Itchy Dogs Part II : Grooming - Different Needs for Different Breeds

Welcome to the Dermapaw blog!

Welcome to the Dermapaw blog, and to the second part of our Itchy Pets educational series! In this series, we go over all of the most common causes and solutions for skin itching, skin licking and skin irritation in dogs. In this article, Itchy Dogs Part II: Grooming - Different Needs for Different Breeds, we will be talking about the ways you can curb avoidable skin problems through a basic grooming regimen based on the coat of your dog (and cat). If you think your dog or cat might be dealing with other skin issues check out some of our other blog articles!

Proper Grooming & Skincare Upkeep

Many times, dogs who are always itching or licking are doing it because of an underlying problem that can be avoided with regular, proper grooming. Life happens and sometimes our pets can get a little stinky, matted, and shaggy until we remember to bring them to the groomers, and it may not seem to be that much of a problem. But underneath all of that fur their skin may be experiencing things that we can’t see at a quick glance. Imagine what not taking a shower for eight weeks would feel like on your skin. As a pet owner, it is important to be educated on what kind of coat your dog or cat has, and how to maintain it properly in order to keep their skin feeling healthy and good.

What Kind of Coat Does My Dog Have?

Curly Coat

Dogs who have a curly coat include breeds like the Bichon Frise, Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog, and any breed that is mixed with a Poodle. The most common grooming-related skin issue for these breeds are without a doubt tangles and matting. The fur is thick and can grow so quickly that it can easily become tangled and matted. Underneath that matting, the skin can become irritated from the mats pulling at their skin and those areas can even harbor moisture, bacteria, and fungus - especially if they like to swim. Curly coated dogs also tend to get a little dirtier than other breeds - catching food and debris in their beards and getting urine on their bodies and feces on their bottoms. Not only can this make cuddling less than ideal, but it can really irritate their skin as well.

The proper grooming regimen for a dog with a coat like this is to bring them into a grooming salon every 4-6 weeks for a moisturizing bath, trim (whether you want a full body haircut every time or just the face, feet and private parts kept trim), nails, and ear cleaning. If you want even less hair maintenance, the groomer can shave them down to a super short length making it nice and easy on you.

The best tools to have on-hand at home for in-between grooms for these guys is going to be a nice slicker brush (for daily brushing) and a metal comb (for more thorough detangling) to keep them tangle and mat free.

Moderate Double Coat

Dogs who have moderate double coats include breeds like the Labrador, Golden Retriever, and Pug. If you have a dog with a coat type like this, you’ll know that they tend to shed! Double-coated dogs also have two kinds of coat that sheds: the top coat (the thick, straight shedding hair that gets all over your clothes) and the undercoat (the fuzzy, fly-away hair that tends to look a lot like dust bunnies underneath the couch.)

The most common grooming-related skin issues with these breeds are shedding and dry skin. The top coat and undercoat need to be brushed out on a regular basis with a rubber curry brush and/or a de-shedding tool, or it will feel uncomfortable on their skin and they will itch. These two layers of coat also act as a temperature insulator for dogs, so brushing them out properly will make sure that their double coat is functioning properly for them and they can stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Trimming these kind of coats is fine, but we rarely recommend asking the groomer to shave these dogs. A double coat is meant to shed and grow back on a cycle, and shaving them down can damage the hair follicle and cause the hair to not grow back properly, which leaves bald spots, strange growing patterns and skin issues. This condition is called post-clip alopecia and is non-reversible. 

If the weather is hot, and you suspect that your moderately double coated dog is too hot, shaving them down will not solve the problem like you may think, and just makes the issue worse in long run from post clip alopecia and puts them at risk for sunburns. The most effective thing you can do for them is have a groomer de-shed and comb all of that undercoat out.

The proper grooming regimen for a dog with a moderately double coated dog is to bring them into a grooming salon every 4-6 weeks for a moisturizing bath, brush, optional hair trim, nails, and ear cleaning.

The best tools to have on-hand at home for in-between grooms for these guys is going to be a rubber curry brush for the top coat and a de-shedding tool such as a Furminator to keep the shedding of the undercoat under control. 

Extreme Double Coat 

Dogs who have extreme double coats include breeds like the Siberian Husky, German Shepherd Dog, Newfoundland, Chow Chow and the Pekingese. If you have one of these breeds, you’ll know that they tend to shed... a lot. They also have two kinds of coat that they shed: the top coat (the thick, straight shedding hair that gets all over your clothes) and the undercoat (the fuzzy, fly-away hair that tends to look a lot like dust bunnies underneath the couch.) These dogs produce much more of the undercoat type than their moderately double coated friends and need even more grooming care to maintain it.

The most common grooming-related skin issues with these breeds are shedding, matting of the undercoat, and skin conditions due to lack of air flow to the skin. The top coat and undercoat need to be thoroughly brushed out on a regular basis with a slicker brush and/or a comb, as well as a de-shedding tool, or it will feel uncomfortable on their skin and they will itch. Trimming these kind of coats is fine, but we rarely recommend asking the groomer to shave these dogs. A double coat is meant to shed and grow back on a cycle, and shaving them down can damage the hair follicle and cause the hair to not grow back properly, which leaves bald spots, strange growing patterns and skin issues. This condition is called post-clip alopecia and is non-reversible. 

If the weather is hot, and you suspect that your extremely double coated dog is too hot, shaving them down will not solve the problem like you may think, and just makes the issue worse in long run from post clip alopecia and puts them at risk for sunburns. The most effective thing you can do for them is have a groomer de-shed and comb all of that undercoat out and give them a nice trim.

The undercoat can get matted rather quickly in these breeds if the tangles are not consistently brushed and/or combed out. Underneath that matting, the skin can become irritated from the mats pulling at their skin and those areas can even harbor moisture, bacteria, and fungus - especially if they like to swim.

The proper grooming regimen for a dog with an extreme double coat is to bring them into a grooming salon every 4-6 weeks for a bath, brush, optional trim, nails, and ear cleaning.

The best tools to have on-hand at home for in-between grooms for these guys is going to be a slicker brush and a metal comb to keep tangles under control as well as a de-shedding tool such as a Furminator or rake to get large amounts of the undercoat out.

Long Coat

Dogs who have long coats include breeds like the Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Yorkshire terrier, and the Maltese. If you have one of these breeds, you know that their hair can get tangled, dirty, and matted quite easily. Many people choose to keep their hair cut short for this reason. However you decide to style your long-haired dog, there is no way to avoid the maintenance and care they require. 

The most common grooming-related skin issues with these breeds is tangles and matting, much like their curly-coated friends. Underneath that matting, the skin can become irritated from the mats pulling at their skin and those areas can even harbor moisture, bacteria, and fungus - especially if they like to swim. These guys also tend to get a little dirtier than other breeds - catching food and debris in their beards, getting urine on their bodies and feces on their bottoms. Not only can this make cuddling less than ideal, but it can really irritate their skin as well. 

The proper grooming regimen for a dog with a long coat is to bring them into a grooming salon every 4-6 weeks for a moisturizing bath, trim (whether you want a full body haircut every time or just the face, feet and private parts kept trim), a nail trim, and an ear cleaning. If you want even less hair maintenance, the groomer can shave them down to a super short length making it nice and easy on you.

The best tools to have on-hand at home for in-between grooms for these guys is going to be a slicker brush and a metal comb to keep tangles under control. 

Wire Coat

Dogs who have wire coats include breeds like the Norwich and Norfolk terriers, Airedale terrier, Lakeland terrier, and Border terrier. If you have one of these breeds, you know that they tend to shed, and can sometimes feel oily to the touch.

The most common grooming-related skin issues with wire coats are shedding, and sebum overproduction in the skin, which are not mutually exclusive issues. When a wire coated dog’s coat isn’t brushed out properly or often enough, the old coat gets stuck, or “packed” into their hair follicle, causing uncomfortable itching, not enough air-flow to the skin, a higher risk of bacteria and fungus developing at the skin, and sebum (or skin oil) overproduction, which are all uncomfortable and itchy for them.

They also have two kinds of coat that they shed: the top coat (the thick, straight shedding hair that gets all over your clothes) and the undercoat (the fuzzy, fly-away hair that tends to look a lot like dust bunnies underneath the couch). These dogs produce much more of the top type than their moderately and extremely double coated friends and require specific grooming care. 

Many wire coated breeds also benefit from a more advanced grooming technique called “hand stripping”, which meticulously removes old, packed coat from the dog in all the correct areas depending on the breed on a regular basis. If you are interested in trying out hand stripping for your wire coated dog, it is a good idea to invest in a groomer who is educated about these breeds and this technique, as wire coats are not the main focus of education in many common dog grooming environments. Do your research and if you and your dog find a knowledgeable groomer in this area, then your dog’s skin could benefit greatly! If you don't have anybody nearby who knows how to hand strip wire coated dogs, that's okay too.

Trimming these kind of coats is fine, but we never recommend asking the groomer to shave these dogs. A wire coat is meant to shed and grow back on a cycle, and shaving them down can damage the hair follicle and cause the hair to not grow back properly, which leaves bald spots and skin issues. This condition is called “post-clip alopecia” and is non-reversible, and can also exacerbate the skin issues mentioned above. 

If the weather is hot, and you suspect that your wire coated dog is too hot, shaving them down will not solve the problem like you may think, and just makes the issue worse in long run from post clip alopecia and puts them at risk for sunburns. The most effective thing you can do for them is have a groomer de-shed and comb all of that undercoat out and give them a nice trim (and having a cool place for them to lay with some fresh water nearby).

The proper grooming regimen for a wire coated dog is to bring them into a grooming salon every 4-6 weeks for a purifying bath, trim (whether you want a full body haircut every time or just the face, feet and private parts kept trim), proper brushing and de-shedding (and/or “hand-stripping”), a nail trim and an ear cleaning. 

The best tools to have on-hand at home for in-between grooms for these guys is going to be a slicker brush to keep minor tangles under control and a de-shedding tool for the shedding undercoat.

Short Coat 

Dogs who have short coats include breeds like the Pitbull terrier, short haired Chihuahua, Bulldog, and Weimaraner. If you have one of these breeds, you know that they tend to shed, and can sometimes feel oily to the touch as well. They only have one kind of coat that they shed: the top coat (the thick, straight shedding hair that gets all over your clothes). These dogs don’t rely on their coats as a means to protect themselves against the elements, but still require grooming care to keep their skin feeling good.

The most common grooming-related skin issues with short coats are shedding and dry skin. A short haired dogs’ coat needs to be brushed out on a regular basis with a rubber curry brush or it will start to feel uncomfortable on their skin and they will itch. They also need to be bathed regularly to keep the debris and irritants from getting in contact with their skin too much.

If the weather is hot, and you suspect that your short coated dog is too hot, shaving them down will not solve the problem like you may think, and just makes the issue worse in long run from post clip alopecia and puts them at risk for sunburns. The most effective thing you can do for them is to keep up on brushing out that top coat (and having a cool place for them to lay with some fresh water nearby).

The proper grooming regimen for a short coated dog is to bring them into a grooming salon every 4-6 weeks for a moisturizing bath, proper brushing a nail trim and ear cleaning.

What Kind of Coat Does My Cat Have? 

Cats all have different coat types as well (long haired, short haired, and hairless) but are different in the sense that they do not usually rely on humans to groom them. Cats generally bathe themselves.

Long haired cats (Persian, Ragdoll, Maine Coon) require a little more maintenance because they can get matted, and they also shed quite a bit. Combing them out with a metal comb or using a slicker brush on their coat about once a week is a great way to prevent matting and keep shedding at bay. There are also de-shedding tools such as the Furminator that have versions designed for cats specifically. Once a cat gets matted, those mats will need to be shaved off by a professional for the same reason they would need to be shaved off a dog. Underneath that matting, the skin can become irritated from the mats pulling at their skin and those areas can even harbor moisture, bacteria, and fungus, and it would be inhumane and unrealistic to try and brush them out. 

Nails & Dogs

A dog’s nails and ears are just as important to their hygiene and grooming regimen as anything else. If a dog’s nails are not clipped or ground down on a regular basis (about every 4-6 weeks), the nails can become too long and uncomfortable for them to walk on. This can cause the toes to splay outward and hurt, and can often be a cause for incessant paw licking.

Some other consequences for neglecting a dog’s toenails is that the toenails will begin to curl where there will be a risk of the nails actually puncturing their paws by growing back into them. If this happens, you will want to bring them to a vet so that they can get the wounds cleaned properly and even possibly get on antibiotics to prevent infection.

The nails can also become sharp and dangerous with risk of cutting their own skin when itching and transferring bacteria and causing infection. The nails themselves are also much more likely to split or break and cause pain and discomfort for the dog if they are not maintained properly.

Ears & Dogs

If a dog’s ears are not regularly cleaned out on a regular basis (about every 4-6 weeks) with a cotton ball and some pet-specific ear cleaner, dirt and debris can easily build up and cause discomfort or infection.

Different breeds do indeed have different needs for their ears. For example, a Bloodhound with long, floppy ears is much more at risk for developing fungal and bacterial infections in the ears due to the fact that the insides of their ears aren’t as exposed to the air, and their ears harbor much more moisture. Long haired dogs like poodles and Shih Tzus grow hair inside their ear canals, putting them more at risk for fungal and bacterial infections by trapping moisture underneath that hair, or even putting them at risk for mats developing inside of their ears - ouch. A groomer, veterinarian, or anyone who knows how can gently remove the hair from inside the ear canal, keeping it free from hair, moisture, and dirt and debris. It will feel much more comfortable for a dog’s ears when there is no hair inside of them. Professionals will generally use some ear powder to ease the removal of hair growing inside the ears, and then come in with a cotton ball with some ear cleaner and swab away any remaining debris.

Anal Glands & Dogs

Anal glands in dogs are two sacs near the rectum that fill up with fluid that are usually naturally excreted through defecation. The fluid is very stinky and contains pheromones so that they can mark their territories and recognize each other. Many times, a dog will express the glands when they are highly stressed.

Sometimes, these glands will get irritated, clogged, or inflamed and they will not be able to express them naturally, and that is when a groomer or a vet can do that manually for them. If a dog’s anal glands need to be manually expressed by a professional, you may notice that they are extra stinky, scooting their butts on the carpet, or licking more than usual in that area.

Other Things to Look Out for

Sometimes, when a dog goes to a grooming salon and a pair of clippers are used against their skin (typically their groin area or in between their paws), the clippers can irritate their skin for different reasons (the clipper blade might be hot, the skin was irritated by the hair being shaved too short, etc.). If you suspect your dog's skin is becoming irritated from the clippers, it might be a good idea to let your groomer know so they can evaluate what to do differently the next time.

Sometimes, when a dog either goes to a grooming salon or gets a bath at home, the shampoo being used might not agree with their skin. Try not to use heavily scented shampoos and human shampoos on your dog, as these can be harsh or not pH balanced for a dog's skin, causing irritation. When a dog's skin is irritated because of a harsh shampoo, subsequent itching, licking and biting might lead to bigger issues such as infection.

We the Dermapaw team are a family-owned and operated company that has created a skincare line for dogs and cats designed to soothe, heal and stop itching in dog and cats’ skin due to a variety of causes. We are a group of animal-care professionals with a combined hands-on experience of about 20 years. We have put lots of energy and resources into research and development for over 10 years, and are always continuing to do so! Please be aware that none of this information should be taken as medical advice or replace a diagnosis from your veterinarian, and that none of these suggestions are guaranteed or should be viewed as a “cure”. Every dog or cat out there is different, and we are just speaking from experience. We hope you learn something and we hope to help your dog or cat, whether you try out our products or not!