I was discussing finances with a good friend this past weekend. I had a bit of an eye opener when I found out how much she spends to maintain her stylish good looks. This got me thinking about pet grooming costs.

Every week in the clinic I see at least one well-coiffed pooch sporting a new bow from the recent trip to the groomer. Between doggy daycare and pet grooming, I sometimes wonder how clients have any money left for veterinary medical care. I thought today I might offer our clients some suggestions for pet grooming at home that may leave you with more money in your wallet. I readily admit that I am a DIY kind of gal who this year painted my house and repaired my own sprinkler system because I couldn’t justify paying someone else to do it. I knew nothing about sprinkler systems, but the four thousand dollar quote I received was out of the question. If I can learn about PVC pipe and sprinkler heads, I bet you can learn to groom your pet yourself.

Get some good quality nail trimmers. I personally prefer the type that looks like scissors over the guillotine style. If you are anxious about trimming your pet’s nails, watch your vet or groomer a few times so you know where to cut. Keep some styptic powder at the ready just in case you trim too short and it bleeds. If your pet has some nails that are dark colored and some that are light colored, start with the light colored nails as you can more easily see the quick on those. You can then gauge how much you can take off the dark colored nails. If your pet isn’t a fan of the whole nail trimming idea, you can have a family member offer treats during the “ordeal”. Or, most pet stores sell soft cloth muzzles that may help your pet to submit to the process. Finally, do touch your pet’s feet often to desensitize your pet to being touched. Many pets do not like having their feet touched. Touch your pet’s feet at times other than when you are trimming nails.

If you have a pet whose hair grows long such as a poodle, consider a “puppy cut” hairdo. I actually think such a short cut is more attractive than the classic poodle look that you might see in the movies or at a dog show. You can order clippers and clipper blades for the cost of a couple professional grooming sessions. If the hair is short it won’t get tangled and the pet is easier to bathe. You don’t need to be Michael Angelo to master a puppy cut. No, your pet may not qualify for the Westminster Dog Show with a puppy cut, but it may help you afford to send your kids to college.

Some pets need their glands expressed periodically. Most clients don’t wish to learn this grooming staple, but you can typically have a veterinarian or groomer do this for a small fee without a complete exam or full grooming appointment. A few brave souls will go to their vet to ask for a lesson.

Here I go again, harping about dental care: brush your pet’s teeth. We brush our teeth numerous times daily and yet still go to the dentist twice yearly. By brushing your pet’s teeth you can dramatically reduce tartar build up and the frequency of dental cleanings by your veterinarian. A mistake that many pet owners make when initiating this grooming routine is to be too aggressive too soon. Start with rubbing the gums with your finger the first few sessions to get your pet used to the sensation. Then graduate to brushing the canine teeth. Be sure to reward your pet after each session. If all goes well, work further back and brush the premolars and molars. Stick to the outer aspect of the teeth as that is where they tend to form tartar. Be sure to use a flavored pet tooth paste to make it a pleasurable experience for your pet.

If your pet isn’t keen on the whole home grooming idea, do a little at a time. Or, team up on your fuzzy friend: get a family member or friend to come lather attention on your pet while you get down to business. Even at the vet clinic we often need a second hand. You know your pet’s temperament better than anyone. Don’t get hurt if your pet resists (don’t even try if you have a pet with the demeanor of Cujo!). Nonetheless, the majority of pet owners can do the majority of their pet grooming at home.


NOTE: Consult your Veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work and is the President and Founder of Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida.
Dr . Joi Sutton