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Top Medical Reasons For Grooming Your Dog

By: Dr. Amy Wolff

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Keeping your dog healthy means paying regular attention to bathing, grooming and brushing. Even dogs with short hair will benefit from this often overlooked aspect of his health. Grooming does more than just make your dog look and smell nice. Here are the top medical reasons why regular grooming will help your dog stay healthy and feel better.

The Better To See You With

Keeping your dog's face free of long hair that can irritate the eyes will make him feel more comfortable and prevent eye problems. Many dogs, such as the shih tzu, Lhasa apso and poodle, have long hair that hangs in the eyes causing irritation and damage to the cornea. Check your dog to see if there are hairs lying on the eye. These should be trimmed by a groomer, or drawn up in a bow to keep your dog's face clean and clear. NEVER use scissors or sharp implements around the eyes.

Some dogs have a problem with drainage from the eyes. This problem may have many causes. Check with your veterinarian to help rule out any medical conditions that can be solved. If the drainage is persistent, make sure you keep it wiped away. Skin and fur that stays constantly moist can discolor and become infected.

My, What Big Ears You Have

Those long floppy ears are endearing but they cover your dog's ear canal creating a moist warm environment that lacks air circulation. This can cause your dog to suffer from chronic ear infections that can be difficult to cure and can re-occur. Cocker spaniels, shar-peis and golden retrievers are just a few of the breeds that suffer from this all too common problem. Infections that go unchecked can result in serious and painful ear disease.

Learn how to clean your dog's ears to help prevent these problems. Your veterinarian can show you how to clean them properly and advise you on the use of an ear cleaning solution. Have your groomer shave the hair from the inside of the pinna (the floppy part of the ear) to allow for air circulation, and gently remove any hair that may be growing in the ear canals. Once again, NEVER use scissors or sharp implements in or near the ears. A healthy ear should look and smell clean. Any foul odor, discharge or excessive scratching should be immediately investigated.

Say Cheese

Dental disease in dogs is common. Checking your dog's mouth and teeth will help you spot trouble before it becomes a big problem. Your veterinarian can show you how to keep your dog's teeth clean with brushes and toothpastes designed specifically for dogs. Your older dog may not think too much of dental care. If you can't get him to accept having his teeth brushed, make it a regular habit to check his teeth for tartar, chipping or excessive wear, or any lump or bump that looks suspicious. Dental disease can be very painful and serve as a source of infection for the rest of the body, so check those teeth and tell your dog's doctor if you find a problem.

Everybody Into the Tub

Most every dog will need a bath a few times a year. This need will vary depending on your dog's lifestyle, breed and any skin problems he may have. Bathing helps remove old hair, dirt and oil from the skin. The physical action of being washed is pleasant to most dogs and it may make you aware of a lump or bump that may have appeared or changed suddenly.

This is also a good time to check for parasites such as fleas and ticks. Dogs that swim in natural waterways such as lakes, ponds and rivers, or those lucky enough to visit the beach should be rinsed after every outing. There are a lot of different shampoos and conditioners for every type and color of dog. Your groomer or veterinarian can advise you if your dog has special needs. Be sure to protect your dog's eyes with a little mineral oil or eye ointment before bathing.

Break out the Brushes

Between baths, brushing your dog will help keep the coat clean and free of hair mats. Mats can be irritating and cause skin disease under the hair. Longhaired dogs require everyday brushing to keep their coats healthy. Most dogs enjoy grooming and often wait eagerly to be combed. If your dog's fur is badly matted, he may need to be shaved. This is a job for a groomer. NEVER attempt to cut of hair mats with a scissors; you may cut the skin as well. As your dog's hair grows back, begin with daily brushing to keep the new hair soft and tangle free.

Nails

By far the most dreaded grooming chore is trimming your dog's nails. If you have a young dog, touch her feet and toes often to get her used to having her feet handled. Older dogs often are very frightened by the chore of nail trimming and may be completely uncooperative. Despite their protests, nail trimming is a must. Long overgrown nails often break at the base exposing the nail bed. Walking on long nails can be painful, aggravate arthritis and cause the toes to splay. Long nails can curve around and grow into the pads. A dog walking on overgrown nails is like you trying to walk in swim fins. Your veterinarian will show you how to properly trim nails and claws.

Mentioning the Unmentionable

Lastly, there is your dog's rear end. Most dog owners don't make it a habit to check their dog's bottom but it is an important place to look. Longhaired animals can get feces trapped in the hair surrounding the anus causing an obstruction. Have your groomer keep this area clipped short. Situated to the sides of the anus are two anal glands. These glands manufacture a foul smelling material that is normally expressed when your dog has a bowel movement. These glands can become painfully blocked and infected. Learn to recognize the sign of infection. Scooting is often a giveaway.

Your veterinarian can help keep these sacs empty. And lastly, and most indelicately, your dog's rear end is a place to attract parasites. It is easy to see fleas here, and those awful signs of a tapeworm infection, small white worms that look like grain of rice or cucumber seeds. Even the nicest dogs can get them. Have your veterinarian look at any suspicious life forms you find.

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