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Dog Grooming Q&A

Looking to groom your dog or puppy but not sure where to start? Get a grasp on the head-to-tail basics with answers to these common grooming questions.

How often should I bathe my dog?

There's nothing like a nice bath to get your dog clean and fresh. Just remember that bathing too often can cause dry skin and dandruff, so keep it to no more than once a week.

Also, remember that your dog's skin has a different pH than yours, so use a shampoo that's made just for dogs to keep his skin and coat in tip-top shape.

My dog is shedding, what should I do?

Most dogs shed throughout the year, with heavier seasonal shedding in the spring and fall as well as during times of stress, illness or when pregnant or nursing.

You can help to minimize shedding issues by getting into a routine of grooming your dog. Regular brushing will help reduce the amount of loose hair that ends up on the furniture and floor (not to mention on you).

Or try a shedding blade to remove the undercoat without affecting the healthy top coat. If you feel that your dog is shedding more than normal or notice any skin conditions, have a talk with a groomer about potential causes and solutions.

What can I use to treat my dog's dry, itchy skin?

That depends on what is causing the dryness and itchy skin. If your dog has had a check-up to rule out a medical cause for dry skin and itching, it's probably just mild dandruff.

In this case, there are several things you can do to treat it from the inside and the outside. First, choose a premium diet for your dog that helps support sensitive skin. These foods contain specific, balanced, fatty acids ratios that will help improve the skin’s condition. You may also want to add an Omega fatty acid supplement to your dog's diet.

On the outside, use a shampoo and conditioner formulated especially for dogs. Routine brushing and coat trims may help as well. Expect to notice more dandruff for a few days after grooming. Bathing and brushing loosen surface skin flakes for a few days until the excess flakes are brushed out of the coat.

Why is my dog scratching at his ears?

Occasional light scratching is normal. However, persistent scratching or pawing at the ears or head can be an indication of ear infection, injury, excess earwax, something lodged in the ear or skin problems.

Some ear problems may not be easily visible and require a deep ear exam by a veterinarian to be properly evaluated. Any discharge, odor, redness, pain, swelling, or masses may indicate an infection or other abnormality.

If you suspect your dog has an ear problem, visit your veterinarian immediately. Prompt treatment offers a better prognosis, reduces the potential for chronic disease, hearing loss, and offers relief from discomfort.

When and how do I clean my dog's ears?

As a rule, you should clean your dog's ears about once a month. If your dog swims or gets his ears wet regularly, you'll want to do it more often.

Ear cleaning starts with good general grooming. First, remove excess, dirty, or matted hair from around the ear canal and the earflap.

In some cases, excess hair may need to be gently removed from inside the ear canal. This must be done carefully to avoid canal damage and minimize discomfort. Consider having a groomer remove the hair if needed.

Next, choose a mild ear cleaner formulated especially for pets. Avoid using vinegar, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.

There are several types of cleaners to choose from. Some cleaners break up wax, while others dry the ear canal. There are combination products as well. Consult a groomer or your veterinarian to choose the best option for your dog.

Now, it's time to actually clean out the ear canals. Always be gentle! The ear canals and flaps are sensitive. Overly aggressive cleaning can actually cause damage to the delicate ear structures.

Pick up an earflap and dribble a small amount (a few drops) of the appropriate ear cleaning solution into the ear. The solution should flow down deep into the canal. Massage gently at the ear base for 10-20 seconds. You will probably hear the solution squish around as you massage.

This should not be painful for your dog. If it is, have him examined by your vet. Repeat the cleaning procedure with the other ear canal.

After massaging, stand back and let your dog shake his head to bring softened wax up out of the ear canals. Use clean cotton balls to wipe the ear canal gently, removing any wax, debris, or cleaning solution you see.

For small dogs, you may need to use cotton balls that have been pulled in half. Avoid using cotton swabs, as a cotton swab placed too deeply or forcefully into the ear can cause eardrum damage, pain, and hearing loss.

Should I clean the inside corners of my dog's eyes?

Yes, any excess mucous, secretions, tears or matter should be routinely cleaned from these areas.

To clean normal tears or debris from the eyelids, use a moistened, soft, clean cloth, cotton ball or tissue and gently wipe the area. Avoid rubbing or touching the eyeball, as this can cause injury to delicate eye structures.

If a large amount of debris has built up, you may need to soak the area with your moist cloth to soften the secretions before removal. Some dogs may need this cleaning daily.

If you notice any eye redness, swelling, pain, excess discharge, loss of vision, changes from normal eyeball appearance, excess blinking or pawing at the eyes, there may be an infection or other issue. If you have any concerns about your dog's eyes, talk with your vet right away.

Do I need to brush my dog's teeth?

Yes! Home dental care is one of the best ways to help keep your dog's teeth and gums healthy. Use a moistened, soft, pet or child's toothbrush, finger toothbrush, gauze around a finger or a cotton swab.

Be sure to use pet toothpaste, not human toothpaste, baking soda or salt. Pet toothpaste is enzymatic, rather than abrasive, so you just need to get the paste on the teeth, unlike human toothpaste that relies on the brushing action to work.

Use gentle brushing motions to clean the teeth and gums, as you would your own. Most dogs will not allow you to brush the inside surface of the teeth, but at least clean the outside (cheek) surfaces.

Be sure to reach the back upper molars and canines. These teeth tend to build up tartar quickly. Try to brush your dog's teeth as often as possible, ideally every day.

What do I do if my dog has fleas?

Start a complete flea control program immediately. An effective flea control program MUST address three points: treatment of the pet (or pets), the entire house (and car or motor home), and the yard (deck, garage, etc.).

All pets that can contract fleas must be treated (fish, birds, reptiles, and small and furry pets don't need treatment). There are many safe and effective products for adult pets as well as puppies (never use a flea product on puppies under 6 weeks old, in those cases, use a flea comb only).

For home and vehicle treatment, begin with very thorough vacuuming. Be sure to get under everything, furniture, rugs, etc. Don't forget the basement or garage.

Throw out the vacuum bag after use to prevent fleas from crawling back out. After cleaning, use a professional bomb or premise spray according to the label directions.

Treat the entire area, even places not frequented by your dog. You may need to vacuum and treat furniture according to the manufacturers' recommendations as well. Be sure to remove all pets and family members from the area while spraying and wait until it is safe to return them.

Don't forget the environment. Treat as much of the yard as possible with a professional flea spray according to the label directions. Be sure to treat areas where your dog spends time, including decks or dog houses.

Fleas like to hide in bark dust and leaf litter as well.

For safe and effective use, always read and follow the label directions for all flea control products.

For more tips, visit our Resource Center’s Grooming Section or find a Grooming Salon.

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