Keeping your dog healthy will help to ensure they have every chance to enjoy life and become the faithful friend you hope for.
Important aspects of basic grooming: humanity before vanity
- Regularly check your puppy’s paws to make sure they don’t have any ticks or foreign bodies in-between the pads. Long haired breeds will need to have the hair from this area trimmed so that matting doesn’t occur. Long hair in-between the pads will retain dirt and moisture which can cause damage or infection and matted hair will pull on the skin resulting in pain.
- Trim the nails at least every 3 months, and more often if they grow quickly. When your dog is standing on a flat surface the nails should not be touching the ground. Nails that aren’t trimmed will alter the way the dog walks and bears weight, causing more damage to the feet and increasing the likelihood of the nail splitting which is painful for the dog. Nail trimmers can be purchased from a vet or pet shop, or your groomer will be able to do the job for you. Trim a little at a time off the end of each nail, stopping before you reach the quick, the blood supply to the nail.
- Check the visible ear canals to see if there is dirt accumulating, wipes for cleaning ears can be bought at pet shops. If you have a breed which has very hairy ears the hair growing out of the canals may need to be plucked regularly to keep the air-flow, preventing infections. If your dog is pawing at his ears or shaking his head a lot this may be a sign of uncomfortable ears.
- Make sure you look at your dog’s teeth once a month to check for signs of discolouration or decay. If your dog is fed a wet food diet there may be more chance of problems. Pet shops sell toothpaste especially formulated to be safe for dogs so that you can keep his teeth clean and prevent gum disease. You can use a toothbrush or your finger to brush his teeth around 2-3 times a week.
- Puppies start to lose their sharp baby teeth around 16 weeks and by the time they are 6 months old their adult teeth should all be through. Chewing is essential for this stage of development so make sure your puppy has a safe chew toy such as a Kong or bone available at all times. If you notice they still have baby teeth around at 6 months old ask the vet to check them in case they need to be removed.
- Brushing your dog regularly will remove dead hair from the coat, allowing the skin to breathe and be healthy. It also helps to stimulate the production of natural oils and distribute them through the coat. To prevent matting, which can be painful for the dog, brush every day and use a comb to check there are no hidden tangles. Areas of friction will always be first to become a problem so keep a close eye on the armpits, behind the ears and collar areas. If matting is a problem and the comb doesn’t get them out then the use of matt spliter is required to cut through the matted hair and remove it safely. These can be purchased in pet shops.
- Don’t bathe your dog with human shampoos and products as these contain chemicals which strip the dog’s coat of its essential oils. All dogs should be groomed 4 times a year to keep them healthy and long haired breeds every 6-8 weeks.
- Spaniels and some older dogs are prone to anal gland blockages so these may need to be expressed by hand regularly.
- Keep an eye out for ticks, especially in the spring time, and evidence of fleas all year round. Ticks need to be removed carefully so that they do not regurgitate the contents of the stomach into the blood supply of the dog and pass on infections. Twisting the body of the tick round and round will make it let go so that its head remains attached and then you can put it in the bin. Use a ‘spot on’ treatment such as Stronghold or Advocate monthly to keep your pet (and your home) free from nasty parasites, these are available from the vet. If your dog is scratching persistently and there are little black bits on his skin then it’s probable he has fleas.