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Grooming the Elderly Pet

When I first began mobile grooming, I was struck by the number of phone calls that began with “Thank God, I have an elderly pet....” These owners were no longer taking them for grooming. Not because they didn’t want to, but because their pets needs were not being met. 

The two most important skills a groomer needs when faced with an elderly pet is compassion and patience. These pets may have limited or no range of motion in their joints. Their immune system is compromised and they have little resistance to bacteria and other pathogens. They have less tolerance for the extremes of heat, cold and time. Their well-being and comfort takes precedence over perfection. 

I begin each groom with a Snout-To-Tail Assessment before I bring them into my van. I go from snout to tail with deliberate intent and purpose looking for reasons why this pet should not be groomed today. I don’t want to agravate an existing condition or they simply may not be up for a groom that day. In some cases, I may want written veterinary approval and if necessary, groom them at their vet’s office.

After the Snout-to-Tail Assessment, I have them walk up the ramp to the van and help them onto my electric table.  SDC11060
 The hydraulic tables do not go low enough for the larger dogs. Keep in mind when moving an arthritic dog, you may inadvertently cause them pain. Any pet in pain or moving into pain, can and will bite. Protect yourself and have a muzzle ready. 

My grooming table has a fatigue mat that helps reduce stress on their bones and hip supports.  SDC11056
 The important thing about hip supports is keeping their feet on the ground and know when not to use them. SDC11053
  If the pet relies too heavily on them, it places too much pressure on the soft tissues and organs of the undercarriage. Laying them on their side may offer more comfort. I generally will clip nails while they are still in their homes lying on their beds. This way I am not moving any painful joints.  SDC11067


Keeping the nails short and the hair on the bottom of their pads trimmed will aid in mobility and reduce stress on their joints. To extend the time between grooms, I will make the trip to clip nails and trim pads only.

I have a second ramp that leads from the grooming table to the tub. SDC11061
  If they can stand during the bath, that’s great. I’ll use the hip support when feasible. If not, I’ll bath the dog while they are laying in the tub. I have a friend that uses outdoor, water resistant cushions in her tub. I think she’s a genius.  100_6630



From the tub, it’s back to the table via the ramp and begin drying. Some elderly pets have developed a problem with the High Velocity Dryers. They may become agitated, scream, urinate or defecate. It may come on very suddenly.  For some dogs, the Happy Hoodie relieves these symptoms. For others, it makes it worse. A Happy Hoodie, www.happyhoodie.com; is a terry cloth sleeve that fits over their heads.  SDC10865
 In addition, the force of the HV dryer may hurt their sensitive skin.

After they are dried, it’s onto the finish work. We have already spent alot of time on this pet. They may tolerate much more. Practicality over perfection rules. Their comfort comes first. This includes extended sanitary clips, grooming while they are lying down and shaving thick areas that cannot easily brush out.  100_6692
 The pet dictates the grooming. I need to be aware of when he’s had enough and accept that I may not finish. I have a couple of clients on the “installment plan.” When their pet is done for the day, I will come back another day and finish. 

Sometimes our elderly clients remember when they could jump from the table to the tub, bounce off the table or run out of the van. I call this the “young pup syndrome.” Not unlike ourselves, they could injure themselves trying to relive their youth.

I also groom elderly kitties. Their skin can be paper thin and nick very easily. 

Keep owners in the loop regarding the changing needs of their aging pet. It takes but a few minutes of your time and is greatly appreciated by your clients. Paula West is a long-term client of mine. K.C. and Emma are gettin older and we have been there, done that with Cowboy. She has this to say. “Our dogs are quite old. Last week, in her own gentle and patiently authoritative style, Mary helped us come to terms with the hard fact that Emma and K.C. ( our impish Bassett and lovable Golden) are puppies no longer. She explained that their needs would be changing and that their grooming routines would be adjusted to suit those needs.  Since her advice over the years has always been right on target, we have come to trust Mary and welcome her point of view. We never feel rushed as Mary helps us to understand aspects of our dogs‘ lives as only a professional can. Mary says it best when she says; “ You may pay the bill, but your dogs are my clients.” When she is at our home, we know our dear Emma and K.C. are getting the best possible treatment. This is a bill that we are always privileged to pay.” 

An owner may ask my opinion on whether it’s time for their pet to cross the Rainbow Bridge. While I can relate my personal experiences with my own dogs, I can’t help them with their decision. I don’t see their pets on a daily basis or possess enough information to give my opinion. I tell them to listen to their pets and their hearts. I have enough confidence in them to make the right choice at the right time. 

More than half of my clients are elderly. Over the years, I have seen my own priorities change. I am inspired by the trust given to me by the furry and non furry alike. My goal is to be the person, they know I can be. While I have an enormous respect for the grooming certifying organizations, the initials I want after my name is CMEPG. Certified Master Elderly Pet Groomer.   


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