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How to Spring Clean Your Dog

The first week of May is "National Pet Week," so there's no better time than now to give your dog a makeover.

The "Early Show"'s resident veterinarian, Dr. Debbye Turner Bell, shared some simple tips for proper dog grooming that will make your pet look and feel great this spring.

A clean dog not only smells better but is less apt to develop skin problems. When a dog's coat is caked with dirt, matted, and unkempt, moisture and bacteria can get trapped near or on the skin. This is the perfect situation for dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) and infection. Dogs can develop what are commonly known as hot spots, abscesses, and fungal infections if their coat is not properly maintained. So it is important to brush your dog regularly. Depending on the type of hair that your dog has, you may need to brush him as often as every day. Short-haired dogs can sometimes get by with just a weekly brushing. But it is essential to brush away the excess hair, dirt, leaves, and whatever else has attached itself to your pooch on a regular basis. A dog with a double-coat (like Huskies, Collies, and German Shepherds) has a very thick under layer of hair and an outer coat. These dogs can quickly get matted, so daily brushing is important. Dogs like poodles and Bichon Frises should be professionally groomed every four to eight weeks. Dogs that have short, relatively thin, hair can be brushed once a week or so. Often, just running a damp cloth over the coat will be fine in removing excess hair and debris. When brushing a dog's thick coat, you want to separate the hair, place the brush or comb right next to the skin and brush outward gently in short, careful strokes.

As for bathing, dogs do not need to be bathed every day. Frequency of bathing your dog really depends on the type of dog and your lifestyle. If you have a long-haired dog, then she needs grooming more often than a short-haired pooch. Plus a dog that frolics outside, rolls in the dirty, swim in a lake, etc., certainly needs a bath more often than a couch potato pup. But it is not a good idea to bathe a dog more than once a week. Bathing washes away the natural oils that the dog's skin produces and can cause dry, flaky skin. This could lead to excessive scratching and chewing, which could lead to irritated skin and even infection. If your dog has a problem with itching, choose a soothing shampoo. One with oatmeal in it will be a great relief. Avoid shampoos that have a lot of perfumes and additives. A gentle shampoo is all that is needed. Baby shampoo works great. You typically don't need a conditioner, but if the hair is thick and unruly, a detangler will help with combing out the dog's hair after the bath.

The basics of bathing your dog are pretty simple. After brushing your dog, cleaning her ears, removing any matted hair, crusty material from the eyes, etc., then thoroughly soak the dog with water. Then pour a generous amount of shampoo along his back. Use your hands to spread the suds all over the dog's body. Be especially diligent is cleaning his feet, mouth, and ears. And don't be shy, wash his rump too! After you have sudsed up the entire dog, then rinse his entire body thoroughly. If you start with the lower back and work your way up, this will decrease your dog's urge to shake -- getting you and everything else soaked. Be sure to rinse all of the shampoo out of your dog's fur on all parts of his body. His hair should feel squeaky clean when you've finished. You should not be able to produce any suds anywhere on his body when you rub his hair vigorously.

It is important to keep a dog's nails trimmed. Overgrown nails can cause discomfort, even pain to the dog. They can become ingrown. Also, overgrown nails can make it difficult for the dog to maneuver on slick surfaces. If you dog has a dark or black nail bed, you may want to take her to your groomer or veterinarian to get them trimmed. A dog's nails have an abundant blood supply. It is important to avoid cutting the nails too low and causing the nails to bleed. This is very painful for the dog and could lead to infection and defectively grown nails. There are clippers with magnifying glasses and lights that can help you see better and avoid cutting too low. There are also nail files available which are easy to use and make it easier to avoid the "quick." Again, if you are unsure about the proper way to clip your dog's nails, have a professional do it for you!

We all love those adorable floppy ears on our dogs but trouble could be lurking inside. Especially for dogs that swim or hike with you, it's very important to keep their ears cleaned. There are a number of "ear washes" on the market that are safe to put in your dog's ear and give them a good cleaning. You should let your veterinarian show you how to do this first, before trying on your own. Dirty ears can really be a nuisance to your dog. Bacteria, fungi, even parasites can grow in the ears and be very painful and uncomfortable. So lift those cute ear flaps and make sure the dog's ears look healthy. The inside of the ear should be a nice pink (not red) color, there should be little or no visible dirt and wax, and there should be no foul smell. Red, swollen ears, lots of wax or dirt, or an offensive odor all mean trouble. Take your dog to the veterinarian if you see any of these.

Man's best friend is notorious for having the world's worst breath. But your pet's malodorous mouth could mean serious health problems. Unusually bad breath could indicate tartar build up or, worse, gum disease. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of 3 years old. Healthy teeth are an essential part of maintaining a healthy dog. Periodontal (or gum) disease can lead to infection in your dog's blood stream and even heart disease. How do you know if your pet's teeth are clean? Lift lips and look at the teeth. They should be shiny, white, and healthy looking. The gums should be pink but not reddened, swollen or diseased looking. Your pet's breath should be "reasonable" not putrid or rotten smelling. There should be no sores or lesions on the gums.

Consequences of poor dental hygiene:
Dental calculi/tartar (what is commonly known as plaque)
Periodontal disease
Tooth loss
Mouth sores and ulcers (including oro-nasal fistulas)
Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORL)
Broken lower jaw
Kidney, liver, and heart disease

So while it may sound silly, you should keep your dog's teeth clean. All dogs should have their teeth professionally cleaned by a veterinarian at least once a year. Some dogs build up tartar faster than others, so they may need their teeth professionally cleaned more often. Between cleanings, it is a very good idea to brush your dog's teeth. If you start this habit when the pooch is a puppy, they become quite accustomed to it and won't mind a bit. Even brushing the dog's teeth just once a week and go a long way toward a cleaner, healthier mouth. Be sure to only use the toothpastes that are made specifically for pets. Dogs don't spit, so it's not safe to use human toothpaste. Plus the doggy toothpastes come in yummy flavors like chicken and cheese. (Well, yummy to the dog!)

All of the dogs in today's segment were provided by Bideawee Adoption Center in New York City.

Lucky - A 9-month-old male cocker spaniel. Outgoing, wants to say hello to everyone. Loves long walks. Lucky has lots of energy. He will need obedience training but he will learn quickly as he is very smart.

Nova - 1-year old male Norwich terrier. Looks just like Benji! Smart, loving and loves to sit in laps! Nova was an owner surrender.

Happy - 6-year-old male Bichon Frise. Happy was not happy to find himself surrendered. He is a timid dog who is so shocked to find himself in a cage he is apprehensive about everyone. He'll growl when uncertain. He is not aggressive, but afraid.

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