The lowly comb has dozens of uses for pet owners.
Some of them even have medical implications.
We often speak of brushing our pets, but sometimes the comb is a better tool. For pets who like to be groomed, a brush makes a pet feel good, and it has a little scratching effect, which many pets like. A brush can begin the process of separating tangled hairs, but finishing the job requires a comb, if not scissors or hair clippers. Indeed, if a tangle has risen to the level of matted hair, it will need to be clipped out.
For less advanced tangles, try this technique. Brush the area until the bristles pass through the hair easily, with little drag. Next, grip a few hairs toward their ends, away from the skin. This technique will prevent painful pulling on the skin. Pull a wide-toothed comb through until they either untangle or break free. Now, grip a little lower on the hair shafts and repeat. Continue until you reach the skin. Repeat until the entire body is free from tangles.
Now, comb again, this time with a narrower-toothed comb. Keep working to narrower and narrower teeth until you are satisfied all of the tangles are gone.
Then, brush and comb daily.
Combs are not just for everyday grooming, though.
Fine-toothed combs are terrific for removing foreign material from the hair. A scab that may have escaped your attention starts out at the bottom of the hair shaft, on the skin. It gets removed by the body as hair grows, pulling the scab along. A fine-toothed comb is the most efficient tool for helping the no-longer-needed scab to be free. Always place fingers between the skin and the hair you’re combing to prevent painful pulling.
This same technique works great for other “matter” that finds itself tangled into hair, including tears, pus, grass, pine needles, the list is nearly endless.
Our Willie, pictured above right, has epiphora, an overflow of tears, and the iron pigments in the tears stain his white hair. The moist hair also tends to mat, and require regular cleaning. So, every week or two he and I sit down with a variety of combs and work on the affected area of his face. We always begin with the coarse teeth of a dime-store plastic comb, switch to the finer (but still relatively coarse) end, finishing with a flea comb to remove any non-viable hair and eye discharge.
To prevent confusing pets’ combs with people’s, store them in a clearly-labelled zipper-locking plastic bag (see right, below).
Mats, anywhere on the body, can hold moisture, leading to dermatitis on the skin underneath.
Of course, for everyday grooming and removing last season’s stubborn undercoat, nothing beats the FURminator.
See you next week, Dr. Randolph.