Grooming your pet

%d0%b0%d0%b1%d1%80%d0%b8%d0%ba%d0%be%d1%81%d0%be%d0%b2%d1%8b%d0%b9_%d0%bf%d1%83%d0%b4%d0%b5%d0%bb%d1%8cKeeping your pet clean and healthy is an essential part of pet ownership. As a result, we’ve brought together some essential tips to help keep your pet in tip top condition!

Why is grooming important?

Grooming your pet isn’t all about painted nails and strange coat topiary – also known as creative grooming - it is a vital element of caring for your pet.

Regular grooming helps in the following ways;

Bonding – Grooming gives you time to spend with your pet on a 1 to 1 basis and so creates and reinforces the bond between you. It is best to start when your pet is very young to allow them become used to the process, especially if they are from a breed that has a long or thick coat.

Improves comfort and behaviour - Tangles and matts pull on your pet’s skin and can make them feel uncomfortable. If left, they can also attract dirt and pests such as fleas and ticks, which will increase their discomfort.

You pet may appear agitated or withdrawn if they are left dirty or begin smell, so may find that their behaviour improves when they are clean. For example, a dog with extra hair on their faces that blocks their vision may become fearful or aggressive because they cannot use their senses in the way they are supposed to.

Benefits you and the family – Life with a happy, fresh smelling dog is much nicer than one where a dog is miserable, aggressive and smelly. You will find too, that you have a dog that you are happy to introduce to new people and new experiences. In addition, if you or someone in your family has pet allergies, regular grooming should help to reduce symptoms.

You will also find that your vet bills are lower because you will notice their health levels much more and the simple act of grooming can prevent illnesses too.

Health – As indicated above, grooming has a positive effect on your pet’s health. It allows you to perform health checks. You can observe any changes in their appearance, if they have fleas or ticks, for example, and you can check for lumps, bumps and injuries, which may need veterinary attention.

Hair and Skin – It enables you to trim and cut excess fur and strip dead hair from their coats.

Different breeds will require different types of hair removal e.g a Border Terrier can grow a fairly long coat if left for too long, while a Whippet, which has a very thin coat will require very little attention.

Removing loose and excess fur and hair from their coat also helps to keep your pet cool during hot weather. It also helps to reduce hairballs that even the smallest of pets can develop.

See all Hairball


Paying attention to grooming also helps to improve your pet’s circulation and therefore their coat by bringing out the natural oils from their skin. It also reduces the likelihood of skin complaints and itchiness.

You can also help to improve your pet’s hair and skin by providing a diet that helps to promote a shiny coat such as food rich in Omega 3, or fish oil supplements, for example.


Teeth, eyes, and ears– speaking of diet, as well as paying attention to what goes into your pet’s mouth you should pay attention to what happens inside their mouths.

British Shorthair cat, playing with toothbrushWe have written an article specifically on the subject, so do brush up your knowledge of how to take care of your pet’s teeth too.

Similarly, pay attention to your pet’s ears. Some long-haired dogs and occasionally cats grow hair deep in the ear canal. This hair can trap bacteria and cause irritation, and may lead to ear infections.

Your pets ears should also be checked for mites, ticks and other potential sources of problems such as excess wax or redness.



As we saw above it can help your pet’s mental health if you ensure that they can see properly. It is also important for them physically your pet’s eyes can become infected if the hairs around them are not dealt with appropriately. Make sure, therefore, your pet’s eyes are bright and clear, if they are sore or watery, or if any of these areas look sore you should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Feet and Nails – Domesticated cats and dogs – and even small pets and birds - tend not wear down their nails as fast as they would if they were in the wild. This means that you may have to trim them occasionally. Long nails can cause your pet to walk awkwardly and is one of the most frequently diagnosed reasons why pets have problems with their joints.  See our advice page on joint problems for more information.

Bathing your pet

In addition to the basic grooming described above, you will want to bathe your dog once a month.

This frequency, of course, will depend upon their breed, whether they have rolled in something smelly or if they have a skin condition, for example.

Cats – other than the hairless breeds - generally don’t require bathing due to their fastidious nature and their built in grooming tools that are their tongues and teeth.

However, if their fur becomes dirty, sticky or smelly you may have to “take the plunge”.

Small pets should not be given baths, they find them highly stressful, therefore should only be considered in extreme cases.



How to bathe your pet

Using a soothing voice and encouragement throughout, use the following steps to make bath time a success.

1. Preparation is key - Make sure your pet is brushed and clipped of any matts so bathing is made more comfortable. Then make sure you have the right tools for the job and that they are close by so you don’t find yourself with a half cleaned dog running about the house because you forgot the dog shampoo!

2. Make sure that you are wearing clothes you don’t mind getting dirty or wet!

3. Pick a suitable location – to prevent escapes chose somewhere you can shut the door. Make sure they are standing on a non-slip surface e.g. a bath matt or extra towel

4. Use only lukewarm water – your pet’s skin is different from yours, it can scald easily. Fill the bath to about 4 inches and, if your bath has a hand held showerhead, use it to dampen your dog from head to toe. If there is no hand held shower use a jug or another unbreakable container.

5. Lather you pet in shampoo all over the coat. Always use a pet friendly product because human shampoos often contain products that are irritating to pets skin, some may even be toxic.

6. Avoid their ears, eyes and nose.

7. Rinse well – make sure that the shampoo is well rinsed from the coat. Be over cautious because any soap left behind may irritate the skin.

8. Rub dry your pet using a towel. If your pet is happy with the sound of a hair drier, you should use only the lowest heat.

Once completed give your pet lots of praise and set them free. Make sure, though, that they are confined inside in the short term to prevent another bath being necessary!

Different breeds have different bathing needs so; if you are unsure about how often your pet needs to be bathed please speak to your vet for advice.

Grooming tools

Of course, what you have in your pet’s grooming kit will depend on species and breed, together with their health needs and, even their coat colour, now that companies have developed shampoos specifically!

Below are some descriptions of the more common tools used in grooming:

Brushes and combs

Metal comb – metal combs are useful for working through tangled coats to remove knots and matts. Finely toothed, metal combs are often used as flea combs too!

Curry comb/brush –a tool that is made of rubber or plastic with short “teeth” to remove loose hair and massage skin. They are particularly useful for grooming breeds with short coats that shed large amounts.

Matt splitter/Dematting Rake – these are tools for removing knots in matted fur, particularly for pets with wiry or long hair.

Shedding rake/ Furminator – tools that remove dead hair and loose undercoat from for long-coated, double-coated, and wire-coated breeds

Pin brushes – Wire pin brushes can come with or without rubber tipped ends and are used to remove loose hair from animals with medium to long hair and those with curly or woolly coats

Bristle brushes – Depending upon the spacing and length of bristles these brushes can be used on all coat. They are used to remove loose hair from the surface of the coat and add shine. Generally, the longer the coat the more widely spaces and longer the bristles should be. Also, the bristles stiffness should increase with the coarseness of the hair.

Slicker brushes – brushes that are typically used after brushing with a bristle or wire pin brush. They are used to smooth the coat and take out matts and tangles of animals with long, and curly coats.



Clippers and scissors

Depending upon your pet’s coat, you will need to remove or shorten their hair. There is a wide variety of types available including “silent” clippers that are designed to minimise noise and vibrations and therefore make grooming less stressful.


Alternatively, the scissors can be used but bear in mind that they need to be appropriate for the task you are undertaking.


Shampoos and Conditioners

Always purchase pet appropriate products. There are numerous types available, and some are even tailored specifically to breed and skin type so always read the instructions before use. If in doubt, always ask the advice of your veterinarian.

Dental products

See our page on caring for your pet's teeth and gums for details.

Supplies for ears and eyes

Always use appropriate products for these sensitive areas. There are a number of products available, but bear in mind that they should not need much attention so if you are spending more than a few minutes on your pet’s eyes and ears you should speak to your veterinarian, just in case.

Feet and nails

Your pet’s nails can be trimmed using various different tools but as a rule of thumb, they should be concave at the cutting edge, to avoid crushing the nail. Plus, they should be sharp and of good quality so the nails aren’t split when cut.

Only cut the hook end of the nail so you don’t cut the quick, clipping the nails too short can cause the animal pain and bleeding.

If you do cause bleeding don’t panic it should stop within a few minutes

When grooming your pet, remember to check their paws. This is because their pads are very sensitive, for example, they may have injured their pad, something may be caught between the toes, or they may just have sore feet due to a food allergy! There are various ointments and creams that you can use to maintain healthy pads, however if you do notice your pet limping or paying more attention to their feet do seek advice from your veterinarian.


Visiting a groomer

If you have a pet that does not enjoy the grooming process, you find them difficult to handle, or you feel you don’t have enough time to devote to your pet’s grooming you could always get a professional groomer to do it for you!

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right one for you and your pet!

1. Ask around – ask fellow pet owners, your veterinarian and friends and family. There’s nothing like a review from someone you know and trust.

2. Speak to the groomers in your area – Ask your local groomers about their experience and their professional qualifications. You should consider visiting the premises at the same time so you can evaluate their services and facilities too!

Good groomers shouldn’t mind being questioned because they understand how important your pet is to you.

Increasingly there are groomers who can drive their grooming facility to your door in their own kitted out van, or that can bring their grooming tools into your home so, if you have a particularly anxious pet you may want to consider one of these option

3. Trust your intuition – Just as you know your pet, you will know which groomer your pet would prefer to visit

4. Be patient – good groomers tend to have long waiting lists!

Grooming is an important part of caring for your pet and it is vital that you attend to it – either by doing it yourself, or by getting a professional to do it for you – in order to help keep your pet happy and healthy as well as smelling nice and fresh!

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