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Grooming Cats and Dogs

Groom pets regularly to keep them happy and healthy. Don't worry if at first they don't like getting brushed; once they get used to it they'll come to enjoy it.

Martha Stewart Living, April 1997

Grooming pets regularly is necessary for their comfort and good health. Even if you choose to have a professional groomer deal with the big jobs -- baths and haircuts, for example -- you should still do regular touch ups at home. All dogs and long-haired cats need to be brushed. In addition to improving the appearance of their coats and reducing the snarls and matting that can hurt their skin, regular brushing increases your chances of discovering fleas, ticks, or lumps that could endanger your pet's health. 

Brush long-haired pets every day and short-haired ones weekly. Always brush in the opposite direction of hair growth, one section at a time, starting at the skin and moving outward. Work the hair gently to remove knots -- matted fur can sometimes be loosened with a drop or two of mineral oil -- or cut them out with scissors. If you're comfortable doing so, trim your pet's toenails. (It's best to have your vet demonstrate the technique first.)

To make grooming at home easier, pick the right tools for the task, and go slowly -- especially if your pet is not used to the process.

Do You Know?
You should bathe your dog when you don't like the way he smells, but don't do it so often that his skin gets flaky from too much soap and water.

Pet Grooming Tools

1. Slicker Brush
This all-purpose brush is used for long- and medium-haired dogs and cats.

2. Curry Comb
Similar to those used on horses, this comb is good for grooming short-haired breeds such as Dobermans and beagles.

3. Mat Splitter
This comb is designed for going over matted fur and gently picking apart the knots.

4. Nail Clippers
Don't attempt to cut your pet's toenails unless you are confident that you will not cut to the quick; if you cut too close, there will be bleeding, and your pet may develop a permanent fear of clippers. These clippers are good for most cats and dogs. To use them, hold a paw steady and cut each nail cleanly, halfway between the end of the vein and the top of the nail.

5. Undercoat Rake
This is especially useful for getting through to the undercoat of dogs that have very thick fur, like Akitas, but it can be used on all breeds. Some groomers also use a rake on long-haired cats.

6. Wood-Handled Comb
Good for combing any kind of cat or dog, this type of comb stands up well to strong, thick coats. Use it gently to unsnarl mats.

7. Basic Comb
This wide-tooth comb is good for the general grooming of both cats and dogs.

8. Shedding Blade
Be careful with this tool, which removes loose and dead hair. Some groomers discourage their customers from using it, because if handled improperly, the sharp, fine-tooth blade will cut healthy hair -- or even your pet's skin.

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