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Grooming for good health

Photograph: iStock

Text: Tarek Abu Sham

Did you know that proper hygiene and grooming will keep your pet comfortable and healthy? While you might have a pet that doesn't need to go to the groomer for regular baths or haircuts, your pet still needs basic care like brushing and nail trimming.

Trimming your pet's nails

Did you know that trimming your pet's nails can help prevent musculoskeletal abnormalities? When your pet's nails get long, they can push the nail up and into the nail bed. This adds extra stress and strain on the toes, and it can be very uncomfortable. Over time, the nail can start to spiral or even grow into the paw pad. This can be incredibly painful and also contribute to severe infections, often necessitating antibiotics and pain-relieving medications.

The longer you wait to have your furry friend's nails trimmed, the greater the chance of the experience being uncomfortable. They may need more frequent nail trimmings because the blood vessel found within each nail may be further into the nail, which can be painful if it is clipped, not to mention potentially lead to bleeding that can be difficult to control.

Brushing your pet's teeth

One of the most common disease problems seen by veterinarians is periodontal disease. In addition to being a painful condition, periodontal disease may contribute to teeth becoming loose and falling out. Tooth root abscesses may occur as well.

Brushing your dog or cat's teeth regularly is a great way to help prevent periodontal disease and keep the teeth as healthy as possible. There are a variety of tools you can use to help clean your pet's teeth. Start with a toothpaste designed for pets, many of which are enzymatic and help clean the teeth even if you can't get a good brushing motion going while your pet tries to eat the toothpaste.

In addition to regular brushing, there are also water additives that can help fight plaque. Your veterinarian may even recommend certain dental chews or food additives to help fight dental disease, which has been linked to various health conditions like heart disease. In addition, chronic inflammation can impair your pet's immune system from functioning normally.

Cleaning your pet's ears

Do you have a dog with long, floppy ears? While you can't prevent every possible ear infection, cleaning your pet's ears regularly can help minimize the risk of some cases developing. Keep in mind that some pets need little more than occasionally having their ears gently wiped out with a cotton ball. However, if your pet is prone to ear infections, they might need more regular cleanings.

Your veterinarian can likely make a recommendation, such as a ceruminolytic product, which helps break up ear wax for easier removal. You will generally want to avoid products with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide as they can sting and even potentially contribute to inflammation within the ear canals.

"While many pets will let you take care of these regular grooming needs at home, some pets are anxious or wriggly, making it hard for them to get the care they need."

When cleaning your pet's ears, you'll want to avoid using cotton swabs, as they can cause trauma to the ear canal, even pushing debris further into the canal where it might become impacted or pierce the eardrum. Instead, use cotton balls or gauze squares. In addition, the wax buildup can set the scene for an ear infection to develop, as warm and moist environments can be a great place for yeast and bacteria to proliferate.

While many pets will let you take care of these regular grooming needs at home, some pets are anxious or wriggly, making it hard for them to get the care they need. You should discuss these concerns with your veterinarian if a mild sedative or calming product might make it easier for them (and you) to get the job done. Keep in mind that these are services we now offer as well, so you don't have to take your pet to high-stress locations just to have their nails trimmed.

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