Although professional grooming services are widely available to help your furry pal shine, grooming your pet at home saves you money and gives you an opportunity to strengthen your pet-owner bond. In addition to promoting your dog’s or cat’s overall health and wellbeing, bathing, brushing, and nail trimming are essential tasks for ensuring your pet looks and feels their best. 

Tackling many grooming tasks on your own can be a daunting challenge, but with knowledge and practice come confidence. Whether you’re learning the ropes or picking up new tips and tricks to make your grooming sessions easier on you and your pet, our Liberty Veterinary Hospital team is here to help. Follow our step-by-step guide to providing your pet with a pleasant at-home spa day.

#1: Gather essential pet-grooming supplies

Before heaving your pet into the bathtub or corralling them for a nail trim, ensure you gather the essential supplies. Gather the following grooming supplies:

  • A comb or brush suitable for your pet’s coat type
  • Shampoo and conditioner based on your pet’s skin care needs
  • Towels
  • Blow dryer if your pet tolerates it
  • Nail clippers
  • Styptic powder to apply to quicked nails
  • Ear cleaning solution
  • Cotton balls
  • Disposable gloves
  • Petroleum or water-based lubricant
  • Paper towels
  • High-value treats
  • A helper

#2: Brush your pet’s coat

The first task to tackle on your pet’s spa day is a good brushing. By thoroughly brushing your dog’s or cat’s coat with the appropriate comb or brush, you will remove dead fur and tease out tangles. If your pet’s hair is tangled and you give them a bath, the tangles will become mats that you will need to cut off.

#3: Clean your pet’s ears

Cleaning your pet’s ears can be a messy task, so you may want to do it while they are in the bathtub. If your pet needs an ear cleaning between shampoos, stand at your furry pal’s side, lift an ear, and squirt cleaner into their ear canal. Some pets startle at the cold, wet sensation and may only tolerate having a cotton ball soaked in ear cleaner placed into their ear. No matter the method your pet will endure, once you administer the ear cleaner, massage the ear’s base, close to where it attaches to the skull. Your goal is to swish around the ear cleaner and break up debris.

After you have sufficiently massaged the cleaner into your pet’s ear, use cotton balls to remove as much debris as possible. You can use a cotton-tipped swab to clean the outer ear’s crevices, but do not insert the swab so far into your pet’s ear that you cannot see the end. 

#4: Express your pet’s anal glands

Another messy grooming chore is anal gland expression. Some pets, especially those who are obese, or have allergies or long bodies, tend to require anal gland expression more often than lean pets without health issues. 

Typically, anal gland fluid is naturally expressed, coating the stool when your pet defecates. However, if your furry pal’s glands do not express during defecation, they can become overfull and impacted, which can lead to an abscess. To ensure your pet’s anal glands do not abscess and rupture, you may have to express them regularly.

To help ensure easy cleanup, express your pet’s anal glands while they are in the bathtub. Don disposable gloves before expressing your pet’s anal glands, and apply a small dollop of lubricant to your dominant hand’s index finger. Next, gently lift your pet’s tail and insert your lubricated finger about an inch into their rectum. You should be able to feel the anal glands at the 5-o’clock and 7-o’clock positions, unless they have already emptied on their own. Then, hook your finger around the end of the gland, which can range in size from a pea to a small grape, and milk the fluid toward the opening. Hold paper towels over your hand to avoid being sprayed with foul-smelling discharge. Repeat the process on the other gland.

#5: Bathe your pet

When running your pet’s bath, the water should be a tepid temperature, as the water temperature we enjoy is too hot for cats and dogs. Slowly soak your pet’s fur, beginning with their legs and hind end to get them accustomed to the sensation. Avoid dousing your pet’s head and face with water, and spot clean the area with a wet cloth.

Once you have soaked your four-legged friend’s fur with water, work pet-friendly shampoo into their coat. Let the shampoo sit for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Your pet’s coat should be squeaky clean rather than slippery smooth when you have fully rinsed out the shampoo.

Lastly, use towels to absorb as much water as possible from your pet’s coat, and, if your pet tolerates it, use a blow dryer on a cool setting to dry their fur. Remember to dry out your pet’s ears, using an ear cleaner with a drying agent.

#6: Trim your pet’s nails

Right after your pet’s bath, their toenails are softened, making them easier to cut. Clip your furry pal’s nails while they are still in the tub and somewhat restrained. To avoid cutting into the nail’s sensitive quick, look for the natural curve and cut just before that spot. 

Make small clips to ensure you avoid cutting off too much, and check the nail’s center after each cut to determine how close you are to the quick. If your pet has black nails, stop trimming before you reach the white dot in the center. White nails have a light pink dot in the center that indicates the quick’s location. However, you can often see where the quick ends in white nails, so stop cutting before you reach the area. Your furry pal’s trimmed toenails should end just above the ground.

Whether you want your pooch to have a fancy haircut, or your cat to have healthy nails, professional groomers can tackle those tough tasks for you. If you still feel unsure about grooming your pet at home after reading our guide, schedule your furry pal’s grooming appointment with our Liberty Veterinary Hospital team.