Contrary to popular belief, clipping a dog is more than just a mechanical activity – it’s also an art form. Great care needs to be taken not to cut too far up the nail, or too close to the skin when clipping the dog’s fur. Dogs have a small blood vessel running through the center of their nails, near the paws. This is called the quick. If the quick is cut, bleeding can occur. If you mistakenly cut the dog’s nails to the quick, it’s a good idea to have a white, powdery clotting agent and some tissue paper on hand. The bleeding will usually stop in about five to seven minutes. If the bleeding does not stop by then, it is recommended that you call a veterinarian. The dog’s fur must also be clipped in a specific manner (according to breed) to prevent dust accumulation and possible skin diseases, such as atopy. Atopy is an allergic reaction in dogs caused by inhalation of dust particles.
Symptoms include constant licking of feet, inflamed ears, and redness. Sometimes infection develops where the dog has scratched heavily, and veterinary care is needed. The veterinarian will usually take blood tests to determine what the dog is allergic to, and administer antihistamines, steroids, or special shampoos that are specifically formulated to reduce the itching.
Clipping a dog not only maintains proper hygiene – it also makes it more difficult for parasites such as fleas and ticks to hide in your dog’s fur. To do it you can either use a pair of scissors or the electric grooming clippers. Ticks can become a problem if not taken care of promptly. Ticks are parasitic insects that will burrow into your dog’s flesh, and feed on the blood within. This burrowing behavior can transfer many different kinds of diseases – most commonly Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection whose symptoms include muscle and joint pain, and if left untreated, can become crippling for your dog. If the illness reaches this stage, it can become extremely difficult to treat, so if you think your dog has Lyme Disease, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Don’t worry about being embarrassed if it turns out your dog does not have Lyme Disease, as veterinarians would rather have you come in, and have it be a false alarm than have you wait, and possibly place your dog’s life at risk. Remember, a healthy dog is a happy dog.
Washing can be especially rewarding for both you and your dog, because it does a lot more than just keep Fido clean and fresh-smelling – it also helps prevent parasitic infestations. However, it’s important that you brush the dog down first, to remove any clumps of loose hair that can prevent the shampoo from reaching your dog’s skin. If you can’t safely and painlessly brush them out, try cutting them with a pair of scissors. If that fails, many experts recommend a visit to a professional dog groomer, who will give your dog a quick shave. While it may make your dog look a bit silly (dogs are very funny-looking without fur), it does give you an opportunity to start a grooming regiment that will prevent the fur from clumping up on you in the future. Then you can go right to bathing the dog. Some dogs actually enjoy being bathed, while others resent it, and will do whatever it takes to escape. It really depends on the dog’s personality.
You especially want to avoid clipping too close to the skin during the Winter months, or when it’s extremely cold outside, because this can make your dog more vulnerable to the cold weather. It’s a common misconception that dogs are immune to the cold weather because they have fur. While the fur helps, it does not make your dog immune to the effects of cold weather. Dogs are much like people in that they can catch colds if they spend too much time in cold weather, and areas of a dog’s body that are too badly exposed can catch frostbite in extremely cold temperatures. Hypothermia is another concern for dogs. Also, cutting a nail too close can cause profuse bleeding. If your dog somehow catches frostbite, it is important to warm the affected area as quickly as possible. Use a warmed ice pack, or warm water in the event that the paws have caught frostbite. Do not rub or massage the affected area, do not apply snow or ice, and do not immerse your dog completely. Complete immersion can actually lower your dog’s core temperature, causing hypothermia. Once normal body temperature has been attained, there will be some minor discomfort. Place your dog inside a warm blanket, and if gangrene develops (look for black spots that appear brittle or flaky), seek veterinary care, as dead tissues are highly prone to infection.
Also, you want to avoid clipping your dog when he or she is sick, as this causes a great amount of stress, and stress can be harmful to a dog when it’s unhealthy. NEVER use blunt instruments, as they don’t work well, especially if the dog’s fur is thick, and as a result, you will have to clip the dog more often.