Walking through the woods with your dog trotting ahead of you and sunshine peaking through a canopy of leaves...there's nothing quite as magical as enjoying the summer with your four-legged companion. Like every season, summer has its own unique set of joys and challenges for dog owners. When it comes to coat and skin care, the focus changes from ice balls and cracked paw pads, to things like ticks and burrs. Check out this guide to help keep your dog healthy, happy, and ready to explore this summer.
Pests: Fleas and Ticks
Pesky Plants: Burs, Sap, Poison Ivy
How Grooming Can Help
Pests that have been dormant all winter come out once the weather warms, and unfortunately they find your dog's coat a very hospitable place. Ticks are one of these lovely creatures. On top of being a bit unpleasant, they can spread a whole host of diseases, including the infamous Lyme Disease. It's important to keep your dog tick-free not only for their safety, but for the safety of the people interacting with them. Ticks can often hitch a ride on pets and then drop off and find other tasty hosts in your home.
The first plan of action against ticks are preventative measures. Choosing several of the options below will help keep you and your dog safe.
Be aware of your surroundings. Although ticks can be anywhere outside, they especially love long grass and deep woods. Stay on paths when you can, and take extra precautions when you're in their favorite hideouts.
Tick checks. Whenever you've been in an area that may have ticks, check your dog thoroughly before coming inside. Part your dog's hair to get a good look at the skin and make sure to check hidden areas, like under their ear flaps, on the inside of their legs, and between their paw pads. Even if you're taking other precautions to protect your dog from ticks, you should still do regular tick checks.
Use tick repelling oral medicines, topical applications, or collars. These won't keep ticks from going on your dog, but they will either kill the ticks on contact or after biting, depending on the product. This significantly reduces the risk of disease transmission.
Use natural deterrents. For those looking for a more natural option, some essential oils have been shown to repel ticks as effectively as DEET. Check out these great instructions for a natural tick repellant for dogs.
Regular grooming. Regular grooming can help make your tick checks easier. Having a shorter coat without tangles will allow you to see their skin more easily. As we groom your dog, we are also doing a very thorough built-in tick check. Especially while blow drying them, we can see clearly to every part of their skin.
If you do find a tick that has already bitten your dog, use a tweezers or tick remover tool to get them off. Pinch as close to skin as possible to get the head out fully. If the tick is improperly removed it will more likely lead to infection and disease transmission, so read up on it before yanking ticks off your pup.
Fleas are another unpleasant pest that emerges in the warmer weather. They are incredibly uncomfortable for your dog, can spread disease, and are very difficult to get rid of. Like ticks, prevention is key. Once again, being aware of your surroundings, checking regularly for fleas, and using flea repellent medications and essential oils can all help. Washing your dog's bedding regularly is also important.
If you do have a run-in with fleas you need to act quickly before they spread and multiply. Use a flea comb to remove fleas from your dog's coat, wash your dog thoroughly with a flea-killing shampoo, and clean any areas where your dog has been. There are many effective flea-killing sprays out there, including this gentler version made with essential oils. This is the time to take over-the-top precautions to make sure every flea is gone.
Overall, we love plants. And, hey, we couldn't survive on earth without them. But there are a few that cause us difficulties, especially for dog owners.
Burs and stickers
Plants that have burrs and stickers can be a nightmare for dog owners. Spending hours pulling them out of your dog's coat isn't exactly how you want to spend your summer. Here are a few tips to help make the process a little easier:
Wear gloves. Those things can hurt, and even get stuck to your skin. Protect your hands before you try to pull them out.
Choose an appropriate comb. Wider teeth combs will allow you to brush out burrs without getting stuck in tangles like a narrow tooth comb would. If you're dealing with smaller stickers, however, you may need to use a finer tooth comb for removal.
Crush the burrs. If you can't get a bur out easily, grab a pair of pliers and crush it into smaller pieces. These are often easier to comb out.
Grease it up. If all else fails, try applying some cooking spray to help the burrs and stickers slide out easier. Any kind of oil works - olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil. Just go for something edible in case your dog decides to lick it (which, of course, he will).
Keep in mind that if the burrs or stickers are too close to the skin to get comb underneath, you'll need to cut them out instead of brushing. Electric shavers are safer for this because it's easy to cause injuries with scissors when working so close to the skin. If burrs are attached right against the skin and a shaver needs to be used, it may be time to call in a professional.
If you've ever had a run-in with sap, you know it's a tough one to get out of your dog's coat. A simple bath (or two, or three) won't get rid of it. The best solution we've found is to rub oil into the sappy area and let it sit for several hours. After a few hours, try brushing it out with a fine tooth comb or rubbing it off with your fingers. This should do the trick, but if it doesn't, you can always go for round two!
This one is more for you than your dogs. Did you know that even though dogs usually don't react to poison ivy, they can get the oils on them and leave YOU with an itchy rash? If you know your dog has been in an area with poison ivy, start by giving your pup a thorough wash. Put on gloves, long sleeves, and whatever other gear you need to make sure your dog's coat doesn't touch your skin. Use lukewarm water to wash, and make sure to use a heavy duty degreasing shampoo since the oil of the plant is what you want to get off. Rinse, suds, rinse, and repeat several times. If your dog has brushed up against your jeans or snuggled on your bed sheets, make sure to wash those too.
Some dogs owners find matting increases in the summer, especially if their dogs are swimmers. This is because when hair gets wet it can start to curl and wrap around itself. When it slowly dries without being brushed out, those matts will tighten. Repeat this over and over again, and you're left with some nasty tangles. Be sure to brush more often if your dog is swimming. If you have access to a blow dryer, getting your dog completely dry after a swim can also help a lot.
How Grooming Can Help
Every season has its own unique needs, especially for dogs that are active outdoors. As we face these new challenges of summer, it may be time to go a bit shorter. This will help your dog stay cool, be less susceptible to post-swim tangles, and allow for easier burr, debris, and pest removal. It will also help you more easily check for pests hiding in their fur. Keep in mind that going shorter doesn't always mean going the shortest possible. Cutting your dog's hair short enough to expose the skin can put them at risk of sunburn, especially for the fair-skinned pups.
What about Double Coated Dogs?
The one exception to going shorter in the summer is with double coated dogs. These include dogs like Golden Retrievers, Great Pyrenees, German Shepherds, Huskies and Chows. It may be tempting to shave their coat short in order to keep them cool and comfortable; after all, with all that fur how could they not be sweltering? Surprisingly though, shaving their coats will actually make them feel warmer. Their double coat is designed to insulate them, both from the cold and heat. The undercoat traps air close to their skin and keeps it at the same temperature as their body, providing a little cool "cocoon" of air around them. If you cut into their undercoat, it messes with their cooling system. To top it off, shaving a double coated dog damages the hair so that it doesn't grow back properly.
So how can you help your double coated dog stay cool? Brushing and deshedding is key! Getting all the dead hair out of their undercoat opens up the space needed to create that little pocket of cooler air. And if you're looking to lessen the impact of burrs and tangles, you can still trim some of these dogs up a bit to help. However, care needs to be taken when trimming so that you are not cutting into that valuable undercoat. If you're not sure how to trim or deshed your dog, or simply don't have the time, be sure to ask about our trimming and deshedding packages!
Whatever your pup's needs are this summer, our skilled and compassionate team of groomers is here to help. If you're unsure what haircut to go with, they can help you choose a style that will help your dog feel their best.