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February 2014

The Importance of Snout To Tail Assessment


When I look back on my life, there have been days that ended up as turning points in my life.One such date was April, 9, 2004. That was the day Binngo; a nine year old maltese, died from a heart attack on my grooming table. Many changes were made including beginning each groom with an assessment. It has been just about eight years now and still I begin each session with a pet assessment. A pet assessment is where I go from head to tail with deliberate intent and purpose to determine if they are healthy enough to groom. There may have been changes since the last time I saw them, especially if this is an older pet. On more than one occasion, I have rescheduled a groom due to problems found during the assessment. There is no amount of income that could compensate for the mental anguish over the loss of a pet. I know, because I have been there.


For new clients, the assessment should be done with the owner present. You want all preexisting conditions noted before the owner leaves. You do not want to be blamed for something that was there before hand and also serves to reduce “misunderstandings” between yourself and the client. In addition, during the assessment the owner sees how well their pet handles being handled. It presents a good opportunity to educate your clients on pet care and offer and charge for needed extra services. I have always found that educated clients are good clients. The added benefit is that this assessment demonstrates to the pet owner a level of professionalism that sets you apart from your competition.


I first look at the pet overall. Is he bouncy with bright eyes? Or is he lethgaric, coughing, or having trouble breathing? Are his eye dull? Coughing may be an indicator of kennel cough, respiratory infections, canine influenza, or a heart condition. Add in runny noses and eyes and you have a serious health concern. None of which you want in your facility. Watch them walk. Does he appear to be in pain? The worse bite I ever received was from an arthritic golden retriever I was helping into my van.


If it is a cat, the two things I look for are dilated eyes and heavy panting. Both indicate stress and a cat under stress can have a heart attack fairly quickly. 


Before I touch a pet, I keep a muzzle close and my face at a distance. If I am uncomfortable or unable to touch him, he goes home. I will not risk my livelihood by a potentially career ending bite.


I start with the mouth. Gums should be pink except for those breeds with mottled or dark gums such as Chows Chows. A yellowish tinge in an indicator of liver failure. Bluish is hypoxic. There is no blood flow. And pale gums are an indicator of shock. Teeth in poor shape cause mouth pain, which in turn, creates snappy dogs. Take this opportunity to educate your clients on dental care. Do you offer dental products for sale?


Eyes should be bright and dilate equally. Unequal dilation or rapidly moving eyes are a sign of neurological problems. Hardened discharge may have irritated and raw skin underneath.


Foul odor, redness, discharge, and head shaking are all signs of an ear infection. I will not clean or pluck ears in this condition. Very thick looking ears may be a hematoma or severe matting. Use caution when removing severe matting from the ear as blood vessels could rupture as pressure from the matts is released.


Arthritis or leg injuries will cause pain when moved or touch. A pet in pain can bite. Pain in the spine can be neurological in origin.


Check pads for ingrown nails, debris, or cuts. Even well behaved pets may have feet issues. I groom a couple of pets that do not get their nails done.


If the belly area is distended or hard, refer to vet immediately as this could be a sign of bloat. It may be accompanied by drooling and a very uncomfortable looking pet.


Note any lumps, bumps, cysts, and warts on their body. You do not want to shave them off during the groom. Check the skin for irritations, wounds, and parasites. Can you even see the skin? You have no idea what you will find once the matts are removed. I have found open sores than required veterinary treatment. 


The first time you perform a pet assessment it will take longer than that of an established client. I do not require the owner to be present during subsequent assessments. Only the first time. For me, it’s part of the greeting process. As I am saying hello to the pet and making kissy faces, I simply run my hands over his body and pay attention to body language.


Encourage your clients to continue this at home.  Their pet stands a better chance of recovery when problems are brought to light as early detection means early intervention. Recommend any concerns found followed up at their vet and keep notes on their client card. The assessment form I use can be requested at Pet Tech will allow you make as many copies as you like and give them to your clients. Just leave the Pet Tech logo intact. Barkleigh makes clients cards that you can keep notes on the pet for yourself.


I may have lost Binngo, but I gained a respect for not taking a pet’s health for granted.


*Note- This originally appeared in the December 2011 Groomer To Groomer and is reprinted with permission. This was the very first article I wrote for them.

2013 Update On The Groomers Emergency Assistance Fund

Thanks to your support, the Groomers Emergency Assistance Fund was able to help six groomers in its first year. They were Christine Kalencki Buff, Monica Torelli, Christine Trombino Dunkerley, Tracy Wright, Jennifer Westenskow Patarino, and DeAnne D Orive.


A word from each of them:


From Christine Kalencki Buff:


I am on the path to recovery, but still a bit more to go. I was able to pay the bills to keep a roof over my head and my business open. We are still in temporary housing, and still looking for a place for my business, but I almost lost them both as well so I am very grateful for what you all have done for me. I still have hope when even that was almost taken as well. I worked so hard to get where I was, to have it all taken has been pretty devastating. To have a community to help keep my family afloat while we figured it out has been the much-needed support we were desperately looking for. Once we get all the way back on our feet we will be showing our gratitude to other groomers in need. Thank you again for everything.


From Monica Torelli:


I am doing really well I just had a check up last week and the bone graft has taken which means no more surgeries!! Another 6 week and my arm should be completely healed (except for some nerve damage which will most likely be permanent) I am back to work and it's going well, just can't groom a lot of big dogs yet.




From Christine Trombino Dunkerley:


I was a groomer for thirteen years when I suddenly began having problems seeing. Tests by a neurologist revealed a brain disease called Pseudotumor Cerebri. After thirty spinal taps, monthly hospital stays, a permanent brain shunt, and brain surgery, I was unable to work and forced to sell my mobile grooming van. I spend most of my time in bed with this painful, debilitating disease. Even with good insurance, I still owe a great deal in medical bills. The $1,000 I received from GEAF went to pay some these mounting expenses. Thank you so much for thinking of me. Although there is no cure for my disease and I am not in remission, I am a fighter and will never stop fighting.



From Tracy Wright:


Just letting you all know how we are doing. We are still trying to recover and build. My husband and I are still living in the 5th wheel in the back yard, but our bedroom is coming along. Just a little worried about the spring thaw. There is talk of another flood this year. I hate to say it, but our home will not withstand anotherone. I have to admit I am worried to see what will happen. My clients and friends and fellow groomers have been my crutch. Without all of you, I would have never been able to do this. Thank you.


From Jennifer Westenskow:


I am trying to do ok. I am slowly recovering from surgery, and still grieving the recent loss of my mother in law, with whom I was very close. I can't tell you what it meant, when I was unable to work because of illness, to have groomers that cared about how I was doing and wanted to help me. Having people care, that helped financially or even simply prayed for me, it gave me faith in humanity. It touched me so much; it lifted me up and turned me around. And it made me want to help others. At Christmas I found a family to help and I paid the kindness forward. For whoever started this group, it is so wonderful. Groomers understand each other, and we never know when we will need help. I am so grateful.




From DeAnne D Orive:


July 10th at 7:55AM, I heard a bang and Woosh. The wall between the business next door and myself came down as a title wave of water came into the building. It was approximately 3 ½ to 4 feet of water throughout the entire salon. I lost everything except 2 cages and 2 tables and my blades and a few scissors. The building was condemned and deemed uninhabitable.


I opened my salon 2005 and I had an excellent clientele and had insurance, but it did not cover anything due to outside water and act of nature. I also had a rider to include ½ annual wages for a year, this was not covered either.


My original loan from 2005 was going to be paid off October 2013, but I had to renew my original loan again to purchase new items at Hershey. Including dryers, cage dryers, clippers, tub, shampoos and all other accessories for the salon. With the Help of GEAF, Frank Rowe & Sons sharpened all my blades for free except shipping. Frank Rowe & Sons and Groomers Mall gave me discounts on items purchased. Thank you for your help.


This is ongoing and we are already in midst of aiding other groomers. Visit our Facebook page and website to learn how you can help or to request assistance.