Healthy skin and a healthy coat

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An important part of keeping your dog in good condition is by making sure he has healthy skin and a healthy coat. The amount of care your dog needs will vary but all dogs should have a good grooming regime.

You can find many places that offer a variety of grooming services for fair prices. A local pet store should be able to point you in the direction of a reputable private pet grooming parlour, or your local veterinary practice may provide a grooming service. The staff at a grooming centre will be well trained, professional and familiar with the needs of your particular breed of dog. They will also take care of cleaning your dog's ears and cutting his nails.

D.I.Y. grooming

You may choose to groom your own dog, or do most of the work yourself with the occasional trip to the professionals. This is a great opportunity for you to spend time with your dog, especially as most dogs love the attention they get with a good brushing.

A healthy coat will be soft and relatively smooth even on short or wired hair breeds. The coat should be shiny, but not greasy and shouldn't have a strong odour. A dog with an unhealthy coat will have dry and brittle hair with lots of loose hair in the coat. The coat itself may also be greasy or have a dusty appearance. Other signs of an unhealthy coat include bald spots and a bad oily smell.

Brush regularly

Brushing is the most important part of grooming a dog. Long- haired breeds will need to be brushed twice a week, while dogs that are prone to shedding, or have thick undercoats, should be brushed once a week. Even short- haired breeds will benefit from regular grooming to remove loose hair.

Like any job, brushing requires the right tools and there are as many different types of brushes as there are types of coats on a dog. Ideally you need two brushes, one with widely spaced teeth for the outer layer of your dog's coat and a finer spaced one for thorough combing and for around the face. Ask your veterinarian or groomer what they recommend.

Bath time

"Doggy Smell" is usually caused by a build-up of bacteria and oil on a dog's coat. And although your dog is likely to be perfectly happy without a bath, a good wash will eliminate this build up. It is however, possible to "over bath" your dog, leading to dry skin and irritation, so unless he's particularly dirty (with mud, faeces etc.) don't bath your dog more than once a month.

As a general rule don't use a shampoo designed for people. Baby shampoo is safe and won't irritate the eyes but the detergents are so mild that they won't remove heavy grime or grease. Ideally use cleaning products formulated specially for dogs. Your veterinarian or local pet store should carry them.

Proper diet

Another very important aspect of maintaining a healthy coat is diet. Hair is mostly made of protein, and the better your dog's diet, the better his coat will be. Foods that are rich in essential fatty acids are particularly good for your dog's coat. If your dog is showing signs of trouble with his coat or skin, his diet may be the culprit. Be sure to talk to your vet about what kind of food is recommended for your dog and his coat.

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