Some pet owners prefer to leave pet grooming to the professionals, and others enjoy the opportunity to save money, strengthen their pet-owner bond, and promote their furry friend’s health and well-being at home. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, you can always learn how to elevate your pet-grooming game. Our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team shares tips to transform your good at-home pet-grooming skills into great ones.

#1: Know your pet’s grooming requirements

Every breed and species has unique grooming needs, which can change as they age. A husky’s double coat requires a different grooming regimen than a beagle’s short hair. Younger cats are 

adept at self-grooming but older cats may need assistance cleaning certain hard-to-reach areas. Research your pet’s breed and understand their necessary grooming type and frequency. If you don’t know your pet’s breed or they are mixed, consider their coat type, length, and density to gauge their grooming needs. Your veterinarian can also help you determine your pet’s specific needs. Foundational knowledge can help ensure you’re providing your pet with optimal care and hygiene habits.

#2: Practice handling your pet

For the most effective and least stressful grooming process, ensure that your pet is comfortable being handled in sensitive areas, such as their paws, ears, and tail. Start with short handling sessions, gently touching various parts of your furry pal’s body and praising them for their calm behavior. Gradually increase the handling session duration, offering treats as positive reinforcement. The goal is to desensitize your pet to touch, which can help make grooming a stress-free experience for you both.

#3: Keep your pet’s coat shiny and healthy

Regular brushing removes dirt, spreads natural oils throughout the coat, stimulates the skin, and prevents fur from becoming matted. Consider your pet’s coat type, and choose from the following brushes: 

  • Slicker brush — If you have a poodle, use a slicker brush, which has fine, short, close-together wires. The slicker brush is ideal for a pet who has medium-to-long and curly hair. 
  • Bristle brush — If you have a short-haired, smooth-coated pet that sheds frequently, use a bristle brush to remove loose hair and stimulate their skin. 
  • Pin brush — If your pet has curly or medium-to-long hair, use a pin brush to lift away loose hair as you complete your four-legged friend’s grooming process. This oval-shaped brush has loosely arranged flexible wires topped with pinheads. 
  • Rake brush — If your pet has a heavy or double coat, use a rake brush to penetrate the thick fur, and to remove tangles and the dead undercoat near the skin.

Once you’ve selected the appropriate tool, brush in the coat’s growth direction. Brushing against their coat’s growth can cause your pet discomfort. If your pet has snags or mats, apply a coat conditioner or detangling spray, and gently work through the tangle using a wide-toothed comb. 

#4: Maintain your pet’s claw comfort

Overgrown nails can cause pain, inhibit your pet’s walking ability, and result in an ingrown infected nail. Trim your pet’s claws regularly to prevent these problems and protect your furniture and floors from scratches. To trim your pet’s claws safely, follow these tips:

  • Use a high-quality, pet-specific nail trimmer and learn the proper trimming technique.
  • Take your time, and trim away small slivers rather than large chunks, to avoid cutting the quick and causing bleeding and pain.
  • If you accidentally cut the quick, stop the bleeding by applying styptic powder.
  • Watch your pet for stress signs, and trim only a few nails or one paw per session.
  • Plan to trim your pet’s claws every two to three weeks and more frequently if they are younger.

#5: Clean and nourish your pet’s skin and coat

A clean coat is crucial for preventing your pet from developing a skin infection and ensuring their overall skin health. However, bathing your pet too often can strip natural oils, leading to dry skin. To bathe your pet properly, follow these tips:

  • Use pet-friendly shampoo — Use a shampoo made for pets, as your own shampoo may contain fragrances or other ingredients that will irritate your four-legged friend’s skin. 
  • Lather up and rinse well — Wet your pet with warm water, lather shampoo on their neck and back, gently scrub their body, avoiding their ears and eyes, and rinse them thoroughly.
  • Dry your pet thoroughly — Dry your pet thoroughly using warm towels or a hair dryer on the lowest—never hot—setting. 

#6: Polish your pet’s pearly whites

Dental disease, which results from plaque buildup on teeth, is pets’ most commonly diagnosed disease. Almost all pets have dental disease signs by age 3. Good oral hygiene is critical for your furry pal’s overall health, and daily toothbrushing is the best method for keeping their mouth clean. Start by gradually introducing your pet to a toothbrush, allowing them to become familiar with the texture. Use pet-specific toothpaste, and try to brush their teeth several times a week. Dental chews and toys can also help keep their teeth clean and gums healthy.

#7: Know when your pet needs the pros 

While at-home grooming can be fulfilling and cost-effective, some tasks, such as anal gland expression, are best left to the professionals. Anal glands (i.e., anal sacs) are two small pouches located on either side of your pet’s rectum. They produce a pungent liquid that animals naturally express when they defecate. However, some pets, especially small dogs, can have issues with these glands not emptying completely, which leads to discomfort and swelling, and could cause an infection. If you follow an incorrect anal gland expression technique, you may cause harm or even rupture the gland. In addition, if the glands are infected, improper expressing can exacerbate the issue.

At-home grooming is a great way to care for and bond with your pet. Elevating your grooming game requires that you stay calm and consistent. By recognizing when a task requires an expert, you help avoid injuring your furry pal. For additional pet-grooming tips or to schedule your four-legged friend’s next appointment, contact our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team.