By Leisha Motwani
Petgascar Pet Spa was founded in 2011. We have 4 salons across Mumbai and provide home service too. Sharing a bond with every pet that we groom, and building a connection for even the nervous ones to gradually trust us is what we aim for. We are a team of pet lovers who are very passionate about their work and can’t wait to get to the other side of this pandemic. The love and passion for pets and wanting to be around them as much as I can is what made me choose Pet Grooming as a profession. I live with 2 cockatiel birds Brat & Eva and was recently adopted by an indie cat Purry. They have brought a lot of positivity in my life and I can’t wait for the day when a dog will complete our family. I consider myself and everyone who has an extended furry family very lucky.
Grooming is a great way to bond with your pet. It can be quite an enjoyable activity if done correctly. To start with, make sure your dog is comfortable at all times. Never try to hold him down or take any kind of a threatening stance. You do not want a negative association to grooming since it’s a very important part of their life. I’m pretty sure all the pets are very happy with their parents stuck at home. Since many of us have a lot of free time during this lockdown, let’s make grooming a part of our daily routine and try to get better at it while we keep our pets comfortable, clean, and happy. Even though we really miss our furry friends, here are some tips to make sure that pet parents do not miss us groomers too much!!
It is the most important step for maintaining your pet during lockdown and also between their regular salon appointments. Long Haired breeds like Shihtzus, lhasas, maltese, and yorkies need to be brushed twice a day and short haired breeds like labs, pugs, beagles, boxers should be brushed once a day. A thorough brushing from head to toe should take about 20 mins. For a long-haired breed, right brushes to have at home are a slicker brush, a flea comb, and a metal comb. For a short haired breed, you will need a rubber curry brush and a flea comb. Brushing keeps them clean and can extend the bath time, which means less work for you. Brushing not only cleans the coat, it also facilitates air flow all the way to the skin and prevents excessive shedding. While you’re brushing, you also get to keep a close eye on tick & fleas or any skin issues and most importantly mats. Long haired breeds can easily get their coat matted if not brushed at least once a day.
It breaks my heart to hear a number of people calling us saying their pets are matted and need urgent grooming during the lockdown. Dematting is a process that puts your pet and your groomer through a lot of stress and can be painful sometimes. So, brush regularly with the right tools and if you spot any mats use your fingers or a metal comb to split them a little and brush outwards away from the skin. You can also sprinkle cornstarch before brushing out severe mats. Run a metal comb to check for tiny knots after brushing.
It’s always better to file the nails instead of attempting to cut them at home. You can order a dog nail grinder online or just use a regular hooman nail filer. In most cases, nails need to be clipped once a month and it’s been one of my main worries during this lockdown. Dogs have a blood vessel that runs through their nails called the ‘quick’, it’s the pink line you see in the center of light nails. If you cut too close to the quick it will lead to painful bleeding. If your dog has very long nails the quick can be long as well, which makes it very tricky especially when it comes to black nails.
If you plan on clipping your dog’s nails at home cut very narrow slices at a 45-degree angle and stop by using your judgement or when you see a white dot. I strongly recommend keeping styptic powder or corn starch handy just in case of any bleeding, although the best option would be to pay a visit to the nearest vet. When getting the nails clipped, remember to check the dewclaw as well that is at the side of the paws. We’ve had to deal with painful experiences in the past where the dewclaw had curled up and overgrown right into the paw pad.
After every walk clean their paws with pet wipes or Johnson’s baby wipes and while you’re at it move a wipe across their body as well. If they are too dirty it’s time for a good shampoo wash just for the paws and make sure to use a blow dryer to dry them fully. You can also just use a dry shampoo as a quick fix. In case of soar or dry paw pads use paw balm, vaseline or virgin coconut oil. Please do not use any sanitizers or bleach; if you really need to disinfect their paws you can dip them in betadine solution & dry them fully. Also check for hair under the paws and in between the paw pads, and trim in line with the paw pads. The best way to keep their paws clean and away from dirt and ticks is to make them wear Dog Booties. Not all dogs like wearing booties but the earlier you start the easier it will be for them to get used to it.
Consistency is very important, when it comes to grooming your pet. Changing too much, like different grooming areas, will only leave them more stressed not knowing what to expect. Stick to the same bathing area and find a raised platform where you can keep your dog high and up for blow dry and rest of the grooming. This restricts their movement and gives you better control. You can use a study table or the top of your washing machine, your iron board or just a regular chair. Use a lick pad to keep your pet distracted and entertained throughout the process. Just stick the pad to the wall and add peanut butter or their favorite wet food. This works wonders especially with the dogs who are not so fond of dryer or are scared of water or simply don’t like being stationed.
If your dog smells or is no longer huggable it’s probably the time for a bath. A bath should be given once a week to once in ten days. Having said that, the frequency depends on various other factors also like breed, lifestyle, length of the coat, health and skin conditions etc. Sometimes even two exact same breeds have completely different grooming requirements. It’s best to check with your groomer or vet and fix a schedule.
While keeping them clean is essential, don’t bathe them too often as it will take away natural oils that protect the skin and lead to dry, flaky skin. Do not bathe them more than once a week unless recommended by the vet. Use dog shampoo only as human products can be harmful. If you do not have access to any dog shampoo you can use Johnson’s baby shampoo as a one-off. Using a dog conditioner is extremely important and I don’t mean shampoos that include conditioners or conditioning shampoos as they call it. Use a proper conditioner that is meant for your dog’s coat.
Use an anti-skid rubber mat or just lay a towel to keep them from slipping and sliding too much. Keep cotton balls ready to gently place in their ears to block water out. Place a lick pad on the side wall and keep all the supplies ready because you don’t want to end up running for towel or conditioner and leaving your pet unattended at any point during grooming. Test the water and make sure it’s lukewarm. Be very careful and avoid water and shampoo from getting into their eyes, ears, and nose during bath. Always use a mild shampoo on the face to be on safe side. Thoroughly wash off any leftover shampoo or conditioner. Even a little soap left in the coat can cause skin problems. Rinse, rinse, and when you think it’s enough rinse once again.
A damp coat can lead to matting and skin infections, and this humid climate only makes it worse. A wet coat will immediately pick up all kinds of dirt and dust and other nasty things. Most coats that are not dried right after the bath will develop some moldy smell, which completely defeats the purpose of bath. Use an absorbent towel to cut short drying time. Do not rub towel in different directions, it will only make mats and tangles. Press and squeeze all over to allow the towel to soak up as much water as possible. Then use the hair dryer on low heat and keep it moving. Don’t concentrate the blower on one area as it can burn the skin. While blow drying use your free hand to brush through the coat, this will help you keep a check on the heat and speed up the process at the same time.
Dogs do not generally like noise of hair dryers. The key is to introduce it at an early age when they are puppies. If for any reason you can’t manage to blow dry, towel dry him well and let him dry naturally while you brush him in a warm sheltered environment.
Brushing their teeth daily is the ideal thing to do nonetheless even once a week can make a difference. Use a toothbrush specially meant for dogs as its bristles are much softer. Likewise, dog toothpastes are also available at pet stores. Never use human toothpaste it can hurt your dog’s stomach. It might take a few days if your dog is not already used to teeth brushing but don’t give up and start with using your finger if they don’t adapt to toothbrush immediately. If your pet is uncomfortable, the other options are to use mouth sprays, dental treats or adding mint leaves to their water bowl.
Check your dog’s ears regularly and clean them once a month or as and when they look or smell dirty. A healthy amount of wax is needed to lubricate and protect the ear canal, so remember not to clean too often as it can lead to irritation. Ear cleaning solution and ear wipes are available at all pet stores. Cotton balls or gauze can be used instead of wipes. Gently massage the base of the ear after squeezing in a few drops of solution into the ears. This will help break the wax. Clean their ears with cotton/wipes wrapped around your finger without going deep into the ear canal. Please do not use ear buds. If you see any signs of infection like red inflamed ears, excess scratching, foul odor or flaky ears do not attempt to clean and consult your vet immediately.
Shedding is a natural process and it depends on various factors like breed, season, overall health, medical conditions, etc. Short-haired breeds like pugs, labs, beagles and double-coated breeds like german shepherds, huskies, and sometimes poms shed way more as compared to long-haired breeds like shihtzus, lhasas, cockers, etc. Pet parents can control shedding by daily brushing using a rubber brush for short-haired breeds. It takes off the lose coat in one place rather than shedding all over the house. Dogs that are not given bath regularly and then blow dried tend to shed more. To control shedding, pet parents can also look at providing a healthy diet, keeping them well hydrated, keeping a check on medical conditions like fungal infections, hormonal issues, and skin allergies.
Touch works on a whole other level of bonding. I think, since we have time and it benefits in so many ways, an oil massage could be a perfect gift to your pet. It’s therapeutic and can relax your pet and give you another opportunity to connect with your best friend. Besides this, it also stimulates blood circulation and can help prevent injury and sore muscles. Make sure your pet is calm and comfortable and start with petting before the massage. Play some soft music as it makes them feel more relaxed.
Coconut oil and saffron oil are my personal favourites. Coconut oil has anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, and anti-bacterial properties. When applied to the skin, it can make hair shinier and less prone to damage. The effects of coconut oil also prevent dogs from being infected by ticks and fleas. It’s been known to help skin conditions like hot spots, bites, stings, or itchy dry skin. It adds moisture to the skin and prevents flaking. It’s edible and safe for dogs, which also makes it an amazing natural toothpaste and paw balm. It can be used as massage oil or it can be added to his diet.
Just as you can survive this lockdown without a haircut, your pet can too!! It’s really not an emergency as long as you brush them well and avoid matting. Cutting your dog’s hair at home isn’t a very safe thing to do. Hygiene cut is what is more important so just aim to take care of trimming under the paws, near the anal area, between the eyes, and facial hair, if needed. Trimming between the eyes can be a task. Use ballpoint scissors, which is available online, to reduce the risk factor or a trimmer if your pet is used to it. Clean the eyes regularly or the eye matter will get collected and stick to hair making it hard and pokey. Use cotton dipped in warm water to clean this area, comb out the dirt with a flea comb and use Vaseline petroleum jelly to keep hair from poking in case you cannot manage to trim near the eyes. You can also use a trimmer to clear the hair under the belly. If you are worried about the heat getting to them, there are different things you can do to help with that like giving them buttermilk or vanilla ice cream or a gel cooling pad or adding ice cubes to their water bowl or surprising them with some DIY frozen treats.
I think a lot of pet parents will come out of this lockdown with a better routine and well maintained healthy and happy pets. It’s time to reconnect and reboot. Choose a quiet time when you and your pet both are calm and relaxed. Rushing through the grooming process will only make it more stressful. Plan each grooming step in advance and take frequent breaks, if needed. Always remember to reward your pet with treats and praise them through every tiny step. We give great importance to playtime before and after grooming, which is something pet parents should follow at home as well to make grooming a happy memory.
Stay home, stay calm. We can’t wait to get back to the normal world and see our poochy pals again.
* Author is Founder & Head Stylist at Petgascar Pet Spa.