A Guide To Good Personal Hygiene in Pets [Actionable Tips]

Grooming is an important part of overall health and care in both the wild and domesticated animal world. As pet parents, grooming not only allows us to continue to bond with our beloved furred and feathered friends, it also brings a wealth of health benefits for them. General grooming encompasses a variety of areas, and maintaining a regular routine assists in their overall wellness and keeps potential health hazards at bay.

​Brushing the fur of your cat or dog should be done several times per week. For cats, this can help eliminate excess fur that creates ‘fur balls’ when they are cleaning and licking their fur. Excess fur in their systems is not digestible and can potentially cause intestinal blockages. For dogs, it can maintain a healthy coat and keep them from developing knots and tangles. Shorter-haired animals experience fewer fur problems, but all animals can benefit from brushing because it assists in stimulating the glands and reducing skin situations such as dandruff. Always use a softer brush, as the skin under the fur is very delicate. Brush gently, in the direction of the fur and watch your pet to make sure there isn’t any discomfort.

An important thing to note about people who may experience allergies from cats: They are not having the reaction from cat dander. Rather, there is a small chemical in the cat’s saliva that is applied when they lick their fur, and when it dries, it becomes lighter than air. This chemical is what causes the allergic reaction in some people.

Ear and eye health are extremely important. The eyes should be clear without any irritation, redness or cloudiness. The ears should be clear of any discharge and you should smell the ear area to ensure that there isn’t any scent at all. Problem symptoms of the ear area include discharges or a bad odor similar to that of a bad pair of tennis shoes. General cleaning of the interior area of the ear can be done using a lightly moistened medical swab such as a Q-Tip. For more severe conditions, such as those dogs that have longer ears, there are liquid cleaners that you should get from your Veterinarian that allows you to fill the ear canal with a small amount and then gently massage the ear area. Confer with your Vet about the exact method that needs to be done before doing this process. Unlike their wild cousins, our domesticated pet family members do not get the kind of outdoor exposure to keep their nails trimmed. Some dogs may experience enough exposure so that they never need to have their nails trimmed.

Long nails, especially in the case of the ‘dewclaw’ (the nail on the inner paw) can continue to grow into the skin, causing infection and pain. A groomer or a Veterinarian is the best person to trim the nails as the variations in the nail color can be deceiving and a pet parent can inadvertently cut into a blood vessel. If you are trimming your dog’s nails yourself, always trim a tiny sliver at a time. Keep styptic powder on hand to help stop bleeding, in case you accidentally cut into a blood vessel. A cat’s claws present a lesser problem for clipping as you only need to clip off the sharp hook at the very end. Teeth and gum care is an important part of grooming. However, not all pets are receptive to having their teeth brushed. If you can accomplish this without causing stress or anxiety, it is best to brush your pet’s teeth on a daily basis. For those that get anxious, once or twice a week is better than not at all. Pet stores offer a variety of cat or dog toothpastes as well as toothbrush kits.

These are important because human toothpaste can upset a pet’s stomach. Typically, the ‘toothbrush’ is smaller in size and fits over your finger. If you are unsure how your pet will react to getting their teeth brushed, begin by massaging the outside of their muzzle for a week or so. The next action would be to dab your pet’s lips with the toothpaste. Then at a later time, introduce the toothbrush. Do not lock your pet’s head or be forceful; instead, allow them to chew or play with it. This should be an enjoyable routine. Cats often do better without the toothbrush and you can accomplish the same benefit with just a little toothpaste on a Q-Tip swab, sliding it under the lips and then rubbing the teeth. Being attentive to the health of your pet should include a regular grooming program. This allows you to bond and share in the same way that they do in the animal world. Your pet is part of your pack and family and as such, grooming displays the love and affection that you feel for your pet while maintaining their wellness.

Adapted from Pet Lovers Centre Magazine – Issue 10

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