Skin And Hair Care

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How To Care For Your Pet’S Skin And Hair

Pets keep their hair and skin in healthy condition by grooming, dry bathing (rolling in dust) or simply getting unavoidably wet. Saliva contains natural antiseptics. Licking and scratching are normal activities that in moderation are beneficial. Only when carried out in excess do they cause damage. Rolling and rubbing are ways a pet massages its skin, activates its oil-producing sebaceous glands and removes debris from regions of the body it cannot reach with its tongue or paws. A primary function of the sebaceous glands is to secrete waterproofing for the skin and hair. Sebaceous gland secretion also has antimicrobial activity. The skin of pets with fine protective coats of down and well lubricated coats of guard hair does not get wet when your pet is caught in rain. Dirt and debris are removed by rainwater.

Routine bathing, brushing and grooming is the best way to keep your pet's hair and skin in pristine condition. It’s a fallacy that shampooing dries the skin and makes hair brittle. The opposite is the truth. For a whole variety of canine and sometimes feline skin conditions the simplest and most effective treatment is bathing with an appropriate shampoo.

Brushing your pet

There is an obvious benefit to the hair and skin but also a sub text to grooming your pet, dogs in particular. The obvious benefit is that your pet looks more attractive and the skin is healthier after grooming. The sub text is that each time you groom your pet it hears you silently say, "I am your carer." Routine grooming keeps the coat, skin and mind or your pet in ideal condition.

Smooth thin coats such as shorthaired cats and dogs such as Boxers

Using a hound glove or chamois, first brush against the lie of the coat, then with it. Once a week is all that is necessary.

Short thick coats such as British blues and Labradors

The undercoat needs most attention. Use a slicker brush, brush with the lie of the coat to remove tangles, then against the lie of the coat to remove loose undercoat or 'down'. Brush with a bristle brush to remove loosened dead hair and remaining debris. Finish with a fine-toothed comb, paying special attention to the thickest hair on the neck and tail. Brush once weekly, twice weekly during seasonal moults.

Wiry coats such as Fox terriers

Brush as you would a Labrador's coat but monthly thin the overgrown hair on the back by running a stripping comb through it. A stripping comb cuts out the longest fly-away hairs. Wiry coats should be professionally stripped every three to four months to reduce the density and unkempt appearance. There are special texturising shampoos that give body and coarseness to wiry coats. Brush twice weekly.

Long silky coats such as Yorkshire terriers

Some longhaired breeds such as the Maltese and Yorkshire terrier have no protective undercoat or down and fine and thin skin susceptible to laceration, even tearing. This makes them particularly sensitive to irritation from rough grooming. First, tease out tangles with a slicker brush, then use a bristle brush to position the hair properly. Follow this by combing through the hair. Brush daily, carefully removing untidy ends with a scissors at least once monthly.

Long, dense coats such as Persian cats and Shetland sheepdogs

Remove tangles with a slicker brush then use a pin brush to brush through the density of the coat. After thorough pin brushing, use a wide-toothed comb throughout the coat, paying special attention to the feathers on the legs, chest, hindquarters and tail. Brush daily and trim away excess hair monthly.

Canine topiary in breeds such as Poodles

If you want your dog to look good, brush it daily but leave fancy clipping to a professional groomer. Professionals have the equipment and experience to clip properly, without irritating your dog's skin and without making your dog look like it has been attacked by a thousand moths. If you do want to clip your dog yourself always do so after grooming and bathing. Clipping is necessary every six to eight weeks in breeds with coats like Poodles or Bichons that simply keep growing.

Debris in the hair

Hair is a magnet, for gum between the toes, burrs, paint and tar, mats and tangles.

Gum

It is easiest to cut gummed-up hair but if you want to try to avoid this, apply a little cooking oil as a lubricant then slowly massage the gum loose from the hair.

Burrs

A dab of cooking oil around the burr loosens it up. Spray cooking oil works very well.

Paint and tar

Clip the affected area. Never use paint or tar remover. These are dangerous chemicals, possibly fatal if licked.

Mats and tangles

Dry the area with corn starch powder which acts as a dry lubricant to the mat. Then, use a slicker brush followed by a wide-toothed comb to gently loosen the mat. If necessary use a scissors to cut the mat into manageable smaller ones.

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