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When you think of your pet’s health, grooming might not be the first thing that springs to mind. But your dog's or cat’s coat, ears and nails tell a bigger story about his well being than you might realize. Grooming is more than superficial — it helps to keep your pet comfortable.
Equally important, grooming helps keep you in tune with how your pet is feeling. It’s a chance to get a close-up view of what’s happening on the outside of his body. Lumps, bumps or skin discharge can all come to light during a grooming session. Unfortunately, all too often I see pet owners make grooming mistakes that affect their pets’ health.
Brushing your dog or cat may seem like a simple chore, but not doing it right can lead to bigger issues.
Dogs with thick double coats, such as Shetland Sheepdogs, may get a surface brushing, but if you're not getting all the way down to the skin, mats can form and tighten. And it's a vicious cycle: Your dog's fur mats because you're not doing the deep brushing, and then the mats go unnoticed because you're not doing the deep brushing.
It’s also common for pet owners to miss brushing behind the ears or where the legs meet the body. Usually it’s because the animal fusses at being touched in those areas, but the result can be more mats. If you see your dog or cat biting at himself, it’s not necessarily because he has fleas — it may be because his skin is irritated from the tangles.
Speaking of mats and tangles, when they get wet, they get worse. To help prevent this, always brush pets thoroughly before a bath.
Brushing takes time and patience, but one of the biggest mistakes pet owners make is not brushing their pets at all. It’s not unusual to see this in medium- or long-haired breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers or Persian cats. If brushing is a hassle, it’s better to have a professional trim your pet's coat short than to let him get painfully matted or tangled.
Dealing with matted hair can lead to other injuries. I've seen dogs and cats with painful cuts and stab wounds caused by errant blades. Pets get matted, and people go at them with scissors. Their intentions are good — they want to get rid of the mat or tangle — but it doesn't always end well. Cutting mats off at the base can be really dangerous, because the scissors can slice through the skin instead and cause serious injuries.
To help avoid all these issues, commit to a brushing routine or enlist the help of a professional groomer.
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