It is mid summer and a great time for a thorough grooming and going-over session with our dogs. They all certainly could use a good brushing. But that is not all.
There is lots of dead hair on our dogs no matter the length of coat. It always amazes me how much I can brush out of my lab-coated dog.
Getting rid of this dead hair leads to a healthier skin and coat. It also makes the dog much cooler during these hot, humid days. Removing the dead hair allows air to circulate through the coat and the skin can breathe.
For a good thorough brushing, put the dog on a table or bench where he is up off the ground. It makes it much easier on you and your back, but it also puts the dog off guard a bit and he is more likely to stand for the treatment. Dogs who are not used to being brushed may run off or roll over or refuse to stand if they are on the ground. Once they realize that you are not going to hurt them and that it really feels good, they begin to relax and enjoy it.
If needed, a bath should follow that initial brushing. Get rid of a lot of the dead hair before the bath. Some dogs need baths often and others rarely need them. It depends on the coat and skin. Too frequent bathing can dry out both skin and coat.
While you are brushing, take the time to check the dog for stickers, sores, swollen spots and ticks. Any unusual condition demands a thorough look. Be sure to look and feel between the toes, in the ears and where legs and body meet.
Stickers can attach themselves to the hair and get imbedded into the skin if we are not diligent in checking for them. My standard poodle has stickers between his toes almost daily. My other dogs are less prone to them. It depends a lot on the coat.
Check the toe nails. Chances are they could use a trimming.
If you do it regularly, just cut the tips off, the dog is not bothered by these manicures. If your dog is frightened, maybe clip just one nail a day. With gentleness and care, you will gain his confidence and the task will be much easier. By just clipping the tips frequently, every week or two, you never have to worry about cutting into the quick. Causing bleeding is the primary fear of most people who say they dare not cut their dog's nails. You can be sure it is the primary fear of the dog also if he has experienced it.
Look into the ears. Dogs with stand-up ears are much less likely to have ear problems than dogs with long, heavy ears. The stand-up ears allow air to circulate. If your dog is scratching his ears or rubbing them against objects, check them thoroughly. Stickers have been known to get down into the ear canal and it is very painful. If the ears look dirty, take a cotton ball or pad and a little alcohol and wipe the inside of the ear flap. Do not move down into the ear canal unless you have been told to do so by your veterinarian. Severe damage can be done to the ear drum.
Some dogs are prone to anal gland problems. When your dog has his annual visit to the veterinarian for shots and a checkup, this should be checked. But if you see swelling or your dog tends to scoot around on his rear, do take him to the vet. These can be very painful.
During this summer grooming session, take a look at the dog's coat. The condition of the coat tells a lot about his overall health. If his coat is dull and he is shedding profusely, it can be an indication of bad health or improper diet.
Does the food you are feeding provide enough essential ingredients? Proper nutrition will be discussed in a column soon, but if the food you are feeding is really cheap, you can be sure that the ingredients are of poor quality. With dog food, you definitely get what you pay for. Read the label. The first few ingredients are what make the difference. The source of meat and poultry by-products can be mighty disgusting.
Don't forget to check the weight. An overweight dog is not healthy, particularly in this hot weather. You should be able to feel the ribs and the back bone.
This summer grooming session will make the dog look and feel better, and you will have a much better idea of his overall condition. But while watching the news, get into the habit of checking your dog over at least weekly, looking for stickers, ticks and any abnormalities. He will love the attention and you will be rewarded with extra love, affection and the assurance that you dog is in good health.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry AZ 85544.