Whether you use a professional groomer or do it yourself, regular grooming is important to your dog's coat and skin, and to its overall health.
While you are grooming your dog, you can look for any changes or abnormalities in your dog's physique. Mention your observations to your vet. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can prevent minor problems from becoming serious health issues.
If your dog becomes accustomed to a grooming routine when it is a puppy, it will be more likely to enjoy being groomed as an adult. Ask your vet, breeder, or groomer which grooming tools, such as brushes, combs, and stripping implements, are best for your dog's fur and skin.
One of the benefits of grooming your dog yourself is that you become well-acquainted with your dog's body, making it easier to notice changes in appearance. Here are some things to check:
A dog only needs a bath when it looks dirty or develops that distinctive "doggie" odor. Regular bathing combats fleas, alleviates some skin conditions, and can relieve human allergic reactions. Avoid excessive bathing because it removes natural oils and dries out your dog's coat.
To bathe your dog, you will need dog shampoo, a brush and comb, and a few towels. Do not use human shampoo; it is not pH-balanced for a dog's skin and coat. Pet-food stores sell a variety of dog shampoos.
Indoors, wash puppies and small dogs in the sink or a washtub; use the bathtub for bigger dogs. Outdoors, weather permitting, use a child's wading pool or a hose. Some groomers and kennels provide do-it-yourself dog-washing stations.
Follow these simple steps for successful bathing:
Keep your dog's feet healthy by regularly trimming its nails. Long nails can interfere with a dog's gait, break off (usually near the base, where it's painful), or cause a dog to slip from loss of traction.
Gently touching your puppy's feet helps your dog grow accustomed to having this sensitive part of its body handled. A dog who is not used to nail care may require two people to trim its nails: one to hold the dog and the other to do the trimming.
To trim your dog's nails, clip the part of the nail that hooks downward. Toward the base of the nail is a small triangle that contains blood vessels and nerves that you do not want to cut. In unpigmented nails, the triangle appears pink, but in black or pigmented nails, it is impossible to accurately see the triangle and you will have to estimate how much nail to remove.
According to American Kennel Club Dog Care and Training (Howell Book House, 2002), a useful device for trimming a dog's nails is known as a guillotine trimmer. To use it, you guide the top of the dog's nail into an opening above the cutting blade, then squeeze the handle.
The sooner you begin a dental hygiene program for your puppy, the more comfortable it will be when having its teeth cleaned. Brushing your dog's teeth regularly will prevent gum disease, tooth loss, and stinky breath. The latest thinking is that pet owners should brush their dog's teeth at least a few times a week. Your vet can show you the proper way to brush your dog's teeth and what to use; don't use a human toothbrush and human toothpaste.
Dry dog food can help keep your dog's teeth clean and healthy. As your dog chews, the particles from the dry food scrape against the teeth (like a toothbrush) to remove plaque.
Some dogs need regular cleaning and scaling done at the veterinary office; this is done under general anesthesia. Some diseases or malnutrition can lead to dental problems, so be sure your vet checks for tooth or gum disease during yearly checkups.
"If you keep the mouth healthy, the rest of the dog will follow," says Iowa veterinarian, Dr. Robert Culver. "The mouth gives bacteria direct access to the dog's bloodstream; the bacteria gets into the heart and starts chewing away at the valves of the heart," he says. For example, an untreated tooth infection -- perhaps caused by a broken tooth -- can spread to the rest of the body.
Red, swollen, bleeding gums; loss of appetite; drooling; blood in the saliva; broken teeth; foul odor; and yellow or brown tartar deposits along the gumline or in the crevices of the teeth are all signs of dental problems that should be examined by your vet as soon as possible.
If, after regular grooming and bathing, your dog still has an unpleasant smell, it could be a sign of a dental problem, ear infection, or skin problem. To find the cause of the odor, examine your dog closely and look at the following regions: