Did you know that pet grooming is more than teddy bear trims and carefully coiffed canines? Routine grooming tasks, such as brushing, bathing, and ear cleaning, all contribute to your pet’s overall health, wellbeing, and comfort.

The Bayview Animal Hospital team is here to help your pet feel pretty, oh, so pretty—and healthy, too—with this beginner’s guide to pet grooming basics.

Brush—how to brush your pet’s coat

Brushing not only prevents tangles and removes dead hair, but also distributes oils, stimulates blood flow, and promotes skin health. Weekly brushing also helps you identify potentially concerning changes, such as embedded seeds or burrs, masses or skin growths, wounds, parasites, and skin infections, in your pet.

Proper technique and tools matter when brushing your pet’s coat. Generally speaking, rubber curry brushes are great for shorthaired pets, while medium- to long-haired dogs and cats require a pin brush, soft slicker brush, and comb. Take the following steps:

  • Spray hair with a pet-safe detangling spray. 
  • Part longer hair and brush from the skin out—toward the end of each hair shaft. 
  • Use care in sensitive areas (e.g., armpits, groin).
  • Tease out mats and tangled areas by working in small sections from the outer edge inward. Seek professional care for extensive matting.
  • After thoroughly brushing your pet’s coat, follow up with a wide-toothed comb to ensure the coat is tangle-free.

Many pet owners find that consulting a professional groomer for recommendations and one-on-one coaching is helpful. 

Bathe—tips for bathing your pet at home

Bath time may not be your pet’s favorite activity, but regular bathing is essential for cleansing and hydrating the skin and coat. Use these tips to turn this necessary evil into a pleasant and therapeutic experience for your pet—and maybe you, too.

  • Use positive distractions — Distract your pet in a positive way by spreading soft treats on a lickable mat that can be attached to the bathtub or shower wall.
  • Install a non-slip mat — Slick surfaces increase pet stress and put them at risk of serious injury. 
  • Shampoo, rinse, repeat Shampooing your pet twice is the best way to ensure a thorough cleansing. Follow up with a moisturizing conditioner if your pet is prone to dry skin.
  • Use care around the eyes and nose — Use tearless shampoo around your pet’s face and use a wet cloth instead of a sprayer.
  • Rinse thoroughly — Incomplete rinsing commonly causes post-bath itching and irritation. Rinse your pet until the water runs clear.
  • Dry completely — Damp hair can make pets cold and lead to skin problems, so always dry your pet thoroughly with warm towels or a hair dryer on the lowest—never hot—setting. 

Clip—tips for trimming your pet’s nails

Ideally, nail trimming and paw handling should be introduced early in your pet’s life to prevent future problems or negative associations. 

Steps for a safe, positive, nail trimming experience include:

  • Exercising your pet before trimming their nails
  • Pairing nail trimming tools and actions with tasty treats
  • Trimming only a few nails or one paw per session
  • Trimming away small slivers rather than large chunks to avoid cutting the quick
  • Trying out different tools (e.g., we recommend plier-style trimmers for large and small dogs, nail grinders, and scissor-style cat nail trimmers) to ensure appropriate sizing and owner comfort.

If your pet struggles with nail trimming, consult with a certified positive-reinforcement pet trainer who has experience in desensitization and counterconditioning. 

Clean—how to clean your pet’s ears

Routine ear cleaning removes waxy debris that can encourage harmful bacterial or fungal growth. Ears are generally sensitive, so always touch them gently to avoid pain or injury. Note—seek veterinary care if your pet’s ears are inflamed or contain brown, green, or yellow discharge.

Healthy ears should be cleaned weekly with a veterinarian-recommended cleanser. Simply soak a cotton ball in the solution, warm the cotton ball in your hand, and then gently insert the cotton ball into your pet’s external (i.e, visible) ear canal. Lightly massage the ear base to distribute the cleanser, remove the cotton ball, and then gently swab the entire visible ear canal with dry cotton balls to absorb all the remaining fluid and any waxy debris.

Recognize—know when to have your pet’s anal sacs expressed

Anal sacs are internal structures located on either side of your pet’s anus at approximately four and seven o’clock. The sacs store and secrete smelly fluid that your pet normally expresses during defecation, but inflammation from allergies or infection can alter normal emptying and the sacs can thicken and distend.

Incorrect expression techniques can be painful or result in serious injury, so we do not recommend that owners attempt this task at home. Instead, schedule an appointment at Bayview Animal Hospital if you notice your pet demonstrating anal sac impaction signs, such as:

  • Frequent scooting
  • Licking near the tail base
  • Visible bulging around the anus
  • Fishy smell
  • Changes in defecation or stool

Frequent grooming not only helps your pet look and smell better, but feel better, too. For more pet care tips, check out the Bayview Animal Hospital blog or contact our expert team. To schedule a veterinary appointment, call us.