How important is grooming and hygiene for a dog's health?

Grooming your dog is very important. We see many patients who come in and are heavily matted, or they have burrs in their fur from trapping foxtails, things like that. It is essential to keep your dog groomed. But every dog is different on how much grooming they need.


Dr. Heather Kovac
The Drake Center

Do all dogs require grooming?

All dogs require hair brushing and also nail trimming. The nails obviously grow continuously throughout the dog's life, just like our toenails and fingernails do. They do need to be trimmed. Now some dogs wear them down by running on hard surfaces, like sidewalks or concrete. They'll wear them down, but most dogs do have a tiny thumbnail. It's called the dewclaw, and it never touches the ground. That one does need to be trimmed pretty regularly in all dogs.

What do I need to do when grooming my dog?

You need a hairbrush, of course, and need nail trimmers. There are specific dog nail trimmers that we like, but you can sometimes get away with the human nail trimmers if it's a tiny dog. But we usually prefer to get actual dog clippers. You'll also need to get some ear cleanser. We sell some here, but they also sell things like that at pet stores. Wiping out the ears every time they have a bath is essential to remove any buildup and check to see if the ears are red or if there is a lot of discharge. If so, it's time to come and see the vet. So you'll need a hairbrush, nail trimmers, and some ear cleaner.

How does regular grooming contribute to the good health of my dog?

Keeping dogs clean is important for their skin, health, and their nails—keeping them short. We sometimes will see animals come in, and their nail is so overgrown that it's actually curving around and puncturing the pad of the foot, which is very painful and can get infected. Dogs who have very dirty skin are more likely to get fleas or matted fur, which can cause skin infections underneath that. If it gets wet, they can develop hotspots. Keeping your dog clean—the coat and the ears and the feet—are essential for their overall health.

How soon should I start to groom my dog?

You should start to groom your dog when they're young. You want to start young, so they get used to the grooming—so they're not afraid of the hairbrush, they're not afraid of having their nails trimmed. In fact, we encourage puppy owners from the get-go to start working on just handling their toes. Because it seems like nail trims are kind of a scary thing for dogs. If we can get them used to having their feet handled, their nails handled, and accept the nail trimmers when they're young, this is going to make your life so much easier down the road, not needing to hold them for it.

Speaking of puppies, what should I do for my puppy's first grooming?

Well, it depends on the length of the coat. If it's a short-haired dog or a puppy that doesn't have a lot of long hair, you can bathe them yourself at home in your deep sink or your bathtub. You can use a puppy shampoo. There are lots of great products out there. I also like Johnson's baby shampoo. It's very mild, and it's safe to use on their head if it did get in their eyes, it wouldn't hurt them. Bathing them regularly, of course, depends on how dirty they get with how often they'll need to be groomed. Again, brush your dog's coat and get them used to the brushing, so it's not a scary thing.

How often should my dog be groomed?

That depends on the breed. I have two dogs at my house that never get a tangle in their hair, as they have short hair. It doesn't get matted. But another dog might need to be brushed every week to ensure that they don't get mats. Some dogs have hair that grows continuously, and they need to have hair trimmed, but brushing regularly to prevent mats is important. But that depends on the breed and also the activity level of the dog. If they're running around outside and getting burrs and stickers and things like that, you'll need to remove those as soon as you find them.

What dog grooming services does the Drake Center provide?

  • Bathing services
  • Hydro surge bathing system that helps get the shampoo all the way down to the skin
  • Blow-drying, and a cage dryer where they'll go in the cage and have warm air circulated to fluff them up after the bath
  • Full brush-out
  • Nail trims
  • Ear cleaning
  • Expression of their anal glands, if necessary

Those are the services we provide here.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Grooming - FAQs


Dr. Heather Kovac
The Drake Center

Is there such a thing as bathing your dog too often?

I would say no unless your dog has very sensitive skin. You can cause irritations if you're using harsh shampoos or leave on conditioners. I have seen a few dogs have a reaction to certain types of shampoos. And if you're doing it so often that you might dry out their coat, I guess so. I really haven't seen that. It's a lot of work to bathe the dogs, so I don't typically see people overdoing it. But just use your best judgment. If you feel like the coat's looking dry and flaky, you might want to cut back a little bit.

Is it better to groom your dog at home or to have it done by a professional groomer?

That depends on the dog, but also you. So if you have a bad back or you have trouble getting the pet in and out of the tub, of course, I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself doing it at home. But if you have the supplies, you feel comfortable doing it; you know what you're doing; I think it's OK to do the bathing at home. That's what I do for my dogs. But if you have a certain breed that requires haircutting, you need to go to a groomer. Because obviously, they're trained to do that. They have the right equipment. One thing I do want to mention for sure is you never, ever want to use scissors on your pet at home. I've seen a lot of pets come in with cuts on their skin, especially cats. Their skin is just so thin and you don't realize that you're pulling up on it to cut out a mat. Just never, ever use scissors. It's just really scary. And sometimes, I have to put stitches in these cats. So be careful.

Does my dog need to be vaccinated and on flea control to go to the groomer?

I think all groomers around here do require vaccines. You would have to ask your specific groomer about their protocol, but we'd definitely recommend it because they will be around other dogs and cats. Whether they're in a cage or whether it's more of a cage-free environment, they're still going to have interaction. They're still going to be breathing the same air. So yes, it's recommended. As far as flea control goes, of course, we always recommend all pets be on flea control year-round. Where we live in San Diego, it's just flea time. We see it all the time. So we recommend that they be on it year-round. Again, I don't think it's required in a lot of places but recommended.

If my dog has behavior problems, will they be welcomed by a groomer?

Great question. Sometimes we need to use sedatives or an anti-anxiety medication when dogs with behavior problems come here for their grooming or nail trims. The dog should be sedated versus to be struggling and potentially bite somebody. We don't want it to be a stressful experience for them. We want it to be pleasant, just like we wouldn't want to be stressed going to get our hair cut or something like that. So you'd have to talk with your vet about that and decide what's necessary or what would be recommended to take the edge off for some patients. Not everybody's going to need that. But you'd have to talk with your vet and your groomer about what the dog is doing. So are they trying to bite? Are they just really fearful? Are they wiggly? And then, we can make a plan on what would be best for that pet.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.