All dogs (except for the truly hairless breeds) require frequent brushing regardless of coat type. Brushing is very important to your dog’s health and happiness. Brushing stimulates the skin by removing dead skin flakes, encourages natural oil production, removes irritating debris and encourages blood flow to the skin. It also uncovers skin and coat troubles, such as dandruff, parasites or dry or brittle fur, which may indicate an illness. Failing to brush your dog regularly may result in mats, which breed bacteria and infections and can be very painful for your dog.
Dogs should be bathed regularly. Brushing before a bath is recommended, as it breaks down dirt, grime and debris so the shampoo will clean more effectively (and it might also relax the dog). Don’t wash dogs outside; the frigid water from a garden hose is extremely uncomfortable and can make them sick.
Treat your dog to a visit with a professional groomer periodically. Dogs with coats that need regular trimming- such as poodles and Shih Tzus- can be professionally groomed every four to six weeks. Many mixed-breed dogs and those with multi-length coats- such as golden retrievers, many spaniels and sheep dogs- can get a professional grooming every six to 12 weeks. Dogs with uniform-length coats- such as Labs, and beagles- can visit a professional every 12 to 16 weeks, but can get by with home brushings. A professional can identify and remove mats safely. Professional groomers also have the tools and experience to safely cut and style your dog’s coat.
Inspect your dog’s ears frequently. Clean inside the ear only when you see dirt, wax or debris. Use an unexpired canine ear-wash solution and cotton balls to clean the ear (do not use cotton swabs). Squirt the solution into the dog’s ear canal and massage the base of the ear canal for 20 seconds. Then use cotton balls to remove the wax, but only as far down as you can see. Stop immediately if your dog cries, bites or exhibits any sign of pain.
Perform inspections of your dog’s skin and coat. Because your dog is covered in fur that can hide medical and grooming problems, you should inspect every inch of the skin and coat with your eyes and fingers. Regular brushing will make the inspection easier because dirt, mats and tangles won’t get in your way. Look for any changes or abnormalities, such as bites, parasites, injuries, lumps or changes in the skin’s color or texture.
Remember, its cold outside! Dogs with short hair and dogs that get cold easily should wear coats or sweaters while on a walk to keep warm. You can also cover their feet with booties to protect their pads from salt or chemical de-icers. Wipe off any salt that might get on their stomach to keep them from licking it off.
For more information, visit www.americanhumane.org.