pet grooming at home: everything you need to know

Pet Grooming at Home: Everything You Need to Know | Pit bull dog getting a bath at home
Posted by fetch! blog editors on May 21 2020

Regular grooming is an essential part of maintaining your pet’s overall health. Whether your groomer is fully booked, the salon environment is too stressful or you’re minimizing costs, you can provide pet grooming care right at home.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can safely tackle care for your pet’s hair, ears, teeth, paws, and nails.

Benefits of brushing your pet

Brushing helps to distribute natural oils throughout the coat as well as to remove dirt, tangles, and excess hair. It can also help you detect skin issues such as lumps, wounds, and parasites like fleas and ticks.

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How to brush your pet

First, isolate any small tangled hair clumps and carefully pick with a dematting brush while slowly working the hair free using your other hand. It’s important to remove mats as soon as possible as they can cause discomfort, skin irritation, and even infected lesions. They also serve as a breeding spot for fleas and ticks.

As a reminder, you should never brush your pet’s hair when wet – it will only make mats worse. You should also never brush directly into the mat or cut it from your pet’s fur, as your best friend could unexpectedly get hurt. Don’t try to tackle large mats yourself, they can be painful and are best left to a professional.

Next, use a deshedding tool to remove excess hair. This proves to be especially helpful for breeds that have thick undercoats or are prone to shedding. Never use a deshedding tool to remove hair mats.

Your veterinarian or a professional groomer can advise you on what everyday brush works best for your pet’s coat. Just make sure when you brush, it’s in the direction the hair naturally grows.

For cats, it’s best to wait until they are relaxed. Gently stroke your cat before you start brushing long, slow strokes. A cat grooming glove is a great trick to brush your cat.

How often to brush your pet

Your pet’s hair type and length will determine how often your pet needs to be brushed. On days when you're not brushing, regularly monitoring the skin for irritation or other abnormalities is a good habit. After all, a healthy coat begins with healthy skin.

Some pets demand more frequent brushing than others, especially when they spring shed thick winter coats for a shorter, lighter coat.

If you find that despite your brushing, your pet’s frequent shedding continues, speak with your veterinarian as this could be caused by a health issue.

Pets often need to be eased into their brushing routine, so start once a week and then gradually work up to the recommended frequency.

Petplan dog grooming inforgraphic

For longhaired cats, about three times per week should suffice unless they are prone to mats.

How to bathe your pet

Curious and playful pets can get mixed up in all sorts of messes, leaving many to wonder how to bathe your dog or how to bathe a cat without getting scratched.

Start by pre-filling the tub or kitchen sink with warm water and place a non-slip mat on the bottom. Once you have wet your pet’s coat down to the skin, massage a coin-sized amount of shampoo throughout. Do not use scented shampoo or non-veterinarian approved scents such as perfume or essential oils. Our pets are more sensitive to fragrance and many products contain dangerous ingredients.

Being careful not to get any shampoo in their eyes or ears, rinse until the water runs clear. Dry your pet off paying extra attention to any water in your dog’s ears which could cause uncomfortable fungal and bacterial infections.

If you’re wondering how often you should bathe your dog, check-in with your vet. The breed, any medical conditions, lifestyle and length of the coat will largely decide your pet’s optimal bathing frequency. In general, most breeds can benefit from a bath every 5-7 weeks.

A common question among pet parents is do self-grooming cats need a bath? Surprisingly, yes. Cats that are overweight and struggle to reach certain areas as well as the cats that do not groom themselves efficiently could use a little assistance. Regular baths prevent your cat’s coat from becoming greasy or sticky.

If you notice excessive grooming or frequent hairballs with your cat, it’s time to see your vet. An underlying health issue could be to blame.

How to cut your pet’s hair

Choose from clipping, cording, or stripping grooming techniques, but always have a professional show you first before you attempt to trim at home.

Your dog should be both clean and dry before you start the haircut. Begin at the neck and work your way down her body, keeping the blade flat against the skin to prevent any injuries. As with brushing you should clip in the direction the hair grows.

When trimming your pet’s hair, it’s essential to use the right tools. Not only are they safer for your pet, but they can help make at-home care less of a chore. A grooming arm for instance can transform an ordinary kitchen table into your very own dog grooming table not to mention keep your dog secure. If your pet-specific grooming tools make noise, do your best to acclimate your pup or feline before their first cut.

Excessive hair may grow between your dog’s toes and should be trimmed to be even with the paw pads. Sensitive regions such as the ears, face and private area should be handled with extra care.

The longer your pet’s hair, the longer it might take to trim. Whatever you do, don’t rush!

Unless your cat’s fur is matted, most veterinarians would not recommend cutting your cat’s fur. Our feline friends can become quickly frightened of clippers. With that said, the belly shave and the sanitary shave can help cats – especially long haired breeds – keep waste from sticking to their fur.

How to clean your pet’s ears

Our pets have L-shaped ear canals but wax or debris tend to accumulate on the outside of the ear where you can see. Wipe the ears with a cotton ball or soft cloth. Most pets are fine without ear cleanings and irritation can occur if cleaned too frequently.

Never use a cleanser or flush without your vet’s approval. Some medicated cleaners may damage your pet’s eardrum or cause hearing loss.

Do not attempt to clean your pet’s ears and contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet’s ears:

  • Have a strong odor or discharge
  • Cause them to shake or scratch with greater intensity or frequency
  • Are swollen or red

These could be signs of an ear infection and needs to be handled immediately.

maine coon cat getting teeth brushed by owner

How to clean your pet’s teeth

The importance of brushing your pet’s teeth may seem obvious, but it’s a task that many pet parents struggle with. Teeth cleaning can be challenging when your dog or cat protests a toothbrush-clad finger in their mouth (even when the pet-friendly toothpaste is flavored).

If you need brush-free alternatives to clean your dog’s or cat’s teeth, you’re in luck. Certain dog teeth cleaning toys and dental chews can make cleaning fun. Alternatively, a plaque-blocking water additive will improve your pet’s dental care without them even knowing. Finally, boost your pet’s oral health and prevent bacterial infections by cleaning your pet’s toys from time to time.

Perhaps the most efficient way to clean your pet’s teeth is a professional cleaning performed by a veterinarian. You can also expect a preventive teeth cleaning to set you back $70-$400.

How to trim your pet’s nails

One of the most popular questions when it comes to DIY grooming is how to cut your pet’s nails. For dogs, start by clipping a small amount from the bottom and assess for pain or discomfort before continuing. Go little by little especially if the nails are black and you can’t see the quick. Cats are a bit easier, trim the thinner sharp end, avoiding the thicker portion that contains the quick.

One reason pet parents tend to avoid this grooming task is that if they cut too close to the quick, they can hurt their pet. Dark toenails make it even more difficult to know where the quick ends. Always have a professional show you first before you attempt to trim at home.

Even if you feel confident that you can safely trim within 2 millimeters of the quick, keep styptic pencils or powder handy to stop any bleeding. If the quick is exposed, have your veterinarian check it out. Be sure to close nail clippers quickly; slowing cutting can split the nails. Don’t forget the dew claw located on the inner surface of the paw. If your pet seems stressed, take a break and finish another time.

If your pet’s nails are curling into the paw pads, it’s time to trim. Typically your pet’s nails on the rear feet require less frequent trimming than those on the front feet. In general, you should aim to have your pet’s nails trimmed every 3-4 weeks.

Why it’s important trim your pet’s nails

Regular nail trimming is important for your pet’s walking comfort and it also prevents painful nail breaks. Longer nails can catch on carpet or furniture, breaking the nail and exposing the quick – or the live part of the nail.

Healthy nails allow our cats to scratch and climb. That’s why it’s important to regularly examine and clean your cat’s paws.

Maintaining your pet’s hygiene will help them look and feel great. Your one-on-one time together will also strengthen the bond between you two. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a veterinary professional or reputable groomer.

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