The health benefits of dog grooming
We all want our dogs to be healthy, happy, and clean, with silky, smooth coats. They are much more fun to cuddle when they don't smell musty and their coat isn't matted! Many people think they only need to groom their dog when it's filthy, but if you wait until they are visibly dirty, your pooch is likely already overdue for their grooming.
Beyond the aesthetic benefits of grooming your dog, regular grooming is vital to your dog's health and well-being; and your quarterly trip to the groomers may not be enough. In this article, we will explore all the other health benefits of dog grooming, why it's important, and how choosing the right products is essential.
Health benefits of dog grooming
Now that we've covered everything involved in dog grooming and some of the best practices for each step, let's talk about WHY dog grooming is so important. Grooming is a great bonding experience between you and your pet and is essential for their health and happiness. Here are some of the health benefits of dog grooming:
Dog grooming is essential to the health and happiness of your dog.
1. Early detection of skin problems
The more time you spend petting, brushing, and bathing your dog, the more familiar you will become with their body. If something is off, you'll notice it right away. And the earlier you can detect skin problems, the more effectively you can treat them. Some of the most common skin ailments to look out for when grooming your dog include:
- Eczema: flaky, dry, and wrinkled skin. Thickened, scaly skin. Redness, rashes or open sores.
- Hotspots: raw, open wounds. Inflamed, swollen patches of skin. Sores that are oozing fluid or bleeding.
- Allergies: Hives or swelling, especially around ears, eyes, armpits, paws and groin area. Dry, flaky skin.
- Ringworm: Circular areas with hair loss, scabs and inflammation. Brittle claws and hair. Scaly, flaky skin.
- Skin infection: Smells musty with thickened skin, redness or pustules forming on the skin. Hair loss.
2. Spotting and treating fleas or ticks
Regular grooming of your dog also provides an excellent opportunity to spot fleas and ticks. The longer fleas and ticks take up residence on your dog, the more prone they are to severe problems. Identifying fleas early can prevent an out-of-control infestation and finding ticks right away can prevent serious infections like Lyme disease. Always check your dogs for ticks whenever they come in from a walk, especially if they are in the woods or long grasses. Ticks love to hang out in or on dogs' ears since it's warm, moist and hard for dogs to reach. So, make sure to check there first!
Perform regular flea and tick checks when brushing and bathing.
Brushing alone can help you spot ticks and fleas. Pay special attention to your dog's skin as you brush their coat to look for any critters. Spotting adult fleas can already be tricky, but spotting their eggs can be even more challenging. As a groomer with over three years of experience, Vicky Gunn of Millie’s Pet Services knows what to look out for when doing a scan for fleas. She says, "Adult fleas are easier to spot than flea eggs themselves because flea eggs are tiny and not any larger than a grain of salt. They are more oval in shape and typically off-white in colour." She mentions that many dog owners confuse flea eggs with sand or dry skin. Vicky also recommends checking their skin and bedding for what is called 'flea dirt,' which is flea feces. It looks dark and crumbly, but with water, it turns red because of the presence of blood.
3. Finding bumps or lumps
The more you handle your dog, the better. Not only does it bring you closer, but you'll be so familiar with their body that you'll notice any bumps, lumps or other abnormalities. You may encounter many types of lumps on your dog, both hard and soft, with some more serious than others. But as always, early detection is the best way to treat the cause and prevent them from getting worse. Here are some of the most common skin growths/tumors and what to look for:
- Warts: Looks like a small head of cauliflower and is caused by canine papillomas.
- Abscess: Painful, swollen lumps under your dog's skin containing pus. When they burst, they will ooze and release a bad odour. They can cause fever in your dog and become more severe if not treated.
- Fatty tumors: Also called lipomas, these are benign (non-cancerous) tumours that typically appear on senior or overweight dogs. They are generally round/oval and feel squishy to the touch. You'll usually find them on your dog's chest or abdomen area, but it is possible to find them in other places on the body. These tumors, although not cancerous, start small but can become extremely large over time. Most of the time, your vet won't remove the tumor unless it's causing mobility issues for your dog.
- Mast cell tumors: Cancerous tumors that are typically reddish and firm, although they can mimic other skin conditions.
Keep an eye out for abnormal bumps or lumps, and show them to your vet.
If you feel a lump when grooming your dog, take a picture of it and note any details of the shape, color and size. That way, you can monitor how it changes over time. It is essential that you book an appointment with your vet as soon as you notice any lumps, as even a non-cancerous tumour can get infected if you wait too long to treat it.
4. Reduces the chance of ear infections
We spoke to dog groomer Lainey Bott who has studied veterinary science and has been grooming dogs for five years. She stressed the importance of cleaning your dog's ears regularly to spot abnormalities and reduce the chance of ear infections by removing wax and debris build-up. If something doesn't look right, it could indicate an underlying condition. Dog breeds with flat-laying or floppy ears like basset hounds or cocker spaniels are at most risk for ear infections, although any dog can get an ear infection if they aren't taken care of properly. When cleaning your dog's ears look for any redness, pus or discharge and check for foul odors. These can all be signs of an ear infection.
5. Supports physical health through nail trimming
As we mentioned earlier, many dog owners are scared to trim their dog's nails. But leaving your dog's nails untrimmed can lead to a host of physical health problems. Billie Jo Horvath is a Canadian groomer and has been grooming for nearly a decade. She tells us, "without proper nail care, a dog's nails can cause unnecessary pressure on their toes and joints. Not only can their nails get caught on carpet or bedding, but they can also get caught in their own fur."
Untrimmed nails can lead to bone deformities, bad posture and arthritis as the nails push into your dog's paws, which is incredibly painful for your dog. Nails can also break or split, creating sharp edges that can cut your dog. Longer nails can also lead to your dog slipping on hardwood or tile flooring, which could lead to more physical issues or injuries.
6. Remove dead skin cells and hair
We are all constantly shedding dead skin to make room for new skin cells, our dogs included. When dead skin builds up on your dog, it can clog their pores and become incredibly itchy. And when your dog keeps itching, it can lead to red, raw, and painful skin. On top of that, dead skin promotes the growth of smelly yeast. By brushing and bathing your dog, you'll remove dead hair and skin cells, stimulating new skin and hair growth.
A quick brushing every other day can help remove dead fur, which will prevent tangles and matting. But overbrushing can damage follicles, leading to a dry and brittle coat. Avoid brushing your dog when it’s dirty, and instead wash more frequently with hair-strengthening, hydrating, natural shampoos.
The more you brush them, the more they will get used to it and start to enjoy it. Brushing is like a little massage and a great way to bond with your pooch! A pin brush is a good option for most dogs since it penetrates the hair and stimulates the skin. But the best brush for your dog will depend on their breed. You'll want a stiff comb/bristle brush for a medium-hair dog with a coat that sheds, but if your dog has a short, smooth coat, then shorter, soft bristles are better.
7. Get rid of mats
Mats in your dog's fur can be incredibly irritating and pull on their skin, leading to sensitivity and pain. Regular brushing and grooming can help prevent matting, which occurs as a result of friction and dead skin mixing with fur. Mats are most common in high friction areas like under your dog's armpit areas, where their collar rubs against their neck or behind their ears, where they often scratch. They are a breeding ground for parasites as they can trap moisture and prevent airflow from reaching your dog's skin. Wet hair mats easier and water can worsen current mats, so avoid bathing your dog when it's matted. It's essential to remove the mats first, before bathing them.
Regular grooming helps prevent mats, keeping your dog comfortable and happy.
If you're brushing your dog regularly and using a natural conditioning spray, you should be able to avoid severe matting. But if it gets to the point of extreme matting, your groomer may need to clip them out. There are some breeds that should never be shaved, like huskies and poodles, so more time will need to be spent de-tangling. That’s because their coats are essential to protection their skin from the elements.
Groomer Billie Jo frequently sees dogs with tight matting, and though she tries to salvage the fur when she can, she often needs to shave them off completely, for the dog's safety. She also mentions that shaving your dog is not the ideal option as it can leave them susceptible to sunburn during the summer or leaves them cold during the winter. Billie Jo always recommends taking a dog with matted fur to a professional groomer since removing mats is a tedious job and can cause your dog to become nervous, so extra care is needed.
8. It makes them happier!
Just as we feel more lively, confident and invigorated after a trip to the salon, or a shower, our dogs experience the same feelings. When their fur is matted, skin is itchy and dirty, or they are in pain from overgrown nails, it's impossible for them to be happy and comfortable. A healthy dog is a happy dog. Plus, your dog will be happier for any extra time they get to spend bonding with you!
The importance of choosing the right grooming products
Just as important as the grooming process itself is that products you choose to use on your dog. These can either directly support your dog's health or be detrimental to it. While it's disheartening to think that any pet care company would intentionally create harmful products, the reality is that many of the ingredients used in dog shampoos, conditioners and ointments are not safe for our pets. Nasty ingredients like phthalates, petrochemicals, mineral oils, sulfates and synthetic dyes can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, reproductive issues and other health problems. Find a list of toxic and nasty chemicals to avoid when choosing your dog grooming products here. Instead, choose products that contain organic and natural ingredients derived from plants which work in harmony with your pet to support their overall health. These include nourishing ingredients like aloe vera, colloidal oatmeal, evening primrose oil and shea butter. For a list of effective, safe and health-boosting ingredients check out our natural ingredient guide, and find tips from expert grooming about how to groom your dog and choose the best products in our dog grooming guide.
The health benefits of dog grooming
Regularly grooming your dog will keep it healthy, happy and thriving. It ensures the early detection of potential issues, reduces the chance of infection and creates a stronger bond between you and your pup. There are so many health benefits of dog grooming, and of course, it will also make them look even cuter! Using quality, natural and safe products will ensure your dog looks, smells, and feels fresh and clean. And that means more cuddles for everyone! What’s most important is to understand the grooming needs of any dog before purchasing or adopting it. Since it’s such a vital component of their health, you need to be prepared to commit to their regular grooming needs. Do your research about the breed, and the quality groomers in your area and even book in a consultation with one ahead of time. A professional groomer can explain how you can best maintain the hygiene of your dog at home. You can also check out online tutorials by top groomers such as Jess Rona Grooming and Lisa Hart, or reach out to us directly if you have any questions!
And don't forget to check out the groomers featured in today's blog on Instagram:
Bille Jo Horvath - @billiejohorvathgrooming
Lainey Bott - @lainey_grooms_dogs
Vicky Gunn - @milliespetservices
And find more insights from them in our step-by-step dog grooming guide.