Pete the Vet: Planning a pre-Christmas visit to the hairdresser for your pet? 

Pete the Vet: Planning a pre-Christmas visit to the hairdresser for your pet? 

Everyone wants to look their best for Christmas. Pets may not be aware of their own appearance, but their owners (or “pet parents”, to use contemporary parlance) certainly are. Just like human hairdressers, pet groomers are at their busiest in the run-up to Christmas. If you want to have your pet looking fabulous for the family celebration, you need to make your booking with the groomer now. In fact, such is the demand that you may already be too late.

New pet owners (and there are plenty of them, following the lockdown surge in pet ownership) may be asking themselves: Do I need to get my pet groomed? Or can I do it myself? What’s involved anyway? This week, I’m going to answer these basic questions.

First, every dog and cat owner needs to pay attention to the grooming needs of their pets. Animals aren’t able to make an objective assessment of how well their own coat is being kept: that’s a job for their owner.

For a short-haired dog or cat, there’s often little need for regular brushing or combing. Carry out a once-weekly inspection: run your eyes and hands over your pet, checking for any lumps or bumps, reddened areas, signs of external parasites or dandruff, and matted fur. Then get a simple bristle brush, and use this to whizz around your pet’s body, removing dust, dirt and any extraneous material that they may have picked up while out on walks. 

This routine is an important part of regular pet care; it also helps to forge that all-important pet-owner bond. Pets often enjoy being groomed, especially if you focus on making it a pleasant experience, with kind words, a gentle touch, and a few treats thrown in. 

Most short-haired pets rarely, if ever, need to be washed: I only shampoo my own two short haired dogs, Kiko and Finzi, on the rare occasions when they have rolled in unsavoury messiness, such as fox droppings. With the right dog shampoo and several basins of warm water, this is a manageable task for a non-professional.

It’s more challenging if you have a dog with medium-length fur, such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Spaniels and many others, but you can still do much of the care yourself. Regular brushing (perhaps every second day) is important, using a wider range of brushes and combs. 

With the right tools and techniques, you’ll be able to keep your pet comfortable by removing the excess of dense, fluffy fur that gathers close to their skin beneath the main hairs. You’ll be able to reduce the amount of fur that will otherwise end up scattered around your carpets and furniture.

Rather than buying whatever brushes and combs you come across in a pet shop, I would suggest that you discuss the most appropriate implements with your local groomer. Exotic-sounding equipment such as curry combs, slicker brushes, shedding blades, wire pin brushes and rakes are available. Choosing the best tools, and knowing how to use them, will make all the difference.

As well as the longer fur on their bodies, these breeds tend to have long, fine fur (known as “feathering”) in specific locations that needs special care. This is around the lower legs, behind the ears, at the back of the hind legs and under the tails. These areas need close attention to stop them from becoming tangled, matted and dirty, especially in dogs that spend time outside, running through vegetation.

While many people manage the above themselves, when you add in the need for shampooing and drying, it can become a major ordeal, and you can understand why the professionals

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