Cat in Bath

You might think veterinarians don’t have a reason to get all opinionated about grooming issues. But you’d be wrong. That’s because so many grooming issues stray into medical terrain that it gets tough to separate the two fields sometimes. Disbelieve me? Ask any groomer and he’d likely agree.

It Just Isn’t So

In any case, I never need much of an excuse to truck out an opinion. To prove it, here’s a five-fingered sampling of grooming issues I happen to harbor strong feelings about:

1. Some breeds don’t shed. Every time the Obamas get a new dog it seems the Internet gets aflutter with news of the miraculous non-shedding dogs in our midst. Which only serves to compel me to post anonymously in the comments section of fact-challenged articles everywhere:

“The non-shedding breed is a myth. All breeds of dogs shed. Some shed more and some shed less, but all shed.”

In fact, within certain low-shedding breeds, some individuals may shed copiously while others will cast off their hair almost imperceptibly. Moreover, just because they don’t shed much doesn’t mean they don’t require a lot of maintenance!

This is important for all prospective dog owners to understand, especially those who are likely to be seriously disappointed should they obtain a “no-shedder” that sheds or worse — one that requires daily brushing and frequent trips to the groomer, to boot!

2. “Hypoallergenic” breeds are the ideal solution for allergic owners. Sure, some breeds are doubtless better suited to those who suffer allergies. But no breed of dog or cat is guaranteed to offer you an allergy-free life.

Indeed, within these so-called hypoallergenic breeds are plenty of individuals who may trigger your allergies even more profoundly than certain members of other breeds less touted for their reduced allergenicity.

The upshot is this: If you want to be sure you’re not going to have an allergic reaction to an individual animal once you take her home, lock yourself in a room with her for a few hours. Only then will you have a pretty good indication of whether you’re likely to suffer reactions to her.

3. Pets need baths only infrequently. It seems there’s high anxiety within American popular culture on the subject of over-bathing: “Bathing your pet every week is the worst thing you can do for your pet’s skin. It strips their skin of moisture!” is commonly overheard in our hospital’s lobby.

The truth, however, is that over-bathing is nowhere as common as under-bathing. Moreover, it’s unlikely to prove as problematic — especially when you consider that so many pets have skin diseases that require very frequent bathing.

Plus, it’s undeniably true that bathing every week or two (a typical vet recommendation) not only makes your dog or cat shed less and smell better, but also works to help prevent certain skin diseases. The key, however, is to use the right shampoo (ask your vet for a suggestion).

4. People shampoo is just as good as pet shampoo. I hear it all the time: “Pet shampoo is a sham. It’s the same stuff just repackaged at a higher price.” And while I can’t say for sure that’s not true for all pet shampoos, I can attest to the fact that the shampoos veterinarians recommend are almost always designed and formulated for pet skin.

Truth is, human shampoos and pet shampoos are not created equal. That’s because dog and cat skin and human skin are not alike in many ways. For starters, human skin is more acidic than pet skin. Then there’s the fact that we have sweat glands all over our skin, while similar glands in dogs, for example, are only on the foot pads. While there are more differences (and some of them do impact the chemical makeup and consistency of shampoo formulas), these are the most commonly cited.

But there are more perils than just these. The skin is, after all, a major organ that plays a huge role in immunological defense. By using human shampoos, we’re stripping the oils and drying the top layers from an animal’s skin, thereby compromising the body’s natural barrier against infection.

5. Tear stains are bad and should be treated. Tear stains are just that: stains caused by ruddy pigments in the tears. As such, they’re really just a pesky cosmetic “problem” and usually not a significant health care issue. That’s probably why I get annoyed when owners either beg for a veterinary solution or worse — they show me a bottle of oral medication they’ve been using to help “treat” the stains. 

Sure, it works. But is giving your pet a daily antibiotic (the most common tear stain product) worth it? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a couple of innocuous stains on my face than assume the risks posed by the lifetime of antibiotics it takes to keep me “prettier.”

Your Turn to Rant

How about you? Do you have grooming myths you want to see busted? If you’re a groomer, now’s your chance to have your say!

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