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Gentle Green Grooming

Keep your pets happy and healthy

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Have you ever washed your dog only to have them find the most obnoxious-smelling matter to roll in soon after? One could argue it’s natural grooming at its best. Cheeky, but the divide between species when it comes to grooming is real. Their “fragrance” is our foul (reverse is also true), but is there a happy middle ground?

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How different the noses …

A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than a human’s, which means that whatever we get a whiff of, they are “hit” in the nose with it.

A cat’s sense of smell is somewhere between nine and 16 times stronger than ours. Cats depend on smells to identify people and objects and for proper social behaviour.

In other words, anything that is not “natural” often interferes with their ability to interpret the world around them, hence we ought to find ways to balance smells and cleanliness.

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Clean but gentle, please

Many people want clean-smelling pets, and some may even go for the natural human-grade products because they smell good and are environmentally friendly. However, there is a reason we should not.

“Anything that is not formulated specifically for pets should not be used,” says Amy Atkinson, Kamloops-based BC SPCA AnimalKind-certified trainer and groomer. Your shampoo may be gentle for your human needs, but, says Atkinson, “pets have different coats/skin than we do, and the chemicals that are okay for us may have a different effect on them.”

When choosing pet products, go for the less smelly ones. Aside from the impact on their olfactory cells, some of the compounds present in the grooming products can also increase their risk of allergic reactions and affect pets’ immune and/or endocrine system.

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Frequency matters

Some pets would like to be washed … never, while others tolerate it or even love it. Who has the final say? “If your pets are spending a lot of time outside, then they may need to be bathed more often,” says Atkinson.

If that’s the case, she adds, use mild, good quality products. A big reason: their microbiome. Much as our own health depends on having a diverse and healthy microbiome (our pets boost ours!), our furry friends have their own diverse range of bugs living on their skin (and in their bodies) which, ideally, we should not impact much during grooming.

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Green and gentle too

Gentleness matters when it comes to pets, as vigorous brushing can affect their fur and skin, which increases the risk of infections.

However, brushing regularly is an efficient way to avoid the extra use of grooming products, says Atkinson. But as washing is unavoidable, she suggests doing a patch test when using new products.

If your pet resents blow dryers, towel dry the best you can. “Keeping pets soggy for a longer time, especially in a tight space such as a kennel, can cause skin issues,” says Atkinson.

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Naturally clean

Where there’s grooming, there will be germs. When choosing a professional grooming service, inquire about their cleaning protocols (for example, products used and how often), which should be pet friendly. “Natural cleaners are ideal for when pets are around,” says Atkinson, “while the heavy-duty ones can be used after hours for a deep clean.”

Natural cleaners can be vinegar based, which can kill bacteria and remove dirt, while being mild enough, particularly for pets. Other natural solutions include essential oil-based or enzymatic sprays, and UV light-based systems.

Natural ways to reduce moisture and bacteria growth include proper ventilation and dehumidifiers.

Having our pets clean with the least impact on their health and the environment is a worthy goal—and it’s attainable. We may, however, have to agree to the occasional olfactory “difference of opinion.”

Oral health for dogs and cats

Cats are often more reluctant to having their teeth brushed than are dogs, and they can be a lot more sensitive to scents.

However, (gentle) persistence will greatly benefit your furry friends’ long-term oral and overall health.

Why: It removes plaque and tartar formation, and it freshens the breath.

Use: Commercially available or homemade toothpaste made with fewer ingredients, including mint leaves, cinnamon, turmeric, and bone broth for flavour.

Avoid: Human-grade toothpaste that contains xylitol, propylene glycol, and fluoride, all of which are toxic for pets.

Supplements for pets

Supplement Benefits 
glucosamine and chondroitin may be helpful in managing osteoarthritis
methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) may be useful for joint inflammation, although studies are limited
omega-3s may be beneficial for healthy skin and coat, reducing inflammation, and boosting immune function, and possibly improving cardiovascular health Note: Talk to your veterinarian about proper dosage to avoid potential adverse effects.
CBD may be beneficial to manage anxiety, pain, and inflammation
probiotics may be helpful in managing digestive issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and allergy prevention

Note: Before you consider supplements for your pets, strive to offer them a nutritionally balanced diet, adequate exercise, and regular grooming. When supplements are needed, consult your vet before proceeding to determine dosage, and avoid sharing your own supplements. Human-grade supplements contain compounds in amounts that can be harmful to pets, or downright toxic to them, such as xylitol.

Does a visit to the groomer stress your pet?

There are now Fear Free certifications for groomers, which ensure they have the skills to deal with anxious and grooming-reluctant pets. Grooming techniques aside, it is important to seek a positive grooming environment that recognizes the needs and stress boundaries of each pet.

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