November 2, 2020


Spa Day For Your Furry Friends

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

A day at the spa sure sounds amazing right about now! Some time to relax, let all the stress melt away and spend some time to get refreshed.

Did you know that many pets feel the same way about “spa days” as you do? Although pet “spa days” may not include the fluffy robes and comforting steam showers that ours do, our pets do like to be spoiled in their own way. Having their nails trimmed, teeth brushed, and coats bathed makes our pets look and feel their best.

With everything going on right now, it may be impossible for you or your pet to get out for a spa day. The good news is that you can create a mini spa right in your own house!

Mani/Pedi Time

If your yard is anything like my yard at the moment, it is probably getting really brown and muddy. This mud is not only gross to look at but it can also be quite messy. Your pet not only tracks the mud into your house, but he can also feel uncomfortable when the mud gets stuck in between his toes and paw pads.

When this mud irritates your pet, he may want to chew his feet and nails to get them clean. The added moisture from the licking and the gunk on his feet can also cause yeast to overgrow and cause infections of his skin or nails.

Foot Bath

To prevent irritation and infection, gently wipe your pet’s feet with a damp cloth when he comes in from being outside. Be sure to dry between his toes and paw pads to reduce moisture.  For those pets that are enjoying digging in all the mud, they may need more than a wipe down! For the aggressive digger, a foot soak may be in order.

To soak your pet’s feet, you can put him in a sink or tub. You can also use a shallow Rubbermaid-type container filled with warm water. Take care to gently massage out the dirt and debris, and again, don’t forget to dry his feet. You can use a gentle oatmeal-based pet shampoo to clean out all the dirt. Just make sure to follow directions on the shampoo bottle, and be sure to rinse after shampoo use.

Nail Trim

We tend to see quite a few broken nails from pets exploring outside. Broken nails can be reduced with routine nail trimmings at home. In addition to dogs, our other family pets like cats, birds, and guinea pigs (to name a few) need regular nail care too.

If you’ve never trimmed your pet’s nails at home, start off slowly to minimize your stress and your pet’s stress. Even if you only trim one nail a day, that is better than none! I would recommend just trimming a very small amount off the tip of the nail until you build up some confidence. You can always cut more later once you get the hang of it.

For smaller pets like birds, cats, and other exotic animals, you can use a small human nail trimmer or a small pet nail trimmer as well. For the larger dogs, you will need to use a trimmer made for dog nails as their nails tend to be thicker.

Pretty Polish

If you are feeling really adventurous, you can paint your pet’s nails! Just remember to keep her still until the polish dries or you will have a big mess on your hands!

I would not advise painting the nails of exotic animals or those that tend to chew their nails as ingesting nail polish can be toxic. Also, don’t try to paint your pet’s nails if the process is stressful for her. Spa day should be fun and relaxing, not fear-inducing! Surprisingly, there are many dogs that actually seem to enjoy having pretty nails.

A Refreshing Soak

A nice bath can be very relaxing for the mind and body. For our pets, a bath can help to ensure a healthy and clean coat, especially during this muddy season. If your pet has any allergies or skin conditions, check with your veterinarian to see what shampoo may be best for your pet’s skin condition. For most pets, a gentle oatmeal-based pet shampoo will work well.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you are planning a bath for your pet. First, not all pets find water time enjoyable. To get your pet used to the water, you may need to spot wash him first.  Ease into the bathing process gradually using positive training and yummy treats. Show him that bath time can be fun. If he has extreme anxiety about water, use waterless shampoo, and avoid the tub altogether.

When bathing your pet, make sure to lather the shampoo well. Then, be sure to rinse it off really well. Residual soap can lead to skin irritation. Some shampoos suggest you lather and let sit for a few minutes for the best cleaning, so make sure to read the instructions well. Also, keep in mind that you want to use lukewarm water for bathing. Hot water can scald or burn your pet. If the water is too hot for you then it’s going to be too hot for your pet.

Relaxing Massage

Massages are my favorite way for some well-needed stress relief. While it might not be the same type of massage that we get, most pets do enjoy getting petted. When you pet an animal, she produces certain feel-good chemicals that help her feel relaxed and soothed.

Petting an animal can also be beneficial for you, too! According to Alan Beck, ScD, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, it can help lower your blood pressure and can cut down on levels of stress hormones. So pet away!

A relaxing day at the spa for your pet is closer than you think. Make it fun with treats, praise, and lots of petting. Even though things may be different right now, we can still find ways to make life fun for us and our pets. A spa day can be a fun way to pass the time and it can also help to strengthen your bond with your pet. And while you are pampering your pet with a spa day, give yourself a spa day too – fluffy robe and all!

Dr. HeintzDr. Heintz is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Her passion is helping all animals, whether furry, scaly, or feathered, lead long and healthy lives.