by Sam Mazzotta
DEAR PAWS4PETS: Like everyone else, I’m trying to save money these days, and so I want to cut back on the number of trips my Cocker Spaniel “Jake” takes to the groomer. I take him once a week now. Do you have any grooming tips? – Sally in Pittsburgh
DEAR SALLY: Taking on some grooming tasks yourself can save quite a bit of money and can even make you more aware of Jake’s health. Regular grooming will make you familiar with his coat and skin, and you’ll notice changes that a groomer might miss.
Here are some general grooming instructions to follow:
• Brush your dog’s coat regularly: Long-haired breeds should be brushed out daily to prevent matting; medium- and short-haired dogs can be brushed weekly.
• Check your dog’s ears each time he’s brushed, particularly if he has long, floppy ears. Look for debris in the outer ear and note if the ears have any odor, signaling possible yeast or bacterial infection (consult the vet if you notice an odor). Gently sweep dirt or other debris away from the ear canal using a clean cloth soaked in mineral oil.
• Discharge at the corners of a dog’s eyes can be gently wiped away using a cotton ball soaked in cool water.
• Brush your dog’s teeth regularly. Use only toothbrushing gear designed for dogs.
• A weekly bath is fine for most dogs. Don’t use human shampoos; use shampoo specifically formulated for dogs.
• Nails should be trimmed once a month. If you want to try it yourself, have the groomer show you how to safely trim Jake’s nails.
Just these basic grooming steps will keep Jake looking good between visits to the professional groomer. More tips are available from the American Kennel Club at www.akc.org/public_education/grooming.cfm.