Tips for dog and cat care: Do you do things for your pet?

The following tips are a reflection of issues seen at our clinic that can be prevented with some easy steps.

Pay attention to collars

Wash your dog or cat’s collar on a regular basis. Over time, collars will absorb oil from a pet’s skin and also yeast and bacteria. If you notice that your pet’s collar is starting to smell, it should be washed.

Good practice is to wash the collar monthly. In addition, pay attention to the skin under the collar. Sometimes animals that wear a collar constantly will start to get hair loss under the collar, or the collar can start to irritate the skin. Also, we have seen cats and dogs that get mats of fur intertwined with the collar.

Cats should only wear quick-release collars. In particular if your cat goes outside, wearing a quick release collar will prevent the collar from tightening around your cat’s neck if the collar gets lodged on brush or something else.

Dogs that wear an electric fence collar or a shock collar should not have that collar on all of the time. The prongs on the collar can irritate the skin. Every year we see dogs that have developed an infection under the shock collar because it has been left on too long.

Dogs that cough and gag when on a walk because they pull against a neck collar should wear a harness instead of a collar around the neck.

Keep toenails trimmed 

We see dogs on a regular basis (and occasionally cats) because they have torn a toenail. Oftentimes we need to sedate the dog to remove the remaining nail. The best way to prevent a toenail from tearing is to not let your dog’s nails get too long. Dogs and cats should have their toenails trimmed monthly.

We have a video on our website about how to train your dog to accept toenail trimming. If your dog is afraid of having his toenails clipped, please watch this video.  Many dogs need to be acclimated to toenail trimming.  Visit and click on the YouTube icon.

Feed on a schedule

I recommend feeding dogs twice a day, and cats should be fed multiple times throughout the day.

Some people prefer to feed their dogs once a day, and many dogs can tolerate this feeding schedule. However, we will commonly see dogs at the clinic that will vomit bile or foam from having an empty stomach for too long. Feeding twice a day can help prevent this. If your dog already eats twice a day but vomits foam in the morning before breakfast, you can help relieve this by giving a small snack at bedtime.

Cats in the wild will eat about 10 or more times a day. Cats prefer multiple small meals throughout the day. Cats that do not gorge themselves can have food left out all of the time. Otherwise, it is best to split up your kitty’s total volume of food for the day into multiple small feedings. (Also, I recommend feeding balls for cats or hiding small dishes of food around the house so your cat can “hunt” for his food).

Wash food containers

Wash your pet’s food and water bowls in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water at least once a week. The same is true for the food storage container.

Many people will simply add new kibble to the food storage container when the container gets low. The kibble on the bottom of the container gets old (and can even get rancid) and this practice allows food storage mites to grow. Some animals will have food storage mite allergies leading to chronic rashes and skin irritation.

The best practice is to keep half of your pet’s food in the freezer until it is ready to use, and if you keep the other half of the kibble in a storage container, wash out the storage container with hot soapy water before adding any new kibble.

Bathe and groom

Certain fur types require very little maintenance. Labradors, for example, can go for a long time without getting a bath if they don’t have skin conditions. Other breeds of cats and dogs, however, benefit from regular grooming.

If you have a cat or a dog that gets mats on a regular basis, then you should brush your pet at least every other day to try to prevent small tangles from forming into a mat. Common areas for matting are behind ears, behind the rear legs and on the belly.

If your cat or dog is heavily matted, these need to be shaved out, and it is best to seek out a professional groomer. If you are using scissors to clip out a mat, put a comb between the skin and mat. We commonly will see pets whose owners accidently cut their skin when scissoring out a mat.

If you have a dog that has eyes that produce more discharge (shih tzus for example), the fur around their face should be kept short (a puppy cut look). If you prefer a longer look, the fur needs to be combed out daily and any mucus or discharge removed from around the eyes. Dogs will sometimes get secondary skin infections around the face if the fur is trapping discharge next to the skin.

Pay attention

Everyone, animal or human, does best in an environment where they are petted, loved and paid attention to everyday. Our lives are so busy that sometimes it seems like more of a chore to walk the dog or break out the feathers on a stick for your cat. Active play and attention with your pet should be part of your daily routine.

If your pet is happy, you will be happier, and this circle will just continue, enhancing everyone’s lives.