may seem counterintuitive, but shaving off a multi-layered coat robs a pet of its ability to cool off naturally. Fur also acts as a natural sunscreen. If you shave that off, you expose your pet's skin to the sun and increases its risk of sunburn and cancer. By all means, clip and trim your pet’s fur so it doesn’t grow out of control, but maintain a moderate length.
BRUSH YOUR PET’S TEETH FOR GOOD OVERALL HEALTH
Brushing your pet’s teeth is about more than just fresh breath. Lack of dental hygiene can lead to a whole host of health problems, some even life-threatening. Tooth decay and gum disease cause heart disease, liver disease and other chronic illnesses. It’s important to ask your veterinarian to perform dental checkups for your pet, but it’s even more important for you to brush its teeth at home. For help, read our guide to dog dental care.
FIND OR PREVENT SKIN PROBLEMS
Grooming allows pet owners to monitor their pet's skin. The condition of a dog's skin is an indicator of its overall health. Thorough grooming lets you quickly spot redness, irritation, dryness, hot spots, hair loss, lumps, and other issues that could be easily overlooked. Be aware that such skin problems can result in excessive scratching and licking by your dog, but catching the problem early with good grooming habits can save your pooch from such discomfort.
TRIM YOUR PET’S NAILS FOR COMFORT AND SAFETY
Clipping your pet’s nails is good for keeping them from scratching up your floors and furniture, but it’s also important for their own health and safety. Not only can long nails or claws make walking uncomfortable for your dog, but they also are more prone to painful and possibly dangerous splitting and cracking. Also, for a pet that spends time outside, longer nails have a tendency to collect dirt, salt, toxins and other hazards from the environment. For more information about cutting your pet’s nails at home, read our guide.
GUARD YOUR DOG AGAINST THE ELEMENTS
Brushing your dog’s coat keeps it healthy by helping distribute natural skin oils, which make fur shiny and strong. Grooming your dog this way is important to do year-round, but it’s particularly useful during the winter, when the harsh weather conditions can have an extra drying effect on skin and fur. Fur that’s dampened by rain or snow is also at greater risk of forming mats, particularly for breeds that have undercoats. Extra attention to grooming during inclement weather guards against this. For more help grooming your dog during rough weather, see our guide to grooming dogs in winter.
CLEAN EARS TO PREVENT INFECTION AND INFESTATION
Ear are dark, moist areas loaded with nooks and crannies. That makes them a perfect home and breeding ground for bacteria, parasites, yeast and similar nastiness. If your dog happens to have big, floppy ears, the trouble is only compounded. That’s why cleaning your pet’s ears is such an important part of your grooming regimen. Ask your vet for helpful tips about how to best clean and maintain your particular pet’s ears, and learn to recognize signs of infection like discharge, foul odor, swelling, redness, crustiness and hair loss. Ears are also a popular spot for ticks to hide.
Next: How to Groom Your Dog at Home
DO RIGHT BY YOUR BREED
We don’t need to tell you that not all breeds are made alike, and that’s true of their fur as well as their personalities. Certain breeds are much more difficult to groom and maintain than others. A Puli, with its long, thick cords of fur, has much more intense grooming requirements than a Peruvian Hairless Dog, for one obvious example. When choosing a dog to adopt, consider the extent of its grooming needs, and if your pooch is a mixed breed, note its lineage when planning your good grooming habits.
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