A trip to the groomer not only makes a dog look its shiny best, it also helps keep it healthy.
Caroline Zambrano explains what to expect at the salon and when to see the vet.
Grooming is essential for all dogs’ health and comfort, not to mention an important part of looking good. It allows time to check the body for lumps, bumps and other ailments, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to spend time together. Even better, in the end your dog comes out looking like a star.
While some dogs need maintenance grooming now and then, others require a more specialised, professional touch, depending on the breed, type of coat and the dog’s activities.
Deb Ryan from Dog Grooming International works with her clients to create the best style to suit each dog, whether it’s a family companion, a working dog or a celebrity in the show ring. “I work out what is going to suit my clients’ home lifestyle and what best suits their dogs' characters,” Deb says.
“If my client had a busy schedule, I would suggest a low maintenance trim to keep the dog and the owner happy. “If you do not get the groom that suits both human and canine, the dog’s hair can get into a mess. Then the dog may not like going to the groomer because it needs its matted coat to be groomed.”
Deb believes educating the client is important when it comes to grooming a dog correctly so that they can groom at home in between sessions. “Dogs are the same as children. They are on the go all the time; they play and get dirty, so we have to have a routine for the dog’s grooming at home.
“Otherwise, it’s a bit like having a child with long hair and not brushing it in between haircuts,” she says.
When deciding on the style of a trim, the best place to start is the breed standard, which sets specific characteristics and grooming requirements for the breed.
“Breed standards are a great tool for any type of grooming,” Deb says. Pet stylists also offer many style-cuts for clients to choose from to suit their dogs, and the best stylists look at every dog as an individual, assessing its assets and faults to make it look its best. Groomers also need to understand different breed coat types and how they grow, to understand how the coat needs to be cleaned and trimmed. “Then we can get a good understanding of how to groom that dog,” Deb says.
“For instance, I look at what kind of coat it has to decide what bathing routine it will need. In a ‘show dog’ Poodle, you have to make sure there is no breakage in the coat, so you need to keep that dog very clean and wash the coat on a very regular basis.”
Deb says people who show their dogs are brilliant at specialising in their breed, especially when preparing their dogs for the show ring. Not surprisingly, grooming dogs for show and competitions has also helped Deb in the grooming salon.
But while it takes weeks to continually prepare a dog for the show ring, grooming competitions require a different approach to turning a dog from rags to riches.
“In grooming comps, you have to get your dog looking its best in just two hours,” says Deb, who has won multiple awards in international grooming competitions.
But dog groomers or stylists don’t just concentrate on aesthetics. “We actually see the dog in its birthday suit,” says Deb. “We see and touch everything on the dog and often see the dog every few weeks. “I’m a true believer that a groomer should never diagnose, but should be able to tell you if there is a problem, like an infected nail.”
Deb’s top concerns as a groomer are infections in the eyes and ears, dental disease, nail infections and lumps. “I had a Schnauzer come in and found a lump on its neck,” she recalls. “The owners took him to the vet and it turned out to be cancer. That could have been unnoticed if he hadn’t come in for a clip.”
At home, grooming is a time to have fun and be creative. The dog also gets more out of it than just a good-looking coat. “The dogs love being groomed because they are spending time with you. They love the care and attention,” Deb says.
And for those dogs that are a bit nervous about being handled? “We play ‘animal music’ which is calming for them and give them a full body massage in the bath. We are kind and patient – dogs know if you really care about them,” she says.
Are your dog’s ears smelly, eyes teary or nails bleeding? A grooming salon may not be the right place to visit.
So how do you know when it’s more than just a grooming problem?
“You need to take your dog to the vet if you’re worried enough to ask questions in the first place,” says Dr Lisa Chimes from the television show Bondi Vet. “Vets are trained in things that groomers aren’t.”
Dr Chimes says your dog needs to see a vet if you find any lumps, abnormal looking or bleeding nails, inflamed gums, skin irritations, or discharge from the eyes or ears – anything that isn’t the norm for your dog.
“We recently saw a dog with a nail that looked normal, but wouldn’t stop bleeding. It turns out the dog had a tumour in the nail bed of a toe,” she says, adding that nail bed tumours can be very aggressive. Fortunately, the vets caught it early and the dog survived.
According to Dr Chimes, there are a few obvious things to keep an eye on when grooming: nails, ears, eyes, teeth and skin. “Beware of nails curling over and ear discharge,” she says. “With the eyes, make sure there is no redness or excessive watering or discharge. Also, watch for eyelashes growing in the wrong places, such as ectopic cilia – extra eyelashes growing out of the inner lining of the eyelid.”
Ear infections are also common in dogs, Dr Chimes says. “They may be caused by swimming, hairy ear canals and floppy ears. Some dogs may also have food allergies that can manifest as ear problems.” Dr Chimes also recommends checking your dog’s mouth regularly for abnormal signs. “Check for smelly breath, moist dermatitis around folds of the lip, inflamed gums and tartar, which your vet needs to get off the teeth,” she says.
If your dog is scratching, there may be more to it than just a flea problem. “Redness of the skin, itching, scabby type lesions or lumps on the skin, hair loss and other wounds all need to be seen by a vet,” she says.
Also, if your dog is showing discomfort when trying to eat or has stopped eating all together, it’s recommended you see your vet immediately.
For the best of health, Deb Ryan suggests maintaining your dogs' grooming at home between sessions.
Things to do between sessions include: