Interview with Grooming Experts Kari Stafford and Andrea Swiader

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That is a reminder that your dog’s nails need to be trimmed. And that clump of fur in the corner of your living room is a sign that he should also be brushed.

Grooming your dog or cat might not be the highlight of your day, but it’s an important part of pet care. Sure it keeps them looking nice and smelling fresh, but it also helps keep them healthy and comfortable.

To help get us better equipped in the pet grooming department, we solicited the advice of grooming experts Kari Stafford and Andrea Swiader, co-founders of DogLux Grooming Salon in Spokane, Washington.


The Honest Kitchen: In what way is it healthy and important to keep a dog or cat well-groomed?

Kari Stafford: A neglected dog or cat coat can develop many health issues. Mats are the most common health issue and can be very painful and irritating to the skin. Long-term dirt and oil build up in a neglected coat and can harbor bacteria and pests leading to infections and other skin issues. Regular grooming allows the pet owner to observe any health irregularities that might be developing such as changes in skin color or bumps, as well as seeing a wound or abscess that otherwise could have been missed.

THK: Describe the effect breed, species, hair type and size can have on how a dog or cat is groomed. For instance, how would grooming a small Chihuahua compare to grooming a large double-coated German shepherd?

Andrea Swiader: There are many common coat types such as a single coat: Shih Tzus, Poodles, Goldendoodles, etc. These breeds can shed within their coat, causing tangles or mats. This can cause your pet to overheat and cause skin irritants. Using a brush, comb through your dog’s coat before a bath to rid their coats of mats and be sure to brush after bathing to ensure mats don’t form again. Frequent brushing is the best defense against mats.

Another common coat type is the short-haired coat: Chihuahuas, Pugs, Labrador Retrievers and Great Danes are all short-haired dogs. These breeds have a tight, straight coat that lays down flat to protect their skin. This coat type can shed year-round and routine baths and brushing with a FURminator or curry brush can help eliminate the old coat. Be sure to do this outside to avoid piles of fur inside your home.

Double-coated coats are another common type. German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Pomeranians all have a second layer of coat that they shed, and brushing with a slicker brush is crucial to cooling these dogs down. When the coat is compacted with the dead coat underneath, the dogs heat up. Brushing with a slicker brush a few times a week can help eliminate this compaction and allow cool air to flow through the dog’s coat.

THK: What are some tips to grooming any dog or cat at home?

AS: Every dog should be acclimated to grooming in one way or another. Whether it is a small breed or large breed, their coat protects them. A short-coated breed such as a Chihuahua needs to be groomed the same as a large breed like a Labrador Retriever would. All breeds shed skin and hair that affects our home or families on a daily basis. A small dog would be easier to groom in your kitchen sink. Large breeds are more difficult to bathe at home as they tend to be more difficult to control during home grooming and tend to make a bigger mess. Also, their hair is more likely to clog your tub.

THK: Any suggestions for how to handle grooming dogs or cats with sensitive skin or allergies, or other conditions?

KS: Pets with skin sensitivities or allergies may find home grooming difficult. There are many over-the-counter products that are not hypoallergenic, nor are they made specifically for animals with special skin or other health needs. Oftentimes, the products that are best to treat these conditions in animals are only found in professional grooming salons. If your pet has allergies, sensitive skin or other specific health needs, it is probably best to have them groomed in a professional setting. Talk to your groomer about the specific health needs of your pet and ask them about their recommended products and services to address those needs. Work out a grooming plan that will help the animal maintain a healthy coat and skin without worsening any of their specific issues.

THK: What shampoos and conditioners do you recommend? Any ingredients to avoid?

AS: When bathing your pet at home always follow up with conditioner and rinse thoroughly to avoid any itching later. I would avoid using oatmeal shampoos as their main ingredient is colloidal oatmeal—basically oats ground into microscopic pieces that can go inside the pores and cause issues for your pet’s skin. Oats are a good temporary skin relief but are not recommended for long-term use as they can dry out skin. I would recommend a shampoo with less fragrance and a conditioner with proteins and fatty acids. I would ask your groomer what shampoo they use, or purchase a sensitive skin shampoo and conditioner from the vet.

THK: How often should a dog or cat be groomed, including nail clippings? Do you suggest maintenance between grooming?

AS: I would recommend a monthly grooming schedule. Dogs are creatures of habit, so making grooming a regular habit is the best option for your pet. Monthly bathing, brush-outs with nail trims (at a vet or groomer’s) are great for pets to maintain a healthy coat and skin.

I suggest frequent brushing at home as the best between-grooming maintenance. This keeps pets’ coats from matting and keeps them used to being touched and groomed. Plus, they really like it.

THK: Do you recommend trimming hair or shaving a pet (during hot weather, for instance)?

AS: I would recommend a frequent bath and brush visit versus a full groom or shave visit. Overly frequent haircuts can be damaging to a dog’s coat so a little break between those visits is ideal.

Grooming is an important part of your pet’s health. Develop a regular grooming schedule to keep your dog or cat nice and tidy.

Meet the Author: Jessica Peralta

Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.

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