Grooming Tips for Your Dog: Ears, Teeth & Nails
Grooming is important for both the health of your pet and the bond you share. Grooming your puppy is a nice way to spend quality time together while also allowing you to monitor your dog's health by checking for cuts, bumps, tenderness, etc.
- Talk to your veterinarian or professional groomer about the pet brush or comb that works best for your puppy's coat and comfort.
- Establish a regular location and routine for grooming. Train your puppy to stand while grooming.
- Brush in the direction of hair growth. Brushing against the hair pattern may be uncomfortable for your puppy.
- Dogs with thick or long coats may need to be groomed every day to prevent painful mats and knots.
- Smooth-coated breeds may require grooming less frequently, but keep it a routine so it becomes familiar and expected.
- If your puppy needs professional grooming because of breed requirements or special fashion cuts, introduce your pet early to a friendly groomer.
Your puppy and bath time
The bathing products available for dogs today are almost as numerous as those for us humans, and they're much better suited to a dog's skin type than human shampoos. Choose a special dog shampoo that's best suited to your puppy's hair type and take extra care not to get any shampoo in his eyes when washing him.
You may want to invest in a non-slip rubber mat and place it on the bottom of the bathtub to give your puppy confidence during bath time. It's scary for a puppy to slide around on a slippery surface and this may increase his anxiety around bath time.
A dog's ears normally do not require cleaning, but check them regularly for any dirt, debris or redness, especially if you've noticed your puppy scratching or shaking his head. Contact your veterinarian if you notice these signs or anything unusual. Ear mites and ear infections require treatment by a veterinarian.
If you do wish to clean your puppy's ears, ask your veterinarian for the best method and products to do this.
Good oral health is essential to your puppy's overall health. Like you, your puppy needs regular dental care to remove plaque and tartar. Your veterinarian will examine your dog's mouth at every physical examination and will perform a professional cleaning as needed.
To help keep your puppy's teeth and gums healthy, brush your puppy's teeth regularly. Ask your veterinarian to show you how. Never use human toothpaste on your puppy – dental kits for dogs are available for daily use.
One last thing – be sure to report any broken teeth to your veterinarian immediately.
Because bad teeth are very common in dogs, now is the time to start paying careful attention to your dog's teeth. Check them regularly, at least once a week, and look out for early warning signs which include:
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums
- Buildup of tartar and plaque on the teeth
Brushing your dog's teeth every day will go a long way toward preventing dental problems, so it's a good idea to start when he's a puppy. Ask your vet to recommend a dog toothpaste and toothbrush. Remember to never use human toothpaste on a dog.
How to brush your dog's teeth
- Make sure he's securely on his leash.
- Position yourself and your puppy so that you can have easy access to his mouth.
- Put some toothpaste on your finger and allow him to lick it off.
- Replace with more toothpaste and start gently massaging it onto his teeth. Once he's used to this, you can start using a dog toothbrush.
- Gently pull back his lips and cheeks to gain access to the premolars and molars.
- Brush in a circular motion, and be sure to brush where the tooth meets the gum line, reaching to the very back teeth, where problems are most likely to develop.
Although this task may seem daunting initially, it becomes easier with practice, and if your puppy gets used to it early in life, it will become a simple task for both of you.
As well as teeth brushing, there are special foods available that you can use to help keep your puppy's teeth and gums healthy when he becomes an adult, like Hill's® Prescription Diet® t/d® dog food and Hill's® Science Diet® Oral Care dog food. These specially formulated dry foods are designed to wipe the teeth clean, helping to keep your pet's teeth free from plaque.
Regular nail trims will blunt the sharp tips of your puppy's nails and minimize accidental scratches during play. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to trim your puppy's nails, as it is important to know how to avoid the nail's blood vessels and nerves in the pink base close to the toe.
If your dog has dark nails, you will not be able to see the pink base, so it will be best to ask your veterinarian or professional groomer to trim your puppy's nails for you. A nail trim every four weeks is usually enough.
When trimming your puppy's nails at home, use the following guidelines:
- Use only nail trimmers designed for dogs.
- Introduce nail trims gradually by first gently touching your puppy's paws as he nods off for a nap.
- Get your pet used to your fingers pressing against the footpads and separating the toes.
- At first, trim a few nails once a week. The more you do it, the more familiar it will become.
- Don't forget the dewclaws, which are extra toes on the front or back of the feet of some dogs. These can grow into the dog's skin if not kept well trimmed.