October 21, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
49°F

Putting on the Ritz: Grooming is important part of pet care

Just like people, dogs have hair that grows and needs to be brushed and washed. Some breeds need more coat care than others, and that should be taken into consideration before adopting a pet. If you don’t have the time, inclination or physical ability to adequately groom your pet, then a professional groomer should be called.

Robin Hirsch was a nursing assistant but ready for a career change when she took a basic dog grooming course at the Medina County Career Center.

“It was a stepping stone to see if I would enjoy grooming as a career,” she said and added, jokingly, “My mother-in-law’s dog, a border collie, was my guinea pig, and he got some short haircuts accidentally.”

She went on to graduate from the Ohio Academy of Pet Styling in 2001 and began working on friends’ and relatives’ pets. While building a client base, she worked at Pet Paws for five years before opening her own pet grooming salon, Pet Proz, in Brunswick.

Many breeds of dogs can be groomed by their owners. Short-coated dogs only need to be brushed once a week to keep their skin and coat healthy, but those with long hair should be brushed several times a week to prevent mats. Double-coated dogs drop their soft undercoats twice a year and need brushing to hasten shedding, and some breeds require haircuts every four to six weeks.

A trained professional can safely and humanely handle tricky procedures like matted fur, removal of skunk odors and medicated or flea baths, as well as regular or seasonal clipping. They have the expertise to safely handle temperamental or frightened animals.

It’s important for pets to tolerate being groomed and, as a puppy, be taught to accept having its body checked over and hair brushed. This helps build a close bond and keeps the owner informed of the condition of the fur, skin, teeth, nails and ears.

Hirsch suggests owners keep an eye on their dogs’ ears if they’re drop ears, which are prone to infection; teeth, which should be brushed a few times a week; and nails, which should not touch the floor when the dog walks. Nails that grow too long can cause both tendon problems and arthritis and should be clipped on an angle about every six weeks.

As pets get older, they sometimes need more grooming than owners can provide, she said, and removing severe mats always should be done by an experienced groomer.

When matting is severe, circulation of the skin is impaired, leading to sores and infection. As mats grow and tighten, they pull the skin up into the mat, and it would be painful to the pet to pull on the mat to cut it with scissors. Shaving may be the only solution for mats, but it must be done carefully to avoid nicking the dog or further irritating already inflamed skin. The process can be painful, but a professional groomer can make the procedure more comfortable for the pet.

Older cats unable to clean their own fur or longhaired cats that have become matted also may need the attention of a groomer. Hirsch explained cats have thin skin, similar to an older person’s skin. It tears easily, so removing mats always should be done by a professional to avoid injury to the cat. Cats that are so matted they need to be shaved sometimes get the “lion cut,” leaving them a “mane” around their face, furry boots and puff of fur on the tip of their tail.

Some animals can be difficult or even aggressive when being groomed, and it’s important to remain calm and confident, so they don’t feed off your anxiety, she said. Groomers aren’t licensed to dispense tranquilizers, so if a pet needs sedation to be groomed, it’s best to find a veterinarian who employs a groomer.

Grooming costs vary depending on the pet’s breed, size and the severity of matting. It usually includes a bath, drying, ear and eye cleaning and nail trimming.

What to look for
When selecting a groomer, ask people in the neighborhood who they use, then visit the facility to see that it looks and smells clean. Ask if the equipment is sanitized between dogs and if pets are monitored to prevent overheating during blow-drying. Note if the staff appears caring and handles pets gently. If your dog is geriatric or has a chronic health problem, ask about special handling. Most people want a cut that’s short and easy to take care of, but if you prefer a longer coat on your dog, be sure to tell the groomer, Hirsch suggested.

Groomers can be found in pet stores, vet offices, in their own shops and even in mobile vans. Choose the one that best serves your needs — convenience, medical attention, advanced styling or extra patience. Daily brushing, proper diet and exercise, frequent teeth cleanings and an occasional bath will go a long way toward keeping your dog healthy and happy.

Hirsch can be reached at 330-220-3100.

Barnosky can be reached via e-mail at petlady@roadrunner.com or by writing The Gazette, 885 W. Liberty St., Medina, 44256.