Dog Health Care - Keeping Coats Clean and Healthy

A dog's coat is his armor. It keeps him warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It protects his skin from scrapes and scratches, provides much-needed buoyancy in the water, and retains essential oils.

For all its benefits, however, a dog's coat is also an ideal breeding ground for parasites that can threaten both canine and human health, and excellent transportation for the seeds of enterprising plants. Luckily, with a few simple steps, dog owners can maintain healthy, glowing coats without the need for expensive groomers.

Health Care

Grooming is a natural part of a dog's life. Mother dogs clean and massage their pups to combat skin-borne diseases and promote blood flow to developing bones and muscles. As the pups become more and more self-sufficient, they take on the task of grooming themselves. For the most part, they are very successful; living in a home environment, however, requires a little extra attention that dogs just won't give themselves.

The best thing an owner can do for their dog's coat is frequent brushing. Using a soft-bristled brush, stroke his coat with light pressure, always with the coat. This clears small tangles before they become big tangles and removes shedding hair that would otherwise end up ingested or covering your clothes and furniture. Follow up with a fine-toothed flea comb, again with light pressure and with the grain of the coat.

Snarls and tangles are a constant problem for dogs with long or thick coats. Nobody likes their hair pulled, so don't try to clear a tangle with the brute-force method. You can soften caked mud or fecal matter with water; burrs and hopeless tangles are going to require scissors or clippers.

Brushes, combs, scissors, and clippers raise unnatural fears in many dogs, but you can avoid the rancor and nipping without resorting to sedatives. Grooming should be relaxing not traumatic, so you have to place your dog in a calm, submissive state. Take him for a good, long walk or a run in the park before the grooming session, and introduce him to all the grooming implements in a non-threatening way before you apply them to his coat.

While you are brushing his coat, take a close look at the skin under the coat. Be alert for dry, irritated skin, ticks, fleas, and bacterial or fungal infections. Infections require a trip to the vet for treatment and antibiotics, but you can remedy other skin problems yourself.

Dry or irritated skin is an indication that your dog is lacking a certain amount of lipids in his diet. Adding a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil to his food will usually provide just enough oil for healthy skin and a glowing coat. Frequent bathing or swimming (especially in a chlorine-filled family pool) contributes to dry skin; swimming is fun and healthy, so don't restrict this exercise, but keep bathing with shampoo down to a minimum.

The easiest way to deal with ticks and fleas is prevention. Make sure you regularly apply a flea and tick medicine appropriate for your breed. If a tick still finds its way into your dog's coat, grasp it with a pair of tweezers by the head and jerk it straight out so the jaws come with the head. Never use your bare fingers on a tick, don't grasp a tick by the body, and wash your hands thoroughly after removing and disposing of the tick.

Signs of a flea infestation include scratching, biting, broken skin, and hair loss. By the time you notice these signs though, the fleas have probably already been carried into your house. If you see what look like salt and pepper granules around the house, you may be experiencing a full-blown infestation.

Cleaning the dog is the easy part. Give him a bath with doggy shampoo, followed by a flea dip approved for his breed. The house, on the other hand, will take some work.

Vacuum over, under, and around all carpets, baseboards, curtains, and upholstered furniture to remove the flea eggs and larvae. Immediately remove the vacuum bag and dispose of it in an outside trash bin. Then, treat all surfaces with an insecticide specifically formulated for fleas. Keep your dog and children separated from treated surfaces as insecticides are toxic, and, if you own more than one dog, keep them separated from each other.

Grooming is like a day at the spa for your dog. It keeps his natural armor healthy and protects your family, home, and wallet from the nasty surprises that can lurk within it.

Dog Health Care - Keeping Coats Clean and Healthy

Brock Lorber provides helpful tips for the care and feeding of your dog.

Learn about the amazingly simple trick he uses to train dogs at

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