veterinary technician pet grooming

Blog revised on March 7, 2022.

Routine pet grooming not only promotes healthy coats, skin, ears, teeth and feet, but it’s also a great way to strengthen the relationship between you and your pet. If you're grooming your furry best friend, why not take the time to do it like an expert? Veterinary assistants groom dogs and cats every day as part of their duties and most have gained a unique set of skills. Here are five key tips you can use to groom your dog like a pro.

1) Pets don’t need frequent bathing

As long as they haven’t been rolling in dirt, getting into some other messy trouble, or have fleas, pets don’t necessarily need frequent bathing. That doesn’t mean you should never bathe your pet! Follow this guide to figure out how often you should give your furry friend a bath.

How frequently should I bathe my pet?

Unless they get dirty or start to smell, dogs don’t need to be bathed as often as you might think – once every four weeks is a good frequency. Use a canine formula shampoo that won’t strip away the natural oils from your dog’s coat, and be careful around the eyes, mouth and inside the ears. Rinse thoroughly to avoid dulling your dog's coat with shampoo residue.

Cats, on the other hand, groom themselves so it may seem like they never need a bath. However, the National Cat Groomers Institute of America recommends a bath once every 4-6 weeks.

Is bathing my pet too often bad for them?

Giving your dog or cat baths too frequently isn’t good for your pet. While it won’t make them sick, bathing too often can dry out your dog or cat’s skin and cause itching. Over-itching can eventually lead to other problems like hair loss and sores.

How do I bathe a pet that hates baths?

Not every dog enjoys bath time, so getting your pet to cooperate can be a struggle. If you’re trying to bathe a pet that hates baths, remember to

  • Stay calm. Getting frustrated or angry with your pet can cause them to hate bath time even more.
  • Be gentle. Trying to force your pet into the bath can only lead to scratches and potential injuries for both of you. Gently place your pet – if possible – in the bath.
  • Use treats for distraction and reward. Many pets are food motivated and associate treats and rewards with good behavior. Motivate your pets with their favorite treat during bath time so they start associating it with a reward.
  • Don’t yell or get angry. Bathing a pet that hates baths can be frustrating, but if you get angry and yell or scold your pet, you’re going to make them hate bath time even more. While it can be hard to remember when you’re frustrated, avoid yelling or scolding your pet during bath time.

Can you bathe a cat?

You can and should bathe your cat when needed! While cats are meticulous groomers who make sure their coats are clean and shiny every day, a bath can still be good for them – especially if they’ve gotten themselves into a messy situation. Every month or two, giving your cat a bath can help them maintain their shiny fur, get rid of any matted fur, and help shed their hair. You’ll also want to bathe your cat when

  • They get into a messy situation. Cats often go where we may not want them to. Being able to get into smaller spaces than a dog can, cats will find trouble in dusty attics, dirty basements, or even outside. If you find your cat covered in soot or dirt, it’s definitely time for a bath.
  • They have fleas. Fleas can not only be annoying for your pet, they can cause irritating skin issues that can, over time, be harmful to your cat. If they have fleas, a bath with flea shampoo can help them get relief and kill the fleas. Post bath, make sure to put flea medicine on your cat to ensure they don’t get another infestation.
  • They’re sick. One way you can tell your cat is sick is that they may stop grooming themselves. Obviously the first thing you should do is take your cat to the vet to make sure they’re okay. Once you’ve done that, a bath may be necessary when you get home to clean up any matted fur and make your cat comfortable.

2) Regular brushing is necessary

No matter how long your dog’s coat is, it’s important to regularly brush it to remove dead hair and skin while spreading natural oils. Whether you want to untangle matted hair or fluff your dog’s coat, different brushes have different purposes. Consider your dog’s pet grooming needs before shopping for tools.

While not all dogs like being brushed at first, most eventually learn to enjoy these bonding sessions – especially if rewarded with plenty of praise and treats.

Regular brushing is also important for a cat. Brushing them can help you bond and feels good for your cat!

How often should I brush my pet's hair?

Short haired cats should be brushed once a week. Long haired cats should be brushed once a day or at least a few times a week. Long haired cat’s fur can get tangled and matted without regular brushing.

Dogs, no matter the length of their coat, should also be brushed every couple of days.

Does brushing prevent matting?

Yes, for both dogs and cats, regular brushing can prevent matting. Matted hair not only looks unattractive, but it can also be very uncomfortable for your pet and lead to other problems.

What are some benefits of frequent brushing?

Regularly brushing your pet’s fur has several benefits, including

  • Removing dead or dry skin
  • Allowing you to examine your pet for fleas and other issues
  • Bonding with your pet

3) Clean their ears frequently

If you’ve ever had an ear infection, you know how miserable it can be. Cleaning the inside of your dog’s ears once a week helps prevent ear infections while also alerting you to other potential health issues, such as fleas and ticks or discharge.

Use a cotton ball and ear-cleaning solution to wipe your dog’s inner ear but avoid putting anything smaller than your finger into the ear canal, as this can cause injury.

For cats, cleaning their ears isn’t really as necessary.

How often should I clean my pet’s ears?

In general, it’s best to clean your dog’s ears about once a month. Dogs with long, floppy ears should have their ears cleaned more frequently, usually about every other week.

Generally, healthy cats don’t need regular ear cleaning. You should only clean your cat’s ears as needed. This means if you notice any debris in their ears or if your cat is sick. Once every few months is the general rule of thumb, but if your cat’s ears look fine, don’t bother with cleaning them. Over cleaning can lead to irritation and sometimes infection.

What are the signs of a pet’s ear infection?

Ear infections can be painful for pets. Knowing the signs of an ear infection can help you get your pet to the vet faster to eliminate complications and make sure they get the care they need. For dogs, signs of an infection include

  • Swelling or ear redness
  • Tilting their head often
  • Scratching at their ear often
  • A strong smell coming from the ear
  • Loss of balance

Signs of an ear infection in cats include

  • Frequent head tilting
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Redness or swelling
  • Loss of balance
  • Excessive waxy build up

Fortunately, ear infections aren’t common in cats, but when they do have one it can be an underlying of something much more serious. Dogs can often get ear infections as well, and, if they go untreated, can lead to worse health problems for your furry best friend. If you notice any of these signs in your cat or dog, it’s important to contact your veterinarian right away!

4) Clip their nails every few weeks

Because of the way dogs’ nails grow, failure to trim them can not only cause your dog pain but may even lead to broken toes. One sign your dog's nails are too long? You can hear the tell-tale clicking on the floor.

Cats also need to have their nails trimmed regularly. Though scratching posts and pads can help them shorten their claws, trimming them can be beneficial for your cat and help prevent damage to your furniture and home.

How do I clip a pet's nails?

You don’t necessarily need to take your pet to a groomer or the vet to have their nails clipped. For the most part, it can be done very easily at home.

When trimming your dog’s nails, you’ll want to have the proper equipment such as a dog nail clipper or grinder. To trim the nails, you’ll want to hold your pup’s paw firmly but gently, press on the pad to extend the nail, then clip! Try not to cut the nail too short, or you may hit the quick. The quick is the soft, pink tissue in the middle of the nail that has a blood vessel and nerve. If you cut your dog’s nail too short, they’ll start bleeding. Don’t stress if they start bleeding – you don’t need to take them to the vet. But make sure you have either a styptic pen or a pad you can use to stop the bleeding.

Cats also need a special nail clipper to trim their claws. Don’t use your human nail clippers! To trim a cat’s claws, you should gently rub the pad of their paw for about 2-3 seconds, then squeeze the paw so one nail extends and trim. Repeat for the rest of their nails.

How often should I clip my pet's nails?

You should trim your dog’s nails every two weeks to keep them healthy while also preventing wear and tear on your floors. If you have a cat, you should cut their claws about every two to three weeks.

What if my pet won't let me clip their nails?

Most pets aren’t happy about having their nails trimmed. It can be a stressful project for both the pet and you. But it’s necessary to keep them happy and healthy. If your pet won’t let you cut their nails, you can try to incentivize them to go through with it through treats and rewards. However, it can take a while for your dog or cat to associate nail trims and treats. If you’re having a difficult time getting your pet to allow you to trim their nails, the easiest route is to take them to a professional like a pet groomer or your vet. While they’ll still be unhappy about the process, professionals are used to dealing with reluctant animals and will be able to trim your pet’s nails much more easily.

5) Brush their teeth

Dogs and humans share many of the same dental issues, including gum disease, tartar buildup and cavities. Brushing your dog’s teeth several times a week is not only an essential pet-grooming task but can also help prevent the need for anesthetized cleaning procedures at your veterinarian’s office.

Cats, too, need regular dental care. Brushing their teeth is important to help remove plaque and tartar that may build up over time and lead to health issues.

Do I need to brush my pet's teeth?

Yes, brushing their teeth is necessary to prevent a lot of other health issues down the line. For both cats and dogs, regular brushing prevents gingivitis, inflammation, and infections that can all lead to losing their teeth and more serious health concerns.

How often should I brush their teeth?

If possible, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily or, like humans, twice per day. At least 3 times a week is the minimum recommendation. Ideally, you should also brush a cat’s teeth daily but, if that’s not possible, at least a few times a week is acceptable.

Grooming can be essential to keeping your pets happy and healthy! While there are many things you should take your dog or cat to a professional like a pet groomer or veterinary assistant for, you can also learn how to properly groom your furry friends at home. Through Penn Foster’s online Veterinary Assistant Training or Pet Groomer Program, you can learn the skills to take care of your pets and start a new career! Learn more about becoming a groomer or vet assistant today by reaching out to our dedicated Admissions Specialists at 1-888-427-6500!