Care.com

Steve Penhollow @SteveP7

To Groom or Not to Groom -- It Is Not a Question

All about the need for regularly bathing, brushing, clipping and trimming your pet

In May of this year, my wife had to put our elderly cat to sleep.

This cat became a fixture in my wife's life 10 years before I did so her grief was considerable. One of the things my wife misses most is the once-a-week grooming sessions she and her cat had shared.

Get grooming now

Grooming your pet yourself, or having your pet groomed by a professional, is important for reasons that have nothing to do with physical beauty. Grooming may be an easily ignored chore to you, but it's an ounce of prevention that can forestall the necessity for a pound of cure. Conventional wisdom has it that pets just naturally hate being groomed. But perhaps this is a sin of commission on the owner's part that has its roots in a sin of omission.

Think how much you'd hate combing your hair if you only did it once or twice a year. Unwashed hair and fur gets snarled and snarls are painful to comb out for the comber and the pet being groomed. More frequent grooming accustoms a pet to the process and makes the fur more manageable.

Grooming and good pet health

Ungroomed or undergroomed pets are also much more likely to be besieged by parasites. Exploring a pet's skin can help you or your groomer find irritations, sores, cuts, lumps, or signs of fleas. For obvious reasons, it is prudent to catch these nuisances before they turn into catastrophes.

The question of how frequent is frequent enough where grooming is concerned is an impossible one to answer definitively. A Doberman obviously needs less grooming than a Bichon. You need to know your pet breed well enough to determine proper grooming requirements. Once a week may be too often for your pet, but not often enough for other pets. Care.com offers a Family Pet Guide to help you determine the best care for your pet. And, searching for local pet care is easier than ever when you visit Care.com's Pet Care resources.

But letting more than two months go by between grooming sessions seems to be potentially detrimental for any pet. Before we depart this topic, let us not forget the olfactory factor. Let's face it: a well-groomed pet is just more pleasant to be around. We all have fond stories about the smelly dogs we have known. But the way such dogs are often left to their own devices is something to get sad about, not sentimental over. It is easier to emotionally bond with a creature of whose scent you are fond.

Here are the top four grooming tips

  • Brush your pet at least once a week. Bathe your dog at least once every two months. Cats should not need to be bathed unless they are especially dirty.
  • Check your pet's ears twice a month. The skin within should be pink, odorless, free of crustiness and unidentifiable matter.
  • Always brush or comb in the direction of the hair growth. Explore special combs and brushes designed for specific fur styles and fur problems.
  • You may want to get a professional to cut your pet's nails as a snipped blood vessel is a horror film you don't want to be a cast member of. However, the blood vessel inside a nail, also known as the quick, might be more visible after a bath. Less is more in nail trimming. If you are not sure where the quick ends, err on the side of caution.

Your pet is a family member

You might not think that regular grooming could contribute much to the emotional bond that you share with your pet. But watching my wife groom our cat was like watching Zen masters meditate. The sessions helped both of them in innumerable ways. It helps create a bond of closeness and trust between pet-owner and pet. Regular and appropriate grooming can also be a great way to keep health problems in-check. Just as keeping your pet well-fed and properly exercised keeps your pet smiling, good grooming adds greatly to your pet's overall happiness. Remember, you are caring for a member of your family -- don't let it get away from you. Make time for it.

Steve Penhollow writes about pets and family issues for Care.com. He also writes about arts and entertainment for other publications.

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