It should be one of those Norman Rockwell moments. Your beloved pet in the tub, it is surrounded by a halo of ethereal bubbles. And you are sharing one of those special bonding moments. If that were only the case!
Bathing your cat or dog may not be the highlight of your week but it doesn't have to be a time of abject horror. Here are some tips to make the encounter more tolerable for the both of you.
First.. The best time to bathe your pet is starting when it is young. If you have never given your cat a bath and it is now matted, 6 years of age and scoots out of the room whenever you run the tub, chances are you are not going to have a pleasant experience. Accustom your pet to being handled, brushed and bathed on a routine basis when it is a youngster. You will thank yourself later.
Dogs and cats both need periodic grooming. How often will depend on the length of their coat, their lifestyle and your personal preferences.
Brushing the coat can serve many purposes. It allows you to check for lumps and bumps. Many bumps are benign but you can't tell just by looking at or feeling them. It is always best to bring them to your veterinarian's attention.
The type of brush or comb you will need depends on your pet's coat. Ask one of the staff members at your veterinarian's office which is best for you. Use it several times per week. Brushing is better than having fur on the sofa and beats a cat spitting up a hairball any day.
Burrs can get caught in a pet's coats. Plant material such as foxtails can literally work their way under the skin and cause festering wounds. Check your pet daily for these nuisances if they live or play in an area where burrs are common.
To remove a burr that is stuck in the coat, try massaging a small amount of baby oil or olive oil into the tangle. Then comb it out. For tougher cases, crush the burr first with needle nose pliers, then apply the oil and finally comb it free.
Always brush in the direction that the fur grows. Start around the head and neck and work towards the tail. Wearing rubber gloves when you brush will help to trap the fur onto the gloves rather than having it fly everywhere.
Remember there is a top and bottom to your pet. Yes, you need to attend to the chest and belly as well as between the front and rear legs. Be patient, especially with an older pet who is not accustomed to this type of attention. You may only get to groom a small area at a time but with some persistence, you can get it done.
A soap and water bath is the gold standard for cleanliness. If you don't have the time for aquatic adventures, you can sprinkle baking powder through your pet's coat, massage it in and then brush it out. It is non-toxic and can be a useful stopgap measure. You can also use baby wipes to clean off dirty paws, rear ends and faces.
When you do reach for the bottle of shampoo, be sure that it is one designed for use in pets. Most pet shampoos are safe to use on cats and dogs but there are some medicated shampoos that are meant for dogs only. Always be sure to read labels.
I used to recommend human baby shampoo for my patients. I have since learned that this is not a good idea. Though it is gentle on their eyes, it strips the oils off their skin. Do not use other types of people shampoos. Our shampoos are more of a hair care product. Pet shampoos address the needs of the fur but also nurtures their skin. Pet skin has a different ph and sensitivities than ours.
Carefully trim nails before the bath. Pop a large ball of steel wool into the drain to keep the fur from clogging it. Use warm water and bathe your pet from the neck down. Do not get water into its ears. Don a pair of cotton gardening gloves when bathing your pet. Place the shampoo in the palm of your gloved hand. The gloves allow you to use less shampoo and they spread the shampoo more evenly throughout the coat. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and clean the ears with a specific ear cleansing solution. Towel dry or use a hair dryer on a warm, not hot setting. And viola, you have a clean pet.
If your pet still has a stinky odor a day or two after its bath, the source of the smell may not be its skin. It needs an examination by your veterinarian.
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