Our last piece made reference to the specialized skill set and advanced knowledge of grooming professionals. They do make it look easy, though. Sometimes I think clients look at a freshly trimmed dog or cat and wonder, “Isn’t that something I could pretty much do at home?” You won’t get the same neat, sleek results, and it will take you eons longer to get finished, but …maybe. Sort of. If you’re going for the tight-budget look. If you do elect to try this at home, here are a few words of advice to get you started.

DON’T use people shampoo on your pet. Their skin is situated at a different pH than yours, so people shampoos are formulated exactly wrong and doomed to fail. Human shampoos often contain additional ingredients to suit a human lifestyle (e.g., shampooing the hair every day, coloring it from time to time, “needs body,” extra shine, etc.). That’s just a cocktail of junk your dog or cat doesn’t need.

DON’T clean out ears with water. That’s fine for you and your ear, but the dog and cat have a bent ear canal that doesn’t allow as much air circulation. Once water gets around that bend, it stays damp inside there for quite some time. Germs love that sort of environment. Use an ear cleaner recommended by your vet or groomer. Actually, I don’t recommend cleaning ears out at all unless the pet has demonstrated an ear problem. Even when we add something that’s formulated for pet skin, it is still a foreign substance. Well-intentioned ear cleaning very often upsets the delicate balance in there and can actually cause infections. Most ears are happy just as they are and can be gently wiped clean if there is residue visible.

DON’T let kids put ponytails in the pet’s fur. It is terribly challenging to get a ponytail placed properly in animal hair. It’s much, much easier to get it placed around the whole tail, or foot, or ear. You’ve observed what a rubber band does to your circulation when placed around a finger for 90 seconds. Imagine if you couldn’t talk, didn’t have opposable thumbs, and the rubber band was concealed beneath your fur. Imagine how it would feel on the third day. Kids and their ponytails have brought about a lot of amputations. I dread that look of astonished fury (it’s pretty much identical every time) that comes over Mom’s face when she finds out.

DON’T go trimming away at mats with a pair of scissors. Mats are virtually always situated right up cozy with the skin. I have seen too many pets with gaping holes in them, resulting from the inexpert removal of a pesky fur chunk. Ears have had to be amputated. Mats can be difficult to remove; they really require an enormous amount of patience. This job might be best left to someone with better equipment and more expertise.

They’re common scenarios ranging from discomfort to disaster: follow my advice and steer clear of these grooming mishaps.

Dr. M. S. Regan