You may think that nothing is more relaxing than a spa day. However, for your pet, some grooming tasks are stressful, so undergoing a bath, nail trim, and anal gland expression in their familiar home environment can alleviate much of their anxiety. However, performing these common grooming tasks yourself may give you pause, so to ease your worries, we explain how you can properly carry out these tasks. 

Before you set up your four-legged friend’s home day spa, you should learn how to trim their nails, bathe them, and express their anal glands. Our Animal Clinic of Council Bluffs team outlines these common grooming procedures step-by-step to teach you the ropes.

A guide to trimming your pet’s nails

All pets require nail trims, no matter how much they walk on hard surfaces. First, acquire a sturdy pair of nail clippers, plenty of treats, and a helper. Then, follow these steps to successfully trim your pet’s nails at home:

  1. Grasp your pet’s paw gently, holding a toe with your thumb and index finger. Flipping your dog’s paw under to better visualize where to cut the nails may help, while gently pressing on a cat’s toe should reveal the nail.
  2. Clip your pet’s nail straight across, right before the nail’s natural curve, to avoid cutting into the sensitive quick.
  3. Reward your pet throughout the process with plenty of treats. Long-lasting snacks, like peanut butter, canned cheese, or canned food, not only reward your pet, but also distract them and keep them still.

Your dog may be sensitive to their paws being handled, so leaving their paw on the ground and trimming their nails when they are right above the floor works best. Your dog uses their nails for traction as they walk and run, so refrain from cutting them too short and to avoid cutting into the quick.

A guide to bathing your pet

When bathing your pet, avoid dousing their face in water, because they will likely panic. The bathtub’s slippery surface may also make them anxious, so use a bath mat to provide traction and give your pet a sense of security. Before bathing your pet, brush their coat to pull out dead fur and remove tangles that will turn into mats when wet.

First, test the water’s temperature—your pet won’t appreciate a hot bath as much as you would, so ensure the water is tepid. Start soaking your pet’s fur on their legs or hind end to acclimate them to the running water, and then wet down all their fur. 

Next, lather up your pet’s coat with a shampoo designed for their specific needs, such as a medicated shampoo for skin allergies, or a soothing oatmeal to support skin and coat health. Avoid the sensitive areas around their eyes and face. If necessary, leave the shampoo to soak for 5 to 10 minutes, and then ensure you thoroughly rinse off your pet.

Finally, dry your pet’s coat as much as possible. A damp coat can cause skin problems, so take the time to dry your pet with towels and a blow dryer, if they’ll allow. End your pet’s bath with a brushing session to remove any tangles and prevent mats.

A guide to expressing your pet’s anal glands

Some pets are blessed with never needing their anal glands expressed, while others need a helping hand from time to time. Typically, a pet will express anal gland fluid when they defecate, and a properly formed stool squeezes the glands and becomes coated in the fluid. Small-breed pets, obese pets, or pets with allergies or diarrhea often struggle to empty their anal glands on their own, which can lead to impactions and abscesses. Cats generally do not need help expressing their anal glands.

To prevent anal gland issues, your pet may need their glands expressed regularly. With practice, you can quickly and efficiently perform this task with minimal discomfort for your pet. 

To express your pet’s anal glands at home, you need:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Petroleum or water-based lubricant
  • Paper towels
  • Cleanser (e.g., waterless shampoo, baby wipes)

Follow these steps to express your pet’s anal glands:

  1. Another person should support your dog and hold them in place by putting one arm under their abdomen and the other under and around their neck.
  2. Put on a pair of gloves and apply lubricant to the index finger of your dominant hand.
  3. Gently lift your dog’s tail and insert your finger about an inch or so into the rectum.
  4. Feel around the 5 o’clock or 7 o’clock positions for a firm object the size from a pea to a small grape.
  5. Once you find the gland, place a paper towel over your hand to catch the fluid. Gently milk the fluid out from the farthest end toward the anus, applying even pressure.
  6. After emptying the gland, move to the other side. You should barely be able to feel an empty gland.
  7. Clean the area.

Despite your best efforts, some pets do not appreciate their owner’s grooming attempts and may require a professional touch or mild sedation. Let our Animal Clinic of Council Bluffs team tackle your tough grooming jobs if you prefer—give us a call to schedule an appointment.