As a veterinarian and the proud owner of Bianca, an adorable Cavalier King Charles spaniel, I am often asked about pet grooming. Even clients who take their pet to a professional groomer usually find the following information to be helpful. We hope you do as well.
What is the easiest way to brush my pet’s teeth? Use a finger brush and veterinary enzymatic toothpaste. Simply put the brush on your finger with toothpaste on the bristles. Then, gently hold the muzzle of the pet with one hand while sliding the finger brush into the mouth between the cheek and teeth. Using gentle pressure, move the brush back and forth across the teeth from the back of the mouth to the front. Most of the brushing will be on the upper set of teeth (with the mouth closed), but brushing the teeth on the bottom is also great. Repeat this process on each side of the pet’s mouth for 30-60 seconds. There is no need to rinse the toothpaste from your pet’s mouth. Brush your pet’s teeth daily for best results.
How should I clean the area around my pet’s eyes? It is very common for some breeds of dogs to have eye-related issues that lead to a crusty discharge around the eye. Generally speaking, a warm, damp cloth is best for cleaning around a dog’s eyes. First, moisten the crusty area near the eye with a damp cloth. You can then use a small flea comb to pull the debris loose from the hair. (Be sure to angle the comb away from the eye!) A scent-free baby wipe can be used to clean inside facial folds. If the folds are inflamed or have a lot of debris, use a medicated wipe recommended by your vet.
Can I clean my pet’s ears? As a general rule, you should never stick a cotton swab/Q-tip into your pet’s ears. There are many other effective techniques for ear cleaning in dogs. Some involve putting ear cleaner directly into the ear, while others involve putting a cotton ball or gauze pad soaked with cleaner in the ear. For the safety of your pet, only use a veterinary-recommended ear cleaner. Ask for a demonstration from your veterinary professional since he or she will know best about your pet’s particular needs. If the ear is normal, cleaning should be needed only after a bath or swimming to remove residual water.
Do I need to trim my pet’s nails? The lifestyle of your pet will determine whether your pet’s nails need to be trimmed. Pets that walk or run on hard surfaces such as sidewalks rarely need a nail trimming. In contrast, pets that primarily live indoors usually need their nails trimmed once a month. When trimming pet nails, be sure to avoid cutting into the pink part of the nail (called the quick or nail bed) because it will hurt your pet and likely cause bleeding. Watching a professional perform a nail trim is the best way to learn where to cut the nail without causing pain.
How often should I bathe my pet? This is probably the most frequently asked grooming question I hear. Assuming there are no skin conditions that require a disciplined bathing schedule, it is usually safe to bathe your pet every 2 to 4 weeks. However, it is definitely not necessary to bathe your pet this frequently. In fact, some pets really need to be bathed only if they develop an odor or get into something that is dirty. I recommend only using shampoo specifically for pets, making sure to thoroughly rinse all the lather out of the pet’s hair.
Originally published June 2016 in the Lake Norman Citizen.