Your dog wears a coat of insulation, helping him stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. His coat holds essential oils close to his skin, and protects it from scrapes and scratches. Its hollow hairs help him stay afloat so he can concentrate on swimming rather than treading.
Without daily maintenance, however, your dog can quickly become cheap transportation for burrs and other plant seeds. Parasites love to burrow in the warm, moist areas next to his skin, presenting a health hazard for you and your dog. With a few simple steps, though, you can maintain the health of your dog’s coat without resorting to an expensive groomer.
As a natural part of their lives, dogs are skilled at self-grooming. They are taught by their mothers that grooming limits skin-borne diseases and parasites. Young muscles and bones benefit from the increased blood flow their massaging mothers stimulate. As they grow and become self-sufficient, they begin to groom themselves and become very successful at it. When a dog is living in a home environment, however, they need some human help to maintain a healthy coat.
Brush your dog frequently using a brush with soft bristles and a flea comb. Use light pressure and always stroke with the coat’s grain. This collects shedding hair before it gets all over your furniture and clothes and eliminates matting before it becomes too snarled.
Long and thick coats fight a constant battle against snarls. Don’t use brute force to clear them; nobody likes to have their hair pulled. Use water to soften caked fecal matter or mud and scissors or clippers if necessary on nasty tangles and burrs.
Many dogs get very anxious around brushes and scissors. Their fears can result in snarling and nipping, which is why many groomers resort to using sedatives. This does nothing to quell the unnatural fear for the next grooming session, however. A much better way is to take him for a long exercise session to remove all his nervous energy, and then put him in a calm state lying down. Introduce him to the grooming instruments while he is in this calm state. Once he is through investigating them, you can begin to use them while keeping him calm and submissive.
Inspect your dog’s skin while you are brushing. Be alert for skin irritations, dry skin, fleas, ticks and any sign of infection. While you will probably need professional help for fungal or bacterial infections, other problems can be handled on your own.
The two major causes of dry, irritated skin are too much bathing and a lack of lipids in your dog’s diet. Bathe your dog with shampoo as infrequently as possible. Also, mix in a teaspoon full of vegetable oil with his food. His coat will take on a healthy glow, and the oil will moisturize his skin. Chlorine-filled swimming pools often contribute to dry skin, however, swimming is great exercise and a lot of fun for your dog, so don’t cut it out entirely.
Regular application of flea and tick powder will help prevent you from having to deal with fleas and ticks. If you still find a tick, however, use tweezers to grasp the tick by the head. Jerk straight out so the jaws come with the rest of the tick. Don’t squeeze the tick’s body or touch it with bare fingers. Wash your hands after handling the tick.
Excessive scratching and hair loss are two signs of flea infestation. Fleas don’t just stay on your dog however; they jump off and infest your house. Check the floors and baseboards for granules that resemble salt and pepper grains.
Toss the dog in the bath with plenty of dog shampoo. Follow up with a breed-appropriate flea dip. Now comes the hard part – cleaning the house.
To clean the house you need to first get rid of the eggs and larvae. Vacuum all the carpets, including the baseboards, and all the upholstered furniture. Take the vacuum bag outside immediately and place it in a trash bin. Treat all carpeted and upholstered surfaces with specifically formulated insecticide to kill the adult fleas. Since the insecticides are toxic, you’ll want to keep your children and animals away from treated surfaces until it dries.
With regular grooming and attention, your dog’s coat will stay healthy and clean. That protects your dog, your family, your wallet, and your home.
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