Summertime dog grooming is necessary

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 7, 2024

Grooming your dog is necessary for both the comfort and health of your pet, but it’s even more critical to take care of this task during the summer.

Roxanne Barnes, a Certified Canine Esthetician, who has operated a grooming business, Roxanne Scissorhands, since 2014, shares some reasons why this is true and the different aspects of grooming that needs to be done for your pet.

Barnes points out first that dog grooming is especially important for double-coated dogs.

She says there is a common myth that shaving a Labrador short will cool the dog down and reduce the shedding, but the fact is, the Lab still sheds; however, the hair is only smaller and can make the dog hotter.

When it comes to helping your dog stay cool during these hot summer days, Barnes said it’s most important to not shave them but brush and bathe them correctly.

“The importance of brushing your dog is easier to understand when you know the science behind why,” she said.

There are multiple types of hair on a dog’s body including the guard hair, which she pointed out are stiffer, longer and thicker.

The undercoat is finer hair and is closer to the body, thus it provides insulation and protects them from the environment. This hair is what needs to be removed in order for a dog to regulate its body temperature. 

The way to remove the undercoat, Barnes said, is through a process called deshedding.

Several types of dogs with fur, she pointed out, such as golden retrievers, Australian and German shepherds, beagles, corgis, huskies, chows and Pomeranians, shed and should not be shaved.

“The layers of a dog’s hair work together. When we remove layers of protection, such as the guard coat and the undercoat, we remove the dog’s ability to trap cool air next to the skin,” Barnes said. “Removing this natural cooling system can lead to overheating, discomfort and other severe dangers like sunburn or skin cancer.”

Genetically, dogs have what they need when they are born and so it’s common for them to shed, she said, and that’s even more the case if they have fur. Unfortunately the shedding process can’t be stopped.

In double and single-coated breeds like German Shepherds, huskies, boxers, Labs and others, the length of a dog’s fur is predetermined at birth; however, she said, that is not the case in the length of a dog’s hair in dogs such as Shih Tzus, Yorkies, poodles and others.

The shedding process can’t be stopped, it can be managed with deshedding treatments provided monthly, Barnes said.

While this can be done at home, she said it’s better to seek the help of a professional dog groomer for multiple reasons including the amount of hair, the type of products, equipment and tools needed and the hard work involved in this process. 

And once completed, your dog will thank you and so will you house as deshedding means less hair on your floors, she said.

The deshedding process involves several key steps, Barnes said, starting with a bath and this requires using the correct products such as shampoo and conditioner.

Conditioning, which is often overlooked, is an important step. Moisture is generally removed during the bathing process, and a dog’s skin needs to have that moisture restored.

After bathing, Barnes said to dry your dog by using a hairdryer in a cool setting so as to prevent accidentally burning your dog. This drying process will also help to release and remove that undercoat.

When drying your dog, she said, avoid using a towel or letting the dog air dry, which could lead to more problems.

When deshedding, Barnes said to use the proper tools, which include a detangling spray, a brush, comb and patience.

Failure to brush your dog and remove that undercoat can make your pet more susceptible to overheating and heat stroke.

“While I am not a veterinarian and cannot diagnose a dog, as a Certified Canine Esthetician, I can address symptoms such as smelly, crusty skin, irritated paws, itchy skin and hot spots. Additionally, I can provide guidance and help educate dog owners on how to reduce the occurrence of skin issues,” Barnes said.

Other reasons that the undercoat should be removed could be that it may result in the coat becoming matted and knotted up simply because the undercoat is dead hair. Because the undercoat is naturally porous and not smooth, this causes the hair to get trapped in the coat due to static cling and it’s not able to fall out. If it does not fall out and is not bushed out properly, matting will occur and in worse cases, she said, pelting will occur, and the only way to solve this issue and remove pelting is to shave the dog. However, this can cause some long-term damage to both the hair follicle and its being able to grow back properly, she added.

The undercoat typically grows back quicker than the guard hair and could overcrowd new growth, Barnes said, and there is always the risk that the coat texture and color could change.

When brushing your dog, be sure to do it properly, which means brushing down to the skin and not just the top few inches of hair, she said, and then comb the coat with a stainless steel comb. Brushing helps to get rid of the dead undercoat and helps their internal thermometer to be regulated.

Panting, while it will not stop completely, will be less as this is how a dog cools down and releases heat, she said, along with through the paw pads. Dogs can’t sweat like humans.

Barnes also shared that many dogs such as poodles, Shih Tzu, Yorkie, maltese and some doodles, have hair and can get a short haircut during the summer, but not short enough to expose their skin to the sun.

She stressed that dogs can get sunburned if they are shaved too short, adding that white dogs, older ones with hair that is thinning or naturally thin-haired dogs and hairless dogs generally have fair, pink skin under their fur and are more at risk to get sunburned and have skin cancer caused by harsh UV rays from the sun if not protected. 

This protection can happen in a few ways, Barnes said, either by walking them in the shade early in the morning or later in the afternoon or by spraying them with a pet-friendly sunscreen.

“You should use sunscreen that is safe for pets to prevent harm from ingesting harmful chemicals like zinc oxide,” she said. “Never apply human sunscreen to animals.”

A final grooming tip that Barnes shared is a basic one, keeping your dog’s nails trimmed, especially if the dog is not walked regularly on asphalt or cement.

Trimming can be done by a veterinarian or dog groomer if the pet owner is not able to take care of this themselves, a fact that most people know, she said; however, how often the trimming should be done is something many don’t know.

“A dog’s nails should be trimmed every four weeks, and some dogs whose nails grow more quickly should be trimmed every two weeks. Otherwise, as the nail grows, the quick, or the nerve and vein that runs the length of the nail also grows,” she said.

Neglected and long nails can do serious damage over time, she said. Some of the damage that can occur includes force being exerted back into the nail bed, creating pain for the dog, realigning the joints of the foreleg and making the foot look flattened and splayed. Additional problems that can occur from nails that are too long can be they “compromise the dog’s weight distribution and natural alignment, making them more susceptible to injuries and making walking and running difficult and painful,” Barnes said.

It is important to keep the nails of older dogs short because it can greatly improve a dog’s posture, she said. With people walking their dogs less because of the heat, this can mean longer nails, so she encourages dog owners to “stay on top of those nails, and if your dog is fearful, aggressive, or has a bite history when it comes to nail trims, tell your service provider!”

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