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Brush up on healthful pet-grooming tips

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  • Brush up on healthful pet-grooming tips

    Beauty is more than skin-deep when it comes to your dog. Grooming helps keep your dog more comfortable and lets you spot health problems before they become serious, even life-threatening.

    Consider a simple mat, so easy to overlook. Have you ever had your hair in a ponytail that was too tight? A mat can feel the same way to your dog.

    Comfort just one of the health benefits. Regular grooming lets you look for lumps, bumps and injuries and remove mats and ticks. Follow up with your veterinarian on any questionable bumps you find, and you might detect cancer early enough to save your pet's life.

    For short-haired breeds, keeping skin and coat in good shape is easy. Run your hands over it daily, brush the coat weekly, and that's it.

    For some breeds, grooming is more involved. Collies, chows, Keeshonden and Alaskan malamutes are "double-coated" -- they have a downy undercoat underneath harsher long hair. The down can mat against the skin if left untended. To prevent this, divide the coat into small sections and brush against the grain from the skin outward, working from head to tail, section by section. In the spring and fall -- the big shedding times -- the fur you pull out with a brush won't end up on the furniture, and removing the old stuff keeps your pet cooler in the summer and lets new insulation come in for the winter.

    Silky-coated dogs, including Afghan hounds, cockers and Maltese, also need regular brushing to keep tangles from forming. As with the double-coated dogs, work with small sections at a time, brushing from the skin outward, and then comb back into place with the grain for a glossy, finished look. Coats of this type require so much attention that having a groomer keep the dogs trimmed to a medium length is often more practical.

    Curly and wiry coats, such as those on poodles and terriers, need to be brushed weekly, working against the grain and then with it. Curly coats should be clipped every six weeks; wiry ones, two or three times a year (but clipping every six weeks will keep your terrier looking sharper).

    Regular grooming relaxes the dog who's used to it, and it becomes a special time shared between you both.

    Some added benefit for you: Giving your dog a tummy rub after every session is sure to relax you (and your dog, of course) and ease the stress of your day. And for allergy sufferers, keeping a dog clean might make having a dog possible.