Some people lament the end of summer, holding on to the lingering warmth as much as they can, while others celebrate the arrival of cooler weather. Whatever your stance is, once autumn arrives, it’s time to tend to your dog’s post-summer grooming needs—from heat-damaged paw pads to insect-bitten skin and sun-bleached fur.
Here’s how to best prep your pup for fall:
Do you like to take your dog to the beach or lake with you? Go on hikes? Or have her keep you company in the backyard? Hot sand, rocky ledges, and steamy pool decks can leave your pup’s paw pads chapped, cracked, or injured. Even if your dog is sedentary or elderly and only gets outside for walks, sticky asphalt and scorching sidewalks are also heat hazards.
AKC S.A.F.E. certified pet groomer Tania Cocito, who personally owns two senior Pekinese, says prevention is key.
“I’m a big believer in cleaning my dogs’ paws after every walk,” she says. “I use a simple, non-scented baby wipe followed by a dry towel.”
If your dog’s paws are already dry and chapped, however, slick on some petroleum jelly, then give them a chew toy as a distraction until it soaks in. Cocito also recommends a moisturizer made for dog paws to help soothe them. Paw pad balm is a slightly pricier, but less greasy option that provides protection too, so it can be used next summer when hitting the sand or sidewalk, as well as during harsh winter weather.
Should your dog’s paw pads have actual cracks, Cocito advises applying antibiotic ointment or gel, then wrapping paws with gauze until you get your dog to the veterinarian. In the case of bleeding, red streaks, or pus, always let your vet treat the injury.
When everything is blooming outside, allergies often act up as pollen piggybacks into the house on your dog’s coat. Allergic reactions that cause sneezing, irritated eyes, and congestion in humans, particularly during changes of season, might show up as skin rashes in dogs. To minimize the effects, bathe your dog weekly, or even every few days with a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo. Make sure to rinse well to remove residue.
Cocito, who owns Tails of Enchantment In-Home Pet Grooming, says that dog allergies, which can last all-year round, aren’t caused only by pollen, but by other factors as well.
“Chemicals found at home, including those in perfumes, cigarette smoke, grass, plants, dust, and so much more, affect your pets internally by lingering on their fur,” she notes. “They have dander, urine, fleas, and other things that they pick up whether out on walks or in the home.”
These allergens then become airborne and attach to beds, carpets, furniture, and linens. To combat this, Cocito recommends regular dog grooming.
“We brush, de-shed, de-tangle, bathe, blow out the fur, and trim the hair to eliminate some of these issues,” she affirms.
Dogs with severe allergies to pollen or fleas often develop hot spots or rashes that ooze and develop scabs. Pets who bite themselves, lose their fur, or develop swollen, red skin patches should visit the veterinarian, as these conditions might require treatment with medications.
“Just as it is for people, sun can be very damaging on your pets’ skin and hair, especially if they stay outside for long periods,” Cocito says. “It will lighten the fur and cause skin damage.”
If your dog’s coat looks as faded and fried as your hair did after experimenting with too much lightening spray, don’t worry—the damage isn’t permanent. Those bleached hairs will eventually fall out and your dog’s glowing natural color will grow back in (just like yours did). But, there are a few ways to hurry the process along:
• A major grooming session: Brush, brush, and brush some more to get all that dead hair out of the coat. If your dog has a double, long, or curly coat, use a slicker brush or shedding blade. In the fall, dogs shed more heavily to get rid of the summer coat and make room for a winter coat, so take advantage of this time to banish discolored hair. Frequent brushing will also distribute coat oils, making the hair look healthier and shinier.
• Color shampoo: Shampoos made for dogs with black, red, or brown coats can enhance those colors, restoring some of the lost luster. “For lighter coats, whitening shampoos are used, and for darker coats, black shampoo. Groomers also use finishing sprays that can protect the coat from further sun damage and contain sunscreen,” Cocito says.
• Oil-based conditioner and coat spray: A good conditioner and/or coat spray can add a sheen that can make the hair look darker and richer.
• Fish-oil supplements made for dogs: Anecdotal evidence suggests that fish oil capsules improve not just the quality but also the color of the coat. Some pet owners also swear by adding a tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil to their pet’s food.
• High-quality premium dog food: You already know several reasons to feed your dog the good stuff. Better coat quality is one of them—and balanced nutrition may help restore it more quickly. Autumn is a perfect time to consider upgrading your dog food.
The AKC S.A.F.E (Safety, Assurance, Fundamentals, Education) Grooming Program supports dog groomers and salon owners in their commitment to pet safety and reassures dog owners of quality care and standards throughout the industry. AKC Certified S.A.F.E. groomers and salon owners have participated in the three-part AKC Safety in the Salon course via Canine College, AKC’s educational portal. Owners can find certified dog groomers and salons at the AKC GroomerFinder profile listings.