How important are grooming and hygiene for my dogs' health?

We take it for granted. Grooming your pet or keeping it brushed is really not that much different from our own hair hygiene. Quite simply, one of the bigger issues we see are dogs that get matted up. Once we get dogs with mats, things can spiral out of control. Removing the mats can be very difficult unless they're shaved out, then your dog is totally embarrassed because they're shaved down, and they look like naked rats when running around after they've had all this hair. You want to make sure that you try to develop at least a ritual of brushing your dog from early on to try to prevent that from happening. Also, when we do get mats, it can create some changes in the skin that can lead to some irritation and itching. So a lot of issues can develop from improper care of the skin or the coat of your pet.

Dr. Bob Parrish
Carolina Value Pet Care

Do all dogs require grooming?

Not really. If you have a really short-haired dog, like a short-haired Doxin, and you want to give them a bath, that's fine, but full grooming is not necessary. Typically, grooming is for dogs whose hair constantly grows. Often, we think of poodles and Cocker Spaniels that commonly need to be groomed. Certainly, there are a lot more breeds beyond that, but not all dogs need to be groomed regularly. I think it's still worthwhile for just general skin and hair coat hygiene, even if you got a short-haired dog, to take a damp cloth and go over their entire body at least three times a week. It's just water and a washcloth, nothing fancy, no pet wipes, no baby wipes. Make it a habit of wiping them down. I think it's a good habit to get into.

What do I need to do when grooming my dog?

First, call a groomer. Although, we do get many clients who will try to groom their own dogs. An old joke says, "What's the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut? Two weeks." So if you try to groom your dog, they're not going out in public unless you take them down to the sidewalk in your neighborhood, but who cares what they look like then? Maybe you do, that's fine. But if you want to try grooming your own dog, go ahead and try. Like I said, if you do a lousy job, you'll do better next time. That has been a problem, especially with COVID. Many people weren't able to get their dogs in to get groomed because of work schedules and because groomers are so busy. We get many clients who are just unable to get their dogs in to be groomed. I'm never going to discourage somebody who wants to try to groom their own dog, but you do need the right tools, and the right tools primarily include an excellent quality set of electric Clippers, which are about a hundred dollars, but well worth every penny. I caution clients about trying to scissor cut their dogs unless they have some experience because it would be easy to cut your dogs, so you might want to think about the electric Clippers because you really can't cut your dogs with them. It would take a lot of effort, and it would be very unusual. With scissors, some people get a little bit too crazy. They're not comfortable doing it, and they might actually cut their dog with a scissor. So be careful about that.

How does regular grooming contribute to the good health of my dog?

We talked about the main thing earlier:

  • General skin and hair coat to hygiene.
  • Trying to remove dust and pollens.
  • Trying to prevent mats from forming.

Another thing that I haven't mentioned quite yet is ear care because that is a part of grooming as well. Obviously, there are some dogs that are more likely to have ear problems. If you have a Cocker Spaniel, you really have to stay on top of keeping their ears clean by using an ear flush or medicated ear flush two or three times a week to flush the dog's ears and try to keep the wax from building up. We don't consider that grooming, but it is equally important to the overall health of the coat itself as ear care.

How soon should I start to groom my dog?

Most groomers like to start as puppies. This is something I strongly emphasize with any puppy. When we get puppies that are 6, 8, 10, and 12 weeks of age, whether they will need to get groomed or not, I strongly recommend you start playing with their feet and make it fun, make it a game. You can gamify it a little bit by giving them a little treat. Make it a positive interaction. One of the big frustrations many pet owners and groomers encounter is that many dogs hate to have their feet messed with. The more you can interact and engage with those puppies early on so that you're actually messing with feet, the better. We call it counting their fingers and toes. Also, get around their teeth. Get into the habit of lifting up their lips and looking in their teeth so they will not be bashful or get a little bit aggressive if you try to open up their mouth or touch their toes.

What should I do for my puppy's first grooming?

Have a conversation with the groomer. If you're going to take them to be groomed, have a conversation and define your expectations. Perhaps they can offer some tips for you going forward to make it a better experience for both you and your puppy. Groomers start at different ages, and it depends on the groomer. So if you don't have a relationship with a groomer, contact one and find out if they commonly start with puppies at a certain age or not. Let's say you have a little poodle. You want to start at six weeks, or you want to start at 14 weeks. What age do they like to start? Those are good questions to ask the groomer. What are your expectations because the first time, it's almost like taking a little kid to get their hair cut for the first time. It may not be a full-on haircut. It's just getting them in that environment and getting them accustomed to what's going on. There are other dogs, and there's a lot of noise going on. There's bathing going on. There can be a blow dryer to blow dogs' hair coats with. So there's a lot of noise. There's a lot of activity going on that may be a little bit disruptive for any dog, for that matter. Just be prepared to ask your groomer some questions to help make it a better experience for everybody.

How often should I get my dog groomed?

Another good question. It depends on the dog and the coat. We get a lot of clients who systematically take their dog in to be groomed every six weeks. Is that necessary? Maybe not, but they like to see their dog with a fresh haircut every six weeks, but there's no specific timeline for any particular breed of dog. It's really up to your expectations of how you want your dog to look or what your dog needs. But again, there are no rules as to how often they need to be groomed.

What dog grooming services does Carolina Value Pet Care provide?

We do not. If we offer anything along the way of services, we will often see dogs with really long toenails that need to be trimmed. We do not offer nail trimming as a service here at Carolina Value Pet Care, but we would generally recommend either going to a groomer or, sometimes, a veterinary clinic. Let me roll back. I made a comment earlier about trying to make a habit early on of touching your dogs' toes. With a lot of dogs, people will try to trim their dogs' nails, and they and their dogs get violent about it. So the earlier you can interact with your puppy and play with their toes, gamifying it, giving them treats, rewarding them for good behavior for letting you touch their feet, the better for everybody in the long run. We don't offer services, but we can certainly try to make recommendations for you when possible.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 288-8620, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Grooming - FAQs

Dr. Bob Parrish
Carolina Value Pet Care

Is there such a thing as bathing a dog too often?

No. Contrary to the mythology that you hear or read on the internet or hear from a lot of veterinarians, there isn't a "too often" to bathe your pet. Think about it. You get the Labrador that goes into the water every day. Is that too much? No, not at all. What does matter if you're going to be bathing your pet is the shampoo. There are different shampoos for different purposes. We would have some shampoos for dogs with excessively oily skin, for example, if we had a Cocker spaniel with an oily texture to the coat. We want to dry those dogs out somehow. We want to degrease and get some of the oils out. But in general, the vast majority of the shampoos and the ones you would typically buy off the shelf, no, you could bath those dogs on a regular basis. There are a couple of considerations. We carry about three or four different shampoos for specific purposes. I have one that we use for general purposes. It's an aloe and oatmeal shampoo. You've got aloe in there, which is a skin moisturizer. The other component, oatmeal, has a little bit of an anti-itch benefit to it. You can bathe your dog every single day, and you're not going to dry their skin out if you use that combination.

I realize a lot of clients are not able to bathe their dogs with any regularity, and that's fine. Worst case scenario, you can at least take a wet cloth, not a pet wipe or not a baby wipe, a wet cloth, and just get your dog damp with a towel or a towelette. If you can do that regularly, at least that's something you can do to try to help with your dog's skin coat. You cannot bathe your dog too often if you're using an appropriate shampoo. Then it becomes a matter of how cooperative your dog is and how much time you have. If your dog isn't really cooperative with getting a bath, if it turns into a rodeo, I don't recommend it because everybody's exhausted from the experience. But if your dog likes to get in the shower with you, go for it. That's fine. Do it as often as you want to. I like an aloe oatmeal shampoo. It is the general shampoo that we do have other shampoos, uh, for specific, uh, health purposes for skin purposes.

Is it better to groom your dog at home or have it done by a professional groomer?

As far as getting a bath at home goes, it is up to you. Often, a lot of dogs just don't cooperate, and what should be a 20, or 25-minute experience turns into an hour circus. Nobody wins in that situation. Your dog's traumatized, and you're traumatized. No, don't do it. It's just easier to try to take them someplace else to be bathed. We often find that sometimes just getting your dog out of the environment helps. Maybe take them to a local farm supply or feed store, someplace where they do have do-it-yourself bathing. We have a couple of locations where that is available, and a lot of people love to take advantage of that because they don't have to destroy their own bathrooms and get them all wet, and dogs are shaking all over the place. Let them do it someplace else, not in your house. During the summertime, do it outside if you need to. But as far as the mechanics of actually doing it goes, it really boils down to if your dog cooperates or not. If they do great, try it yourself. If not, by all means, take them to a groomer. Especially if you are going to get a haircut, they will also be bathing them.

Does my dog need to be vaccinated and on flea control to go to the groomer?

Yes, absolutely. Your dog should be on flea control, whether they go to the groomer or not. We do see fleas outside for nine months out of the year in this area. Fleas will live inside the other three months out of the year, meaning January, February, and March. Typically from April all the way to December, we do see fleas. You don't want your dogs to have fleas in the first place, and the groomer sure as heck doesn't want you bringing a flea-infested dog into their facility. Even though they would be able to bathe your dog, they may or may not have flea products. That's not what they're there for. The good news is we've got great flea products. We can take care of that problem. With vaccinations, there are a couple of considerations. Rabies, of course, is required by law. That's a given, and I promise you, every groomer will want to ensure that your dog is vaccinated for rabies. Why is that? Quite simply because people can get rabies as well. This is not just a dog or a cat problem. This is potentially a people problem as well. That's why it's mandated that every dog and cat be vaccinated for rabies. Horses too. They're vaccinated for rabies as well, for those of you who have horses.

For the other vaccines, we recommend distemper parvo for every dog and cat because it does not require contact with another dog to get the distemper and parvo. Lastly, the other one we strongly recommend is the Bordetella vaccine. Most groomers won't require a distemper parvo or the Bordetella because there's no human contagion with those. However, there is a high risk of transmission from one dog to another dog, even if they're not in direct contact with one another. If your kid is a kindergartner and two or three kids are coughing and sneezing, you probably don't want to take them to school that day because they're going to come down with something. The same thing goes for if somebody unknowingly takes their dog to a groomer and they might have an upper respiratory infection or kennel cough of some sort. They can easily spread it to the other dogs in the facility, even if they're not in direct contact. So, by all means, I highly recommend the distemper parvo as well as the Bordetella vaccine. And, of course, the rabies vaccine is required by law.

If my dog has behavior problems, will they be welcomed by a groomer?

It depends on your groomer, and I mean that sincerely. In most cases, depending on the degree or the nature of the behavior problem, if it's an aggression problem, then yes. That's going to be a huge challenge for groomers. They are not trained for that. They're groomers. What I would suggest, however, is some veterinary clinics that do have some in-house grooming and would be the best resource. The reason is that at those veterinary clinics, they can provide some supervised sedation for those pets. Whereas that's not the case at your typical grooming facility, veterinary clinics can do it. Trying to find a veterinary clinic that also offers grooming might be a little bit of a challenge, but that would be a discussion to have with your groomer prior to bringing a new dog. Don't let them discover that your dog is aggressive the hard way.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 288-8620, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.