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Learn : Pet Care

Pet Care & Grooming — Sitting Pretty

Summer has always been a great time to get out and play, splash around in the water or set out on a hike with our pets. And those wide, open spaces are even more enticing right now. If you’re ready for some fun in the sun, make sure your dog or cat is good to go too.  


Pets come with climate control built right in

Summer grooming isn’t just about looking good for pets, it’s about feeling good too. One tip for maintaining a hot-weather coat that might seem counterintuitive? Don’t shave your dogs or cats, no matter how thick you think their fur is. 

If you’ve ever noticed that your pet seems to shed at both the beginning and end of the warmer months, that’s because they have a coat specially designed to help wick away heat and sweat. Their fur also protects them from sunburn and overheating, as well as twigs, burrs and stickers. 

The best thing you can do is brush and bathe regularly. Daily brushing removes shedding hair so their coat can perform it’s cooling duties, removes mats and gives you a chance to spend some time examining your pet. 

What are you looking for? Foxtails, burrs, fleas, ticks, bug bites, scratches — anything the great outdoors has to offer.

If it grows, it’s in their coat 

Brambles or Briars

What to look for

Any rough, tangled, prickly shrub, usually in the genus Rubus, which grows blackberries, raspberries, dewberries and other — lesser known, and often toxic — berries. You’ll find the thorny pricklers in your pet’s coat or stuck in their skin — particularly on their snout if they’ve been eating the fruit from the vines. Many bramble patches are poisonous, such as elderberry and Bryony. If you didn’t see exactly what your dog or cat ate, see a vet.

Where do they come from?

Thickets, fields and woods throughout the south and on the coasts. Many are climbing vines, so you’ll see them crawling up trees, fence posts and structures. Most often, the shrubs will grow in tight clusters that it’s easy for a pet to get caught in.

How to treat 

  1. Remove any thorns, twigs or prickly leaves from your pets’ fur, wearing gloves so as not to prick yourself.
  2. Any imbedded bramble should be removed following the curve of the thorn so as not to tear the skin more — use tweezers or pliers. 
  3. Clean the area with alcohol and treat with a pet-safe antiseptic
  4. Watch for discharge, as you’ll need to see a vet


What to look for

Seeds or dried fruit that have hooks or teeth that get caught in fur and cause painful mats. Burrs are typically large enough to see. Watch your pet for signs of pain, redness, swelling or drainage.

Where do they come from?

Typically found in wooded or landscaped areas near the trees that produce them:

  • Sweet Gum (Liquidambar Styraciflua)
  • Chestnut (Castanea)
  • Buckeye, or Horsechestnut (Aesculus)

How to treat 

Remove one burr at a time by separating as much of the fur as possible from the burr using a comb or gloved hand. 
For large burrs, use a pair of pliers to crush the spines. Try vegetable oil if the bur is stubborn. Worst case, the hair may need to be cut off. Use a pair of tweezers and gently pull burrs straight out of skin — try not to twist or pull at an angle so the spines don’t break off. Use a topical antibacterial ointment or spray for pets to prevent infection.


What to look for

Spike-shaped seed awns of a grass-like weed that can burrow into flesh, crevices or cavities. 
Foxtail can attach to your pet in three ways: matted into the fur, burrowed into the skin or embedded into cavities. The most common occurrence is in the ear, look for head shaking pawing at the ears or an odd tilt to the head. In the skin or eyes, look for swollen, red patches that might cause discharge along with excessive licking or rubbing of the area. If inhaled, your pet can sneeze, gag or have sudden onset bad breath.

Where do they come from?

Ubiquitous to most southern states, drier parts of the west and Hawaii. Foxtail grows in abundance in open fields, along the sides of roads and even on some hiking trails.

How to treat

Foxtail is fairly easy to remove from fur as they’re much smaller than burrs. Where foxtail gets hairy is when it burrows into the flesh — you might simply see a small red, irritated spot on the skin or between the toes — but the seed can work it’s way into the body up to two inches. 

If you believe your pet has a burrowed foxtail, it is very painful and you should see a vet immediately. Cavity removal can also be tricky for a home practitioner — especially if the foxtail has been inhaled — and we suggest a vet visit.


What to look for

Cactuses are no one’s friend but the sun’s. Most cactuses aren’t poisonous to pets, but if the area doesn’t heal quickly consult with your vet.

Where do they come from?

Dry, arid areas and some landscaping.

How to treat

Use the tweezers to remove from skin by pulling as gently as possible in the direction the spine is stuck. There is likely to be bleeding, but don’t be alarmed if it stops quickly with pressure. If the spine is in the eye, don’t try to remove it yourself and get to a vet as soon as possible.


What to look for

A catchall phrase that refers to any plant that produces a barbed external seed or fruit.

Where do they come from?

Keep an eye out for culprits you know to flourish in your area.

How to treat

Treat them much the same you would a burr.

If the sticker has scratched the skin to the point of bleeding, you should wash the area with pet-safe antibacterial soap and monitor for the next couple of days.


What to look for

Roses, as well as other bushes and vines, use these as a defense mechanism against foraging animals. 
Because of their clawed shape, most thorns do not fully embed in flesh but can be hidden under fur — use your hand or push back the hair to see if a thorn is present.

Where to they come from?

Thorny vines and bushes can be found throughout the U.S.

How to treat

  1. Examine the angle the thorn entered your dog's skin, as you want to pull it out at that same angle with tweezers —- or it could tear the flesh
  2. If it looks like you need to enlarge the wound to get the curved thorn out, go to the vet for a topical anesthetic
  3. Cleanse the area with a spray- or squirt-bottle of clean, cool water to flush the wound
  4. Apply pressure until any bleeding stops


What to look for

Some weeds have leaves designed to snare and catch, causing scrapes on skin or getting caught in fur. One part defense mechanism and one part seed-spreading device, these weeds’ effects can be seen in a multitude of ways.

Where to they come from?

They’re called “weeds” for a reason. They grow anywhere they’re unwanted.

How to treat

  1. Wear gloves as the spines or thorns can puncture skin
  2. Use a leave-in conditioner or vegetable oil to work the weed out of fur<
  3. Brush/comb the hair in little sections, starting from the end of the hair and working towards the skin
  4. If there is a scratch, clean with peroxide and use a pet-safe antibiotic ointment 
  5. See your vet for inflammation

If it’s in the water, it’s in their coat

Is chlorine harmful to dogs and cats? Yes. And no. The chlorine and pH levels in a properly maintained pool are safe for both humans and their paw-footed family.  

But high levels can cause skin irritation and, if swallowed, stomach upset. Rinsing your pet off after a dip in the pool is a great idea. And, always lock up any pool chemicals to keep them away from both curious pets and kids. 

What if your pet is allergic to chlorine? You’ll know if their eyes get red or they sneeze a lot after a dip. Pets tend to take cues from their people, so if you keep letting them in the pool they’ll keep getting in the pool. Stand firm, and get them a kiddie pool filled with tap water.

What about lake or ocean swimming for pets? Sounds like fun! But, as with pools, make sure they’re safe. Whatever is living in the water will end up living on your pet. Be on the alert for anything out of the ordinary.

Red tides are overgrowths of particular types of algae that occur in oceans, bays, and estuaries that give the water a characteristic red color. These HABs can be extremely deadly and debilitating when they’re highly concentrated.

Blue-green algae often impart a blueish-green hue to affected water, but not always. They mostly occur in still water like lakes, reservoirs, ponds, and canals. The toxins associated with blue-green algal overgrowths can cause everything ranging from mild skin irritation to severe liver failure.

With any water, boating or floating adventure — make sure your dog or cat can swim. Try them out in shallow water first, and think about a pet life vest for deeper waters.  

If it’s crawling around, it’s in their coat

Yes. It’s time to talk about your fave. Bugs. Creepy-crawlies and their bites or stings are something to keep your eyes out for when grooming your pets.



Ant bites resemble hives and can occur anywhere the body. Usually, the area is just itchy and uncomfortable and will go away on its own, but shock is always a possibility. If the bites are extensive, consult your vet for treatment.


Stayed in a rental lately? Do you have welts on your body? Check your mattress and check your pets. Bedbugs don’t like dogs and cats as much as they like people, but you should contact an exterminator immediately. 


Just like humans, only some pets are allergic to their stings.But it’s still best to err on the side of caution and take them to the vet. Especially if you see signs of an allergic reaction: swelling, seizures, or respiratory distress. At the very least, remove the stinger and treat the sting as you would your own by cleansing the area. (NOTE: A common home-remedy for stings is tobacco. Tobacco is toxic to dogs and cats.) 

If your dog or cat eats a bee or other stinging insect, expect a swollen tongue. Seek veterinary attention of the animal starts to foam at the mouth as this is a sign of allergic reaction.


Indoors or outdoors, your pet can get fleas. Their bites are incredibly annoying and itchy. However, some pets who are allergic to fleas can develop something much worse: allergic dermatitis. If your dog or cat is scratching to the point of bleeding, sores or hairless patches, see your vet for an antibiotic.

If your puppy, kitten or geriatric pet has fleas, work with your vet as many of the over-the-counter solutions are too harsh for their systems. One of the best solutions is a fine-tooth comb to get live fleas, eggs and scat off puppies, kittens and old-timers along with pet-safe environmental treatments.


In addition to the numerous diseases mosquitoes can pass on to humans, they can also pass heartworm on to our pets. If you see a persistent asthma-like dry cough, lethargy, unexplained weight loss, difficulty breathing or bulging ribs indicating fluid in the abdomen following mosquito bites — seek veterinary attention. Otherwise, you’re looking at the same itchy welts that we get. 


Mites are tiny creatures that burrow into your pet’s skin, causing irritation and inflammation. They are parasites that can cause a range of skin conditions, from dry skin to hair loss to mange.

See your vet for an anti-parasitic wash and/or spot treatment. It’s that easy to get rid of the pesky little buggers.


It can take a few days for the symptoms of a spider bite to appear: fever, weakness, and rash. If left untreated, poisonous spider bites can lead to deep tissue damage and even amputation. Don’t let them lick the bite, as this typically only worsens the situation.  


Check your pet for ticks after spending any amount of time outside, especially if you've been exploring wooded areas. 

If you find a tick on your dog or cat, immediately remove it using tweezers, making sure to remove the pinchers. If a tick remains unnoticed on your pet for a long period of time, tick paralysis may occur: change of barking pitch, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and paralysis. Seek veterinary attention.

Ticks are also carriers of Lyme disease, which can be transmitted to both pets and humans. When applying a flea or tick product, be sure you are using the correct type as most products meant for dogs are toxic to cats.  

Five fun facts about your pet and the outdoors

  1. Both dogs and cats sweat through their paws so that the wetness doesn’t get caught in their fur. If your pet has overly furry paws, it’s ok to keep them trimmed but don’t remove the fur entirely as it can protect them from the terrain — especially hot asphalt.

  2. Panting is a form of temperature control, allowing the animal to cool itself through the evaporation process of their saliva.

  3. One of the reasons cats are so lazy is that a nap in the shade helps to keep them cool. (And you thought they just didn’t want to play with you.)

  4.  “Pets” and “Pest” are practically the same word. But we love one and hate the other.

  5. Skunks can spray as far as 10 – 15 feet as many as six times in rapid succession. If your dog or cat runs into one, the Humane Society of America recommends a mixture of 1 quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap. Bathe in this mixture, rinse and follow with your favorite pet shampoo. (We suggest wearing gloves and old clothes for this endeavor.)

Woof, that was a lot of info. But, now you know where it is and who to turn to next time you need a summer grooming tip or fun facts about creepy-crawlies. We hope you and your pets have a happy, comfortable and safe summer wherever you may roam.