Cleaning Up your Furry Friends

Cleaning Up your Furry Friends

Pets bring limitless amounts of joy and love to the lives of their owners. In return, their owners not only love them back, but they also provide for their needs and ensure that they are clean and well-groomed. Good pet hygiene helps keep the animal clean of dirt, and anything that it may have gotten into. It also helps reduce the chance of pests such as fleas. In addition to keeping the animal – and consequently one’s home – clean and looking its best, regular grooming is also important to help maintain good health. When an animal is regularly groomed, the owner is more likely to detect potential health issues. For example, skin lesions or rashes are more likely to be noticed in a timely fashion when bathing and/or brushing is performed on a regular basis. The process of cleaning a pet’s ears can reveal signs indicating a potential ear infection or mites. Even caring for a pet’s teeth can have a positive impact on the animal’s health. Although grooming specifics for different breeds and fur types can vary from one pet breed to the next, there are basics that all pet owners should know.


Dogs are often highly active and playful, traits that can increase the frequency and need for cleaning. There are several stages and steps involved when it comes to keeping a dog clean and well-groomed. The most frequent of these steps should be brushing the animal. How often a dog is brushed will depend on its particular breed and the length and texture of its fur. Dogs with long fur, for example, will require brushing daily to remove tangles and prevent matting; however, dogs with short hair can be brushed weekly. The type of brush used will also depend on the type and needs of the fur. Most often a slicker brush is needed for the removal of tangles, while a bristle brush is used to remove any dead fur and smooth the animal’s coat. Brushing should occur right before a dog is bathed and again afterward. On average, a dog should be bathed every three months according to the ASPCA, although this may need to occur more frequently depending on the animal’s activities and during the hotter months. Dogs should be bathed in a bathtub or a tub of some kind. If bathing outdoors, have a hose nearby for rinsing or use plastic bottles or a pitcher of warm water for rinsing indoors or outside. When washing the dog use shampoos formulated for pets and follow the instructions carefully. In general, take care not to get the shampoo in the animal’s eyes and work from its head to its tail. When rinsing, care must be taken not to spray or pour water directly in its eyes or ears. After shampooing and rinsing the dog, use a large towel for drying or a hair dryer set on low or medium may be used.

Trimming a dog’s fur can keep it looking well-groomed and help ensure the health of its coat. Two types of scissors are often required for this task: a regular size pair and a smaller pair for paws and around the ears and facial area. Trimming should occur after the dog has been bathed. Care must be taken when trimming around the ears and other sensitive areas to avoid injuring the animal. Clipping claws is another part of grooming one’s pet. Guillotine-type nail clippers are needed for this task, and claws should be cut one at a time. It is important to avoid cutting the vein that runs into the dog’s nails, which is referred to as the quick, as this will cause bleeding and discomfort. Often, if the dog’s nails are light-colored, the quick will be pink and easy to detect; however, this is not visible in dogs with dark or black nails. To avoid this, cut just before the nail begins to curve. Styptic powder should be kept on hand and used to stop the bleeding if the quick is accidentally cut during the trimming process. To clean the ears use a cotton ball and cleaning solution designed for canine ears. While wiping the inside flap of the ear, look for any excess debris and pay attention to any foul or offensive odors that may be coming from that area. A dog’s teeth should not be overlooked during the cleaning process. To clean a dog’s teeth a canine toothbrush and canine toothpaste should be used, although soft gauze may be used in place of a toothbrush. To brush a dog’s teeth with gauze, wrap it around a finger and brush it along with the toothpaste against the animal’s teeth.


It is commonly believed that cats take care of their grooming needs without the help from their human providers; however, this is only partially true. While cats groom themselves regularly, they do require some help from their owners. When a cat has soiled its fur or if it has an unpleasant odor, for example, a bath becomes necessary. In some instances, a cat’s fur may become oily and require cleaning. To bathe a cat, place it in a sink and use a mild shampoo designed for cats. Wearing gloves may be helpful to protect oneself from scratches as many cats do not react favorably to water. As with bathing dogs, care should be taken to avoid spraying or pouring water in its face and getting water in its eyes. Despite the occasional need to bathe, regular brushing is most often sufficient care for its fur. To successfully comb a cat’s coat, a metal comb and bristle brush are all that’s needed. The comb should be used first to remove tangles and the brush to sweep away loose or dead hair. In terms of frequency, a short-haired cat requires brushing once every week, but a longer haired cat needs daily brushing.

Tear stains can form near the eyes and require cleaning, particularly on cats with flatter faces. A cotton ball moistened with water can be used to gently and carefully clean this area. To clean its ears, a cotton ball and liquid ear cleaner or baby oil can be used to gently clean without going into the ear. During this time check for any abnormal coloring, discharge, sensitivity, or odors. For nail care, use sharp nail scissors for cats to cut the tips from cats’ claws; but take care to avoid the quick. Styptic powder should be used to stop any bleeding if the quick is accidentally nicked. Fingertip toothbrushes designed for cats and feline toothpaste can be used to gently brush cat’s teeth and gums.


Keeping a bird clean and well-groomed is simpler than one might imagine. A bath is something that birds enjoy, and that will help keep their plumage looking its best. Depending on the bird, it can be either gently sprayed with a fine mist or a small, shallow plate or bowl of water may be set in the cage for it to use. Beak and nail care are also important to the pet bird grooming process. Birds tend to keep their beaks in good condition through activity, therefore pet owners should supply their bird with toys that are made of wood or even leather. Lava rocks, cuttlebone, mineral block, and nuts that can be cracked are also good for beak care. Because beaks are so important to a bird’s ability to eat, climb, and preen, it is best that bird owners not attempt to trim overly long beaks. Instead a veterinarian should be hired to do any trimming if necessary.

Nails should be clipped to keep them from embedding in the perch and causing injury. As with other animals, pet owners must be careful to avoid cutting the quick when cutting nails. To do this, cut only where the nail begins to curve and no further. Human nail clippers are suitable for small birds, while guillotine style dog trimmers may be used for larger birds. Ideally two people are needed to trim a bird’s nails – one to hold the bird and the other to do the actual trimming. Trimming or clipping wing feathers isn’t necessarily a grooming issue and is instead performed as a training aid to help prevent a bird from flying in the house.