As dog owners, when we think about grooming we often focus on our pup’s hair: trimming, brushing and bathing. Maintaining your dog’s fur per breed recommendations is great for appearance, cleanliness and comfort.
But keeping your dog well-groomed is more than just trimming his fur or combing out tangles and debris.
Grooming is preventative maintenance, and failing to keep current on grooming can have serious, and in some cases irreversible, health consequences down the road.
Three Grooming Habits for a Healthier Dog
A routine grooming schedule should include three parts of a dog’s body that are often overlooked — ears, nails and teeth. Paying attention to these areas, more so than hair in fact, can prevent problems from popping up and ultimately make for a healthier pet. In most cases, anyone can perform these dog grooming tips at home. You don’t need to schedule an appointment with a grooming expert or a vet (unless you want to of course!).
Here are 3 grooming routines that you can do:
Keep Ears Clean and Dry
A dog’s ear is made up of 3 parts, the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Unlike a human, the ear canal of a dog is long and narrow with a sharp 90-degree curve similar to an “L” that leads straight to the eardrum. This shape makes it more prone to moisture and infection because debris can easily become trapped. The objective when cleaning ears is to maintain a dry environment clear of debris, bacteria and yeast.
When debris collects in the ear it can lead to itchiness and scratching. When this happens, the bacteria from your dogs nails are introduced to the ear and can contribute to ear issues.
Weekly or twice monthly cleanings can help prevent excess wax, moisture and debris from accumulating. It can also help you identify an issue before it becomes a bigger problem. (If your pup has clean healthy ears, regular cleanings may not be necessary. In this case instead of cleaning them, do “health checks” to ensure nothing is out of the ordinary.)
Cleaning your dog’s ears doesn’t require any special equipment. A good quality ear cleaning solution, some cotton balls or gauze (no Q Tips!), and some treats to reward your dog are all you need. (Cotton swabs like Q Tips can potentially push debris, wax, etc, in toward the eardrum and compact it, so best to practice safe ear-cleansing practices.) If you notice discharge, inflammation or an offensive odor, contact your veterinarian before attempting to clean.
Trim Your Dog’s Nails
When a dog’s nails are longer than his pads and touch the ground, the musculoskeletal system of the entire body is impacted. When nails are too long, weight distribution changes, placing the bones of the toes into an unnatural position that can create stress on the joints and may lead to joint issues and pain.
Untrimmed nails can also get caught in carpet fibers or in tree roots, which may tear them from the nail beds and cause pain, suffering, and a visit to the veterinarian’s office.
Opt for weekly to twice-monthly trims, which can easily be done at home with the right tools. When trimming your dog’s nails be certain to avoid cutting the quick, the bloodline that if nicked will cause pain to your pup.
For dogs with longer nails, start slowly and remove only 1/8th inch of the nail at a time. During the first week, remove 1/8th every few days to encourage the quick to recede, which will allow you to get your dog’s nails on the shorter side. Once you’ve gotten them trim, it’s all about maintenance—which is the easy part!
Brush Their Teeth
Bacteria in a dog’s mouth has been directly linked to heart health and inflammation in other organs in the body. Brushing not only helps remove bacteria but it can also prevent plaque from forming.
For brushing to be most effective, brush your dog’s teeth daily for about 2 minutes. To make it easy to remember, brush your dog’s teeth after you brush your own. If you need help getting started read The Real Person’s Guide to Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth.
All told, incorporating these grooming techniques should take about 10-15 minutes each week. Set aside time to perform these routine, preventive grooming tips and your dog will be healthier and happier for your efforts.
Johnna Devereaux is a Clinical Pet Nutritionist and canine wellness expert. She is the Director of Nutrition and Wellness for Bow Wow Labs and sits on their Board of Advisors.
The points of view expressed above are those of our clinical nutritionist and supported by science, her education and experience. However, we recognize there may be different points of view or opinions on some aspect or even the premise of this article. Our goal at Bow Wow Labs is to provide the best, clearest, and most helpful information possible to help keep your dog happy, healthy and safe.
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