pet hygiene

A PET OWNER’S GUIDE TO PET HYGIENE

11/05/13

Just like us, our pets feel better when they’re clean and well-cared for. Although our pets do wash themselves, many of them still need some help. Plus, when you groom your pet regularly, you might be alerted to new health issues. Taking care of the small things early can save your pet from bigger issues later on.

Coats

Every breed is different—some have coats that require a lot of intense maintenance, while others require minimal care. No matter what kind of coat your pet has, all pets should be brushed regularly. “It’s important to brush your pet to stay on top of loose hair and dirt,” says Dr. Chip Coombs, Chief Veterinary Officer at Pets Plus Us. “You can also take the opportunity to check your pet’s coat for insects, cuts or skin problems your pet might be having, especially if your pet spends a lot of time outdoors.” Remember, senior pets will need more help than younger ones. “When pets get older, it can often be difficult for them to clean themselves the way they once did—especially so for cats,” according to Dr. Chip.  

Professional Grooming

An occasional trip to a professional pet salon might also be necessary. In most cases, a pet with a heavier coat should be groomed at least once every eight weeks, while a short-haired cat or dog can go anywhere from 10 to 12 weeks without a problem. While you may be able to bathe your dog at home, sometimes it’s nice to have the extra help. Even if your dog doesn’t need a trim, taking him or her to the groomer for a soapy wash can reduce dander and leave your pet smelling fresh and clean.

Ears and Eyes

It’s a good idea to monitor your pet’s ears and eyes. If you’re washing them yourself, be careful not to get water into them – especially the ear canal - and to check them afterwards, drying them thoroughly with a towel once you’re done. Regular monitoring of these areas will also help you catch problems early while they’re still easy to treat. If you notice any discoloration or discharge from your pet’s eyes, make an appointment to have your vet check it out. Checking your pet’s ears can also alert you to ear mites, infections, fleas and ticks that might burrow into the ear canal. Remember, your groomer can also be your partner in preventative health for your pet. They may notice an infection before you do.

Nails

Your pet’s nails are one of the most sensitive parts of his or her body. Letting your dog or cat’s nails get too long can become a serious health hazard. Nails that have grown too long can get snagged on things, causing them to break or tear. Not only is this painful for your pet, it can also lead to infection. Untrimmed dew claws can grow so long that they curl into the leg, causing serious discomfort and even break the skin.

“If you don’t feel confident about cutting your pet’s nails, ask your vet or a professional groomer to show you how it’s done,” says Dr. Chip. “They will teach you the right technique and the appropriate length for your pet.” Many groomers offer a reasonably priced ‘drop-in anytime’ nail trimming service. Check around as prices can vary. While it is important to keep nails trimmed, cutting nails too short can be a problem too. If clipped too close to the blood vessels, nails can bleed.  When in doubt or if you’re nervous, ask or leave it to the professionals.

Toys and Bedding

Just like you, your pet likes to sleep in clean bedding. Wash their beds and blankets regularly. Not only will this keep them fresh and clean, it will help kill germs that can lead to illness. Toys should also receive a regular cleaning in hot, soapy water. If a toy is in rough shape, err on the side of caution. Not only can they harbour germs, but loose parts or ripped fabric can present a hazard if ingested.

Food Dishes

Bacteria can grow unseen on any surface—especially where food is concerned. Washing your pet’s water dish and food bowl regularly can help eliminate germs that cause digestive problems.

Brushing Teeth

Like with humans, good oral health typically leads to a longer, healthier life for pets. Unlike us however, our dogs and cats can’t brush their teeth themselves. It’s best to start a brushing routine with your pets when they’re young. You can make it part of your evening cuddling ritual, or what happens after they get a treat, so they associate good things with the habit. There are many kinds of toothbrushes and dog and cat specific toothpastes on the market today, so you can experiment to find one that works best for your pet.  Even if your pet is older, it’s never too late to start. Take it slow and gradually increase the time spent cleaning so that you have enough time to clean their whole mouth. If you do it daily, they’ll quickly adopt it as part of their routine. 

If your pet has slightly bad breath, this is considered normal. If it is foul, your pet may be experiencing some tooth decay or gum disease. Remember to have your vet do an annual dental exam on your pet. According to Dr. Chip, for some breeds – especially toy dogs – semi-annual visits may be required to maintain gum health and retain their teeth into maturity.

Remember, good pet hygiene habits should be part of your schedule as a responsible pet owner. The more you incorporate these tasks into your daily routine, the more comfortable your pet will become.