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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Understanding Pet Grooming: Coat Maintenance is Critical to Animal Wellbeing

Nov 01, 2016 11:18PM ● By Mary Oquendo

By law, food, water and shelter are the basic physical necessities that are required to be provided for pets. But that’s not really enough to keep pets at their best… they need more. Their physical needs include caring for their appearance. Grooming is more than just making them look good, it’s a matter of health and wellbeing, just as regular bathing is for humans.

A pet’s skin is the largest organ in their body. As such, it takes up a large amount of the body’s available resources. When the condition of the skin is compromised or neglected, it unduly taxes an animal’s system. The skin has three functions: protection, regulation and sensation. It could be argued that a fourth function is to hold everything together in one neat package. An animal’s skin needs to breathe. A tangled coat, excessive dander or dirt impede its ability to do so.

What covers the skin is a coat, sometimes referred to as hair. Although it comes in varying lengths, it must be regularly maintained regardless of its length. Dogs and cats with a long coat have the potential to mat. A mat is hair that intertwines and becomes tight against the skin to the point of suffocating the skin. By not regularly maintaining that coat, sores, irritations and even open wounds may manifest under the mat. Once a coat is matted, the only humane approach is to shave the coat and start over.

Understanding Cats’ Coats

It is a misconception that cats are self-cleaning; they are not ovens. Cats lick their fur with saliva to remove excess hair. This licking may lead to hairballs. Hairballs can become problematic when they become numerous or large and cannot pass out of the digestive tract. This is actually life-threatening. Even short-haired cats should be brushed and combed regularly. Cat combs should have alternating-sized tines to help grab the undercoat. Pin brushes with soft tines are better for a cat’s thinner skin.

Quality combs and brushes have rounded ends; it is more expensive for the manufacturer to round the edges, hence the higher price tag. To test the comb or brush, run it up and down the arm. Quality equipment does not hurt. A cat’s skin, thinner than a dog’s, tears easier with lower quality combs and brushes. De-shedding tools are popular but the problem with them is that while they are effective at removing undercoat, they also cut the coat. This damages the hair cuticle; a damaged cuticle is more likely to mat and create more problems.

Cats can be bathed, but not in the same manner as dogs. Place towels in the sink as cats need something soft to grip. Apply pre-mixed cat safe shampoo to their coat and massage it in. Cat faces should be hand-washed with face shampoo or a soft cloth. Rinse using a cup of water at a time because most cats do not like the sensation of fast-moving running water on their skin. Towel off and dry.

Diving into Dog Hair

Short-coated dogs, such as Labrador retrievers, should be brushed with a rubber curry brush, a solid piece of rubber with raised nubs. These nubs gently pull out dead coat. A cat comb is also very effective at pulling out dead coat from short-coated dogs. They will shed less when professionally blown out with a high-velocity dryer. A pet groomer uses such a dryer to force undercoat out; only professionals should use high-velocity dryers, as they are powerful enough to blow out eardrums, puncture lungs and damage soft corneal eye tissue.

All other dogs can be categorized into shedding and non-shedding types. Dogs that shed—including golden retrievers, German shepherds, Siberian huskies and others—require a quality comb and medium bristle pin brush to manage their coats. A weekly comb and brush is usually sufficient for these breeds. They may also benefit from having their coat professionally blown out.

Long-coated dogs, such as doodles, poodles, Wheatons and so forth, benefit from frequent professional grooming. Long coats will easily mat if not combed and brushed several times a week. The longer the pet’s coat, the more frequent their care needs to be. They require a quality comb and pin brushes with soft, medium and hard tines.

Regular grooming not only keeps a pet beautiful, but also serves to maintain their skin. Maintained skin and coat results in a healthier and happier pet.

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master pet tech pet first aid instructor. She is the owner of Hands and Paws-Reiki for All. She can be reached at See ad, page 17.

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