Pet Care

Grooming FAQ

Small puppy having his paws cleaned

A clean pet is a happy pet, and we're here to help! Check out our handy FAQ and all the answers to your furry friend's grooming needs. From nail snipping to fur clipping, a little maintenance goes a long way. Your pet will be tapping his toes and flashing that winning smile in no time!

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog? Do I Need to Bathe My Cat? My Bird?
How Do I Bathe My Pet?
Is Human Shampoo Safe to Use on My Pet?
How Can I Protect My Pet's Eyes During Baths?
What's the Best Way to Clip My Cat's Nails?
What's the Best Way to Clip My Dog's Nails?
How Do I Brush My Pet's Teeth?
What's the Best Way to Clean My Pet's Ears?
What's the Best Way to Clean My Pet's Eyes?
How Do I Keep My Pet's Paws Healthy?
Why Does My Pet Have Such Bad Breath?
Why Can't I Get Rid of that Doggie Odor?
Are Doggie Perfumes Safe?
How Do I Cut Down on My Pet's Shedding?
How Often Should I Brush My Cat?
How Often Should I Brush My Dog?
How Can I Get My Cat to Sit Still While I Brush Her?
My Pet Has Long Hair That's Frequently Matted. How Do I Get Rid of the Matting?
My Pet Hates Taking a Bath or Having His Nails Clipped. How Can I Make Grooming Less Stressful for My Pet?
When Do I Need to Call a Vet?


How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog at least once every three months. Your pet may require more frequent baths if she spends a lot of time outdoors.

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Do I Need to Bathe My Cat? My Bird?

With her built-in grooming tools (tongue and teeth, of course), your kitty is well-equipped to tackle her own hair care needs. But if she's extra dirty or gets into something sticky or smelly, you may need to give her a bath.

As for your feathered friend, you can help keep his plumage looking perfect with a bath as often as he likes it. Put a shallow dish of water at the bottom of his cage and let him hop around in it. You'll probably want to schedule bath time just before you clean his cage!

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How Do I Bathe My Pet?

  • First, give your pet a good brushing to remove all dead hair and mats.
  • Put your pet in a tub or sink that's been filled with about three to four inches of lukewarm water.
  • Use a spray hose to wet your pet, but watch out! Don't spray directly in his ears, eyes or nose. If you don't have a spray hose, try a large plastic pitcher or unbreakable cup.
  • Gently massage in shampoo, working from head to tail. Rinse and repeat, as needed.
  • Dry him thoroughly by giving your pet a good rub with a large towel. Voila, clean pet!

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Is Human Shampoo Safe to Use on My Pet?

Using a shampoo formulated for pets is best. Human shampoos aren't toxic to pets, but some may contain fragrances or other substances that can irritate pets' skin.

Be sure to select a product that's specifically formulated for your species of animal, as some ingredients may be harmful when applied to different types of pets. It's always smart to talk with your pet's veterinarian to make sure you're selecting a shampoo that will meet your pet's needs.

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How Can I Protect My Pet's Eyes During Baths?

Since shampoos and soaps can be major irritants, try the following tips to protect your pet's eyes during bath time:

  • Ask your vet for a sterile eye lubricant to use during bathing—this will help protect your pet's eyes from shampoo.
  • Use a sprayer or a showerhead with a long hose, allowing you to control water flow during rinsing.
  • Avoid shampooing your pet's head altogether. Simply use a wet washcloth to gently remove any dirt or debris.

Be sure to protect your pet's ears, too. To avoid getting water in them, try placing a large cotton ball in each ear until the bath is over.

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What's the Best Way to Clip My Cat's Nails?

With your cat in your lap facing away from you, take one of her toes in your hand, massage and press the pad until the nail extends. Snip only the white part of the claw. The pink part of a cat's nail, called the quick, is where the nerves and blood vessels are. Do NOT cut this sensitive area. If you do accidentally cut the quick, any bleeding can be stopped with a styptic powder or stick.

Trim the sharp tip of one nail, release your cat's toe and quickly give her a treat. If your cat doesn't seem to mind, clip another nail, but don't trim more than two claws in one sitting until your cat is comfortable. Be sure to reward her with a special treat afterward. Please note, you may want to do just one paw at a time for the first couple of sessions.

If your cat refuses to let you clip her claws, ask your vet or a professional groomer for help.

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What's the Best Way to Clip My Dog's Nails?

Some dogs don't like to have their feet touched, so it's always a good idea to get your dog used to it before you attempt a nail trim. Rub your hand up and down her leg and then gently press each individual toe—and be sure to give her lots of praise and treats! Within a week or two of daily foot massage, your dog should feel more comfortable with a nail trim.

Begin by spreading each of your dog's feet to inspect for dirt and debris. Use sharp, guillotine-type nail clippers to cut off the tip of each nail at a slight angle, just before the point where it begins to curve. Take care to avoid the quick, a vein that runs into the nail. Smooth any rough edges with an emery board.

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How Do I Brush My Pet's Teeth?

  • First, get your pet used to the idea of having her teeth brushed. Start by gently massaging her gums with your fingers.
  • After a few sessions, put a little bit of pet-formulated toothpaste on her lips to get her used to the taste.
  • Next, introduce a toothbrush designed especially for cats or dogs—it will be smaller than human toothbrushes and have softer bristles. Toothbrushes that you can wear over your finger are also available and allow you to give a nice massage to your pet's gums.
  • Finally, apply toothpaste directly to her teeth for a gentle brushing.

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What's the Best Way to Clean My Pet's Ears?

Place a little bit of liquid ear cleaner on a clean cotton ball or piece of gauze. Fold your pet's ear back gently and wipe away any debris or earwax that you can see on the underside of her ear. Lift away the dirt and wax rather than rubbing it into the ear. And don't try to clean the canal—probing inside your pet's ears can cause trauma or infection.

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What's the Best Way to Clean My Pet's Eyes?

A gentle wipe with a damp cotton ball will help to keep your pet's eyes gunk-free. Wipe outward from the corner of the eye and be careful not to touch his eyeball—you don't want to scratch the cornea. If your pet constantly suffers from runny eyes and discharge, please see your veterinarian about a possible infection.

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How Do I Keep My Pet's Paws Healthy?

Check your pet's feet regularly to make sure they're free of wounds and infections. Remove any splinters or debris gently with tweezers and clean any small cuts.

In hot and cold weather, moisturize your pet's sensitive paw pads with a vet-recommended product. Avoid human hand moisturizer, as this can soften the pads too much and lead to injury. Booties can also protect paws from the cold, wet ground and painful chemical de-icers.

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Why Does My Pet Have Such Bad Breath?

Bad breath is the result of a build-up of odor-producing bacteria in your pet's mouth, lungs or gut. Persistent bad breath can indicate that your pet has digestive problems or a gum condition such as gingivitis, and should be examined by a vet.

Most often, canine bad breath is caused by dental or gum disease, and certain dogs—particularly small ones—are especially prone to plaque and tartar. If plaque is the culprit, your pet may require a professional cleaning.

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Why Can't I Get Rid of that Doggie Odor?

First check your pet's ears and teeth, often the source of odor-causing bacteria in pets. If home maintenance and grooming prove fruitless and your dog smells consistently stinky, please consult with your veterinarian to check to see if there's an underlying cause or infection.

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Are Doggie Perfumes Safe?

Perfumes for dogs are not likely to be of toxic concern to most pets when used according to label directions. However, dogs with dermal allergies can develop skin irritation and those with nasal allergies might be affected by the smell.

Keeping your dog clean by routinely bathing him should be all that is needed. If you wish to use a pooch cologne, administer only as directed and consult a vet if the pet has any history of allergies.

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How Do I Cut Down on My Pet's Shedding?

Shedding is a normal process for pets, but the amount and frequency of hair lost often depends on health and breed type. While you can't stop the shedding process altogether, you can greatly reduce the amount of fur on your furniture by brushing your pet regularly.

Excessive shedding can also be circumvented with proper nutrition. Quality pet-food manufacturers work hard to include the right amount of nutrients so that supplements are not needed, but pets with allergies or sensitivities might need to experiment with different brands to discover which food works best for them.

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How Often Should I Brush My Cat?

Cats are excellent self-groomers, but they still need help getting hard-to-reach spots, especially if your kitty is elderly and not as fastidious as she used to be. If your cat has short hair, brush her once per week, using a metal comb and working from head to tail in the direction the coat grows.

If your cat has long hair, you'll need to brush every few days. Start at the belly and legs to gently get rid of knots and comb her fur in an upward motion to remove dead hair and debris.

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How Often Should I Brush My Dog?

  • Smooth, short-coated pooches, like Chihuahuas, boxers or basset hounds, need to be brushed once a week.
  • Pups with short, dense fur that's prone to matting, like that of a retriever, need a good brushing several times per week.
  • If your dog has a long, luxurious coat, like a Yorkshire terrier, she'll need daily attention to remove tangles. And if your long-haired pooch has a coat like a collie's or an Afghan hound's, be sure to brush every day and trim the hair around the hocks and feet.

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How Can I Get My Cat to Sit Still While I Brush Her?

Getting your cat used to being brushed when she's young is the best way to help her relax during grooming sessions. If your cat is an adult, take small steps to getting her used to the brush. Find a quiet room where there are no other pets—you don't want kitty distracted. Sit her on your lap and gently alternate petting her with the stroke of the brush. Give her a tasty treat from time to time to make the memory pleasant. Begin with short sessions and slowly extend them as your cat grows more comfortable with being brushed.

If your kitty isn't a lap cat and doesn't tolerate being held, try stroking her with the brush a few times while she's standing at her bowl to eat. When not being held in place, she may be more likely to tolerate a little brushing.

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My Pet Has Long Hair That's Frequently Matted. How Do I Get Rid of the Matting?

Gently tease out mats with a slicker brush, and then brush your pet with a bristle brush. If matting is particularly dense, you may try clipping the hair, taking care not to come near the skin. It's a good idea to set up a daily grooming routine for long-haired pets, since they really need daily brushing to remove tangles and prevent mats.

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My Pet Hates Taking a Bath or Having His Nails Clipped. How Can I Make Grooming Less Stressful for My Pet?

Grooming sessions should be fun, so be sure to schedule them when your pet's relaxed, especially if she's the excitable type. At first, keep the sessions short—just 5 to 10 minutes. Gradually lengthen the time until it becomes routine for your dog. You can help her get comfortable by making a habit of petting every single part of her body, including such potentially sensitive areas as the ears, tail, belly, back and feet. And here's one of our most important tips of all—pile on the praise and offer her a treat when the session is finished!

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When Do I Need to Call My Vet?

If your pet has fleas or mange, or his fur is so matted that it affects his health and mobility, it's time to see a vet. Furthermore, if your pet becomes aggressive when you or an experienced groomer tries to bathe him, please contact your vet.

Watch carefully for any signs of distress such as panting, drooling, trembling, whining, freezing, cowering, tail-tucking, growling, snarling or snapping. Even with the most patient and gradual of introductions, some animals are terrified of taking a bath or having their nails trimmed. If your pet falls into this category, do not force him to submit. See if his veterinarian or a professional groomer has better luck getting the job done—if not, it's a good idea to make an appointment with a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), a veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) to work on the underlying issues at hand.

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