Puppy & Dog Tips – Grooming and Medical Care

by | Feb 4, 2021 | Puppy & Dog Tips, Resources


An important part of your dog’s overall health and well being is routine grooming.  Dogs of any age can be taught to enjoy being groomed and this one on one time will strengthen your relationship with your dog. In addition, regular grooming will help you notice any changes in your pet over time or medical conditions that need attention.  

The key to successful grooming is to get your dog used to being handled prior to starting grooming. During play time or when watching TV get your dog used to having his feet handled, his ears rubbed, his lips moved and gums massaged. The more he is used to this handling the calmer he will be during grooming. It is  recommended that you bathe your dog once a month, over bathing can dry out the natural oils of your dog’s skin. During your grooming process, be aware of your dog’s feedback. If something is sore or he is hurting, stop the grooming and schedule a vet appointment.  

Here are some items that you may need for grooming:  

  • Shampoo: appropriate for your dog – puppies need a very mild shampoo, dogs with skin conditions may need an oatmeal-based shampoo or a specialty shampoo recommended by your veterinarian. 
  • Conditioner: leaves dog’s coats shiny and easy to brush through 
  • Dryer: many pet ‘do-it-yourself’ pet washes supply these and clean up after you leave. Pet dryers do not get as hot as human hair dryers so the risk of burning your pet is minimal. All pets should be dried in cold weather as to not catch a cold. Very young, old and sick animals should be dried regardless of the temperature to prevent illness.
  • Baths: Bath water should be warm to prevent chilling your pet. A cold bath can cause fear and a negative association with baths. Be sure to lather your dog with the shampoo and rinse thoroughly, residual shampoo can cause itchiness if left on the skin to dry.  
  • Brushes: You should brush your dog daily, if not then three to four times per week. Brushing helps to remove dead hair and skin cells and distribute the natural oils. Even if you plan to bathe your dog, start with a good brushing. There are several types of brushes on the market for dogs with different types of coats.  
    • Slicker brushes: These have fine, short wires close together on a flat surface. They are used on medium-to-long-haired or curly-haired dogs to remove mats. It is important to remember to always be gentle when using a slicker brush. The fine, tightly spaced wires can cause your dog discomfort if too much pressure is used. These are used on dogs such as Golden Retrievers, St. Bernard’s and Cocker Spaniels.  
    • Rakes: Rakes are designed to penetrate into a dog’s thick coat and remove tangles and dead undercoat near the dog’s skin. They should be used with minimal pressure during a dog’s peak shedding season.  These are most commonly used on German Shepherds, Chow Chows  and Malamutes.  
    • Bristle Brushes: These brushes are designed with tightly packed cluster of natural bristles and should be used on shorthaired, smooth coated dogs. These are most commonly used on Pugs, Greyhounds,  Boston Terriers, among others.  
    • Pin Brushes: These brushes closely resemble human brushes. They are usually oval-shaped with a loosely arranges set of flexible wires with pins on top. Pin brushes are the most commonly used type of brush, but often the least useful. They will pick up loose hair before it is shed onto your furniture, or finish and fluff a well-brushed coat, but provide little benefit to your pet. They are best used to finish off the grooming  process. 
  • Ear cleaner and cotton balls: You should be in the habit of checking your dog’s ears once a week as part of your brushing routine. If they look goopy, smell bad or are sore to the touch make an appointment with your veterinarian. If they appear healthy and clean, gently massage your dog’s ears as part of routine grooming. If they need just a quick cleaning for routine care, dampen a cotton ball with ear cleaning solution. (Never use a cotton swab as it can enter the ear canal too far and cause damage.) Gently wipe inside your dog’s ear, closest to the head, and wipe the folds of skin moving out towards the earflap.  
  • Nail clippers and styptic powder (in case you accidentally trim a nail too short): Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is important for his safety and  health. Long nails can get caught on something while he is running and tear off and be painful and require medical attention. Additionally, letting a dog’s nails grow too long can cause his toe’s to grow in unnatural positions and cause permanent damage.

Clipping a dog’s nails requires patience and calmness on the part of both you and your dog. If you both work together, over time you will be able to be successful at trimming his nails. Start by gently picking up one foot and massaging his foot and toes. Then take one toe and gently press the nail as though you were going to clip it and look for the quick, which contains the blood supply. On black nails this is very difficult, but once you have been trimming your dog’s nails for a while, you will know how much you can trim each time. Once you identify the quick, take the clippers and gently trim to before the quick (the pink area) ends. You do not want to trim into the quick because this is painful to your dog and the nail will bleed. If you do accidentally trim the quick, apply some styptic powder and press for 30 seconds or until the nail has stopped bleeding. If you are able to trim one nail on each foot a week, your dog will start adjusting to having his nails trimmed and he will become relaxed and so will you! Remember to praise your dog calmly after each nail trim. You don’t want him jumping up in between each nail. At the end of your session you can reward him with a play session or a walk.  

Older dogs’ nails become thicker and more brittle, they are easier to trim if your dog has just had a bath or they are damp from playing in the wet grass.  When trimming the nails of young puppies, it helps to tire them out first.  Puppy nails also grow much quicker than those of adult dogs. You will want to try to trim them weekly to avoid getting scratched or allowing them to get too long. Nails of young puppies can easily be trimmed with a human fingernail or toenail clipper.  

  • Toothbrush and animal toothpaste: Brushing your dog’s teeth daily is the ideal standard for healthy teeth and gums and for early detection of dental problems. However, even if you are only able to brush your dog’s teeth periodically your dog will still benefit. Any dog can be taught to have his teeth brushed. Start slowly by gently massaging his teeth and gums. If at any time you feel you are going to be bit, stop the process. If your dog is getting overwhelmed give him a play break. Brushing is a lifelong benefit; you don’t need to rush the process.  

Once he is comfortable with your finger massaging his teeth you can add a finger toothbrush. First apply some animal toothpaste, appropriate for your animal, to his teeth. The fluoride in human toothpaste is poisonous to dogs. After applying the animal toothpaste, gently lift his gums and use the toothbrush to brush his teeth. Keep the first session short and increase each session so as to not overwhelm your dog. If you ever notice swelling or irregularities in your dog’s gums or teeth, schedule an appointment veterinarian to have them checked.

Safety scissors: Useful for trimming long fir around pads, dogs’ eyes and ears. Caution should always be exercised when trimming your dog, especially around the eyes and ears.

Clippers (if you want to learn to style your pup): If you have never  trimmed or styled a dog in the past, it is highly recommended you seek the assistance of a grooming professional. 

Medical Care 

Medical Records 

Once your adoption is finalized you will receive an email with all of your dog’s medical records. It is important to review his records and check with his foster to determine if he is due for any upcoming vaccinations.  

Signs of a Healthy or Sick Dog 

As a dog owner, one of your responsibilities is to monitor your dog’s health and to take him to the vet should he become sick or injured.  

Here are some signs that your dog is HEALTHY

  • Temperature is between 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Gums are pink and moist; they may have a grayish-black pigment to them.  Gums will feel tacky if your dog is dehydrated.  
  • Eyes are clear. 
  • Ears are a light pink on the inside; some dark-skinned dogs may have a dark pigment, clean or with a trace of wax. They are free of discharge, odor and not swollen.  
  • Nose is damp 
  • Stools are firm and parasite free.  

Here are some signs that your dog MAY BE ILL and needs to see a veterinarian:

  • Significant change in behavior 
  • Perceived pain or lethargy 
  • Visible pain, i.e. limping 
  • Persistent vomiting, diarrhea, or coughing 
  • Lack of appetite or drinking 
  • Excessive drinking or urination 

If any of these symptoms last longer than 24 hours you should bring your dog to the vet. You should also be bringing your dog in for regular physical exams and vaccinations.  

Heartworm and Flea & Tick Prevention 

There are many different variations of flea preventatives on the market, both oral and topical. There are also several different heartworm preventatives on the market. Heartworm preventatives also prevent against intestinal parasites. It is best to talk with your veterinarian about the most appropriate combination of heartworm and flea and tick preventatives your dog and your lifestyle 

Heartworm is a very preventable disease and it is highly recommended that you select one of the preventatives for your dog and keep him protected. The treatment for heartworms is a long and very expensive process. If your dog has NOT been on been on heartworm medication, he MUST have a heartworm test prior to starting heartworm preventative. Giving heartworm preventative may be fatal to a dog that already has heartworms.

Hot Weather and Your Dog


Pets should never be left in locked vehicles, even with the windows cracked. The temperature inside your vehicle can rise so quickly that your dog can die or suffer permanent organ or brain damage. Refer to the prior section, “Transporting Your Dog, Vehicle Temperatures,” for further information.  

Unlike humans, dogs lack the ability to sweat and cool themselves down quickly.  The only way they can naturally lower their body temperature is by panting and through their paws. If a dog is overheated, you will see many of the same symptoms of shock that you do in humans. His breathing will be rapid and shallow and his body will be overheated. You need to cool him rapidly by spraying him with cool, NOT cold water, or wrap him in cool, moist towels and get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  

You should avoid walking your dog during the peak heat hours of the day. Also be aware of the surface you are walking your dog on. Asphalt heats up quickly and can become hot enough to burn your dog’s pads. Before walking touch the surface, if you cannot keep your hand on it for 3 seconds it is too hot for your dog’s feet. 

Water is important for your dog year round, but if you have your dog remain outside during the day, it is important he has fresh cold water in a spill-proof bowl.  Your dog should also be provided a place that is shaded. Remember to check this location throughout the day to ensure that the spot remains shaded. A baby pool with some fresh water and a few of his toys is a great place for him to cool off throughout the day. If you enjoy swimming, you can teach your dog to enjoy the pool as well. It is excellent exercise for your dog! Always supervise your dog while he is in the pool.

Cold Weather and Your Dog

Courtesy of Don Heinze

Although winter and snow can be fun for your dog to romp and play, here are several things to watch out for if you live or travel to a cold climate. 

Antifreeze is very attractive to dogs because it tastes sweet. Even if your pet ingests a small amount it could be fatal. Get your dog to your veterinarian immediately. Be on the lookout for puddles in parking lots and in your garage. Pet safe antifreeze is available which tastes bad to dogs. It is highly recommended for dog owners. Ice melting products may also damage your dog’s paws. Be mindful of where you are walking your pet and always wipe off his paws when you bring him inside. If he licks his paws with these products on him, he will be ingesting harmful chemicals. 

If your dog loves to run and play outside in the winter be watchful of his weight. He may need an increase in his food as he may be burning more calories in the winter to stay warm. Remember to reduce his food as the spring and summer months’  approach. Conversely, if your dog likes to stay in and lounge by the fire it may be necessary to decrease his food or encourage him to go on more structured walks to keep him trim and healthy.  

Another thing to be mindful of is if you have a fenced in yard and let your dog run around unsupervised. If you have a large amount of snow be sure the snow is not high enough that your dog can walk over the top and wander off or stray animals wander in and cause a problem. Additionally, ice shards can also cause damage to your dog’s feet. Another reason it is good to be cleaning and inspecting your dog’s paws each time he comes in from the outside.  

First Aid and CPR Training 

There may be many times when your pet becomes injured where you are not able to immediately transport your pet to a veterinarian. You may be on a hiking trail, at a campsite or just out for a run and your dog suddenly needs medical care. It is  important to know how to do your best to treat and stabilize your dog until you can get him to a veterinarian.  

This is a link to a national database of First Aid and CPR trainers to help you locate a trainer close to you: http://cprforcanines.com/k9-training/. We highly recommended you invest the time to take this course.  

The diagram below, from the American Red Cross, details the steps for canine and feline CPR.