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June 2013

Pet Grief

Marcus was my chronically ill Miniature Pinscher, a spitfire that was diagnosed with Cushings and Diabetes early on in life. He had not been doing well for a couple of days. He wouldn’t eat. I spoon-fed him baby food. On Wednesday, February 29th of last year, my alarm went off at 6am and I noticed Marcus is not sleeping over my head as usual. He moved over to other side of the bed. I reached over and felt him breathing, so I hit the snooze button and went back to sleep. The alarm goes off again and when I look over at Marcus I see that he died. I performed CPR on him and although he began to breathe, he did not regain consciousness.

I called the Katonah Bedford Emergency Animal Hospital to inform them I was on my way. They have brought Marcus back from certain death on several occasions. They stabilized him and let me in to see him. I gave him Reiki and his heart beat improved for a few minutes and then settled back to where it was. He looked like he was improving and dodged the bullet yet again. A couple of hours later, he had another heart attack. I could not let him continue like this and let the veterinarian send him up. Probably the hardest decision I have ever made. Marcus is the dog that guided me into crystal therapy and Reiki.


I always said that in spite of his medical problems, Marcus would not go until he was damn well ready to do so. Looks like he was even though I was not. I was fortunate to have the full support of my family and friends, but not everyone is so lucky.


Grief is a normal response to the loss of a loved one. There is no pill you can take. Only time.


Depending on whom you talk to, there are either five or seven recognized stages of grief. They do not happen in any particular order. You may not go through all of them or spend the same amount of time on each. You may work through one stage in three minutes and another in three months. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross M.D. described five stages of grief in her book “On Death and Dying” as:


  1. Denial – This is where you have difficultly believing your pet has died.
  2. Anger – You question how fair is this. Or it can be directed at someone or yourself depending on the circumstances of the death.
  3. Bargaining – There has been a mistake. Somebody needs to fix this.
  4. Depression – You realize there is no mistake and you are very sad over the loss.
  5. Acceptance – You accept what has happened and do what is needed to move forward.


Other grief counselors may add shock and guilt as stages. Shock is the numbness you may feel after learning of the death. Guilt, somehow you blame yourself for the loss.


Grief manifests in many forms.


  1. There may be physical symptoms such as crying, shock, lump in throat, shortness of breath, tightness in chest, (do not quickly disregard the last two as it may also be the first indication of a heart attack) lack of energy, disturbing dreams, insomnia, lack of hunger or overeating, body aches, and dizziness.
  2. There may be mental and emotional symptoms such as confusion, preoccupied with the loss, hallucinations particularly in regards to the pet, sadness, anger, resentment, guilt, anxiety, inappropriate behavior, and feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Symptoms presenting themselves socially can include withdrawing from your friends or becoming overly dependent on them and distracting yourself with an increased workload.
  4. It may strengthen or weaken your spiritual beliefs, or move you to a radically different belief system from the one you currently practice.


Grief gradually improves over time, but be aware of some warning signs that immediate intervention is needed.


  1. Thoughts of suicide. In grief, it’s normal to have FLEETING thoughts of suicide. When they do not go away, tell someone.
  2. Panic Attacks.
  3. Depression. Depression and grief are two very different behaviors. Grief may mimic some of symptoms of clinical depression. While grief can runs its course without intervention, depression cannot. Sigmund Freud summed up the difference as follows, “ In grief, the world looks poor and empty. In depression, the person feels poor and empty.”


Support is crucial is helping grief run its course. This process can be hindered by such factors as circumstances surrounding the death, no previous experience with a loss, insensitive comments, or multiple losses. As everybody handles grief in his or her own way, find what support system works for you. There are many options.

  1. Supportive family and friends. Not the ones who minimize your feelings towards your loss because “It’s just a pet.”
  2. Grief Counselors. There are many that specialize in pet bereavement.
  3. Your religious or spiritual leader.
  4. Animal communicators. Be careful here because there are many charlatans. I am fortunate to have the real deal as one of my clients and good friend.
  5. Online support. One of the best listing of online resources can be found at Online sources can be valuable particularly when in person support is not available to you. Many organizations provide free online counseling, help in finding a local counselor, virtual candle lighting, and chat rooms with other people experiencing the same loss as you. Most have online shops to buy personalized mementos.




Marcus is forever in my heart. As a memento of him, I have his necklace in my pocket. Whenever I feel sad, I take it out and hold it in my hands until the sad thoughts are replaced with happy memories.






Dehydration in Pets

Remember that plant you received on Mother’s Day. The one you forgot to water until you noticed the brown leaves. Well, if you caught it quickly, the plant could still thrive but those brown leaves would never recover.  If you let that plant go too long without water, it would not recover and die. That’s dehydration. There is no difference between dehydration between plants and animals.

Dehydration is the loss of normal body fluids including water and electrolytes. The body’s cells are now deficient in the necessary water needed to perform vital functions. Dehydration can cause permanent kidney damage, heatstroke, shock as well as damage the circulatory system. It will also cause organs to shut down. Untreated dehydration can lead to death in a matter of hours.

There are three ways dehydration can occur. There is a reduced fluid intake, an increase in fluid losses or a combination of both.


1. Their water bowls are unclean. Nobody likes to drink dirty water. Or water is not provided for them because the groomer does not want to pet to knock it over and rewet themselves. Personally I would rather re-dry the pet then have to explain to the owner why their pet was taken to the veterinarian. Or worse, why they died in my care. As a mobile groomer, I provide water for the thirsty pet.

2. Stressful events (grooming) and travel (driving to the groomer) can reduce the pet’s desire for water.

3. Dogs and cats require a diet that is 70% moisture. Most dry foods have between 8 and 12% moisture content. If supplemented foods and water do not make up the other 60%, then the pet is living in a state of dehydration. This continual dehydration damages the kidneys. Kidney failure is the number one cause of death in cats and the number two cause for dogs. The basic rule of thumb for water consumption is the takes the pets weight, divide it in half, and convert it to ounces. For example, an 80  pound dog would need 40 ounces of water a day.


1. Overexertion and panting due to heat (hot air dryers) or exercise (dancing on our grooming tables).

2. Medications that cause the pet to urinate frequently such as steroids and antibiotics.

3. Illnesses, diarrhea, vomiting, fevers, large wounds, and burns. To begin with, we should not groom sick or injured pets. In addition, recuperating pets need more fluids than normal.

4. Excessive drooling. This can be a particular breed issue such as Newfies and Mastiffs or an allergic reaction to a grooming product.

5. Kidney disease and diabetic pets are unable to retain fluids effectively and urinate frequently. When discussing the medical history of a pet upon check-in, these are two of the conditions I specifically mention. It’s amazing the number of people who do not equate diabetes with a medical condition.

Young, older, immune-compromised, pregnant and nursing pets are more susceptible to dehydration. Like the tell tale brown leaves of a plant, pets exhibit signs of dehydration. When signs are apparent, it’s important to go to your vet immediately.


  1. Skin loses elasticity. The “pinch test” is a quick way to check for dehydration. Pull up the skin like a tent and let it fall back down. It should return to its original position immediately. This is not an accurate test for obese pets as their skin is already stretched to capacity.
  2. Lethargic or depressed in appearance. This pet looks like it has no zest for life. It will also be accompanied by sunken and/or dull looking eyes.
  3. The gums are dry and sticky to the touch. Even though the heart may be racing, the capillary refill time is slow. You can check capillary refill time by pressing on a pink area of their gums. Normal refill time is two seconds or in the amount of time it takes to say, “capillary refill.” Exercise caution when putting your fingers into a mouth of a pet. Many do not appreciate your concern.
  4. Tremors in back legs.

While physical findings can point to dehydration, it cannot determine the extent. A complete blood count, packed cell volume and total blood protein tests are needed to determine the extent or percentage, cause and check for kidney damage. A complete biochemistry profile is recommended.


  1. Less than 5% is considered mild dehydration. The stretched skin will return to normal quickly. This is not an accurate test on obese pets.
  2. Between 6 and 9%. There is a noticeable delay in skin returning to normal position, eyes can be sunken and the gums dry. This range can cause significant health problems in cats.
  3. Between 10 and 12%. The skin does not return to normal, eyes are very sunken, pulse is weak and the heart rate is accelerated. This will cause significant health problems in dogs and can be fatal in cats.
  4. Between 12 and 15%. This is life threatening for dogs. They will be in shock and most likely unconscious.
  5. 15% is death.

It does not take long for your pet to go from 5% to 15% and any delay in treatment can be fatal.

In mild cases of dehydration you can give the pet fluids by mouth or into the cheek pouch with a syringe. Use Smart Water© or UNFLAVORED Pedialyte© instead of water as either will help to replace lost electrolytes. Do NOT use flavored Pedialyte© or Gatorade© as they contain artificial sugars. Artificial sugars are highly toxic to pets as they cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. In more serious cases of dehydration, the pet needs immediate veterinarian intervention and treatment. The vet will determine the proper rehydration dosage using IV fluids. This pet will need monitoring at the hospital. The vet will also determine and address the cause leading to dehydration. It bears repeating, untreated dehydration can lead to in a matter of hours.

There are steps to reduce a pet’s risk of dehydration. The first is to educate your clients on dehydration. As a groomer you do not want to begin with the dehydrated pet. While the pet is in your care, provide fresh, clean water and pay attention to the pet for any signs of distress.

Prevention is always better than treatment. Just ask the plant on your counter.



This article first appeared in Groomer To Groomer June 2012 and is reprinted with permission.