Preventative Care

Know When To Say No

Pawsitive Education Designed Templates 5


There are times in every groomers career where we should NOT finish the pet we are working on. Sometimes because it’s become dangerous for the pet, other times it’s dangerous for us. Either way, you need to know when to say no. All the pets below were very happy clients of mine. This is mostly from the perspective of a mobile groomer. If I was a shop, other options such as breaking up the groom throughout the day might be a consideration. All of these scenarios required  clear client communication on what could and could not be done.


TOBY was a golden retriever who was adopted by his family at the age of 12. He never cared for the dryer, but initially tolerated it. As he aged, he began to have problems whenever I turned the High Velocity dryer on. He would bark nonstop, became very agitated and peed or pooped on the table. He was having a dryer induced seizure. While this is more common in the elderly, this can occur in pets of all ages. To continue grooming him would result in a heart attack. The solution was simple. Don’t HV dry him. As I am a mobile groomer, cage drying was not an option. All brushing, scissoring and clipping was done before the bath. Afterwards, Dad carried Toby back into the house, laid him in front of a roaring fire and covered him with a light blanket. All that was missing was the cup of hot chocolate for Toby. 


KC was a very large, thick, long coated golden retriever. He is a very time consuming dog to groom, but looks magnificent when finished. When KC turned 13, he began to rely on the hip supports. To continue grooming KC in full coat would cause him pain. We kept him in a puppy trim which cut grooming time in half.


PHOENIX was a 13 year old Akita. She could not stand for the full hour it takes to blow out the coat, brush and then comb her. She, however, can tolerate 45 minutes. While Phoenix has her coat blown out and brushed, I  stopped combing her out.


JP at 16 missed his last groom. I arrived at his home and made a determination that JP was not up for it. Now, why can I see he was not well, but the owner didn’t. I think it’s because of that pair of rose colored glasses she was wearing and couldn’t see the inevitable. She was in denial. At least I got to say my good-byes as he was put down the following week. 


CLEO aka Sybil was muzzled from BEFORE she enters my van until she leaves. She does not like grooming and she means business, Once Cleo begins thrashing, groom is over. To continue grooming her would cause physical injury to either myself or Cleo. Once we are finished, she’s my best friend. Hence Sybil. Cleo does not leave my side and gives me big rottie kisses until I go.


LAMBIE was a male Lhasa. Need I say more. No, but I will. He was found wondering the streets of Norwalk, CT, obviously for some time. He was adopted by a client after her NICE toy poodle passed away. He is muzzled, groomer helpered, and harnessed. I never use scissors around him as that will only lead to bloodshed. I can’t clip under the muzzle. When Lambie was done, he had this lopsided Fu Manchu look going on and sloppy feet. I am very proud of this groom because the alternative was sedation at the vet. 


WILLY and I had an arrangement. He will let me brush and trim his ears, cut his hails and brush him out IF I don’t dry him. Willy became aggressive when I turn the dryer on.  He ferociously attacked the HV nozzle and worked himself up into a state. I needed to exercise caution as the high velocity of this dryer can blow out a lung. He’s been known to take a chunk out of the vacuum cleaner at home if Mom leaves it in the hallway. Willy was tolerant of the grooming process if I don’t dry him. I knew his limits. To continue would result in injury to me or Willy. 


COOPER was a young, sweet, anxious and scared German Shephard. Everyone repeat after me: Fear Biter with large teeth.Cooper is muzzled start to finish because I don’t know what will frighten him this time. I can’t trust him. His very large teeth can do serious damage to me.


MILLY the cat came to me because her sister died of a heart attack at a grooming shop. The shop did not know when to stop the groom.


Last, but not least.

BINNGO passed away at the age of 9. He had a heart condition that I was aware of. His veterinarian gave him clearance for grooming. Binngo was always a good boy in my van. I had him on the table and turned on the HV dryer. He squealed, peed and then pooped on himself. I rinsed him off and noticed the glazed look in the eyes. I put Mom and Binngo in the van and drove to the vet’s office. They later put him down as there was no improvement. There was no indication of a problem before he had a heart attack. Binngo was fine was minute and not the next. It was that quick.


Binngo is the reason I became a pet first aid instructor. Even though CPR was not needed, I wouldn’t have remembered how to do it. It was six years since I last took a class. It’s all I thought about. What if? I never wanted to feel that unprepared again. I don’t want anyone else to feel that unprepared. 


My client’s owners trust me to know when to quit. The well being of their beloved pet is my primary concern. Prettiness is secondary. I tell all the owners the same thing. “ You may be paying for this, but my client is your pet, not you. I do what is best for my client.”



Mary facilitates education and dreams  in the professional pet industry. Talk to her at [email protected] or visit her website at


RIP Bugzy 2011-2014

It is with great sadness that I announce the unexpected death of Bugzy. He leaves behind his mom and dad, 3 two-legged siblings aged 9, 5, and 4, as well as two four-legged brothers.” I left my baby in what I thought to be the capable hands of a well-respected groomer. A few hours later I got a phone call…I was expecting a call around that time to come and pick him up. Instead I had to decipher the words of a sobbing groomer as she explained that she had found Bugzy dead in the drying kennel. I was in shock. It didn’t seem real. “ recounts the tearful mom.

Bugzy playing dress up

Every single year we hear the same story. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.

Why didn’t the groomer notice that Bugzy was in distress? There are several possible reasons that come to mind:

1. The drying cages were out of her field of vision.

2. She did not regularly check on pets while they were drying because they were out of her field of vision.

3. She couldn’t see that Bugzy was in distress because he was out of her field of vision.

Do we see the connection here? There was no one monitoring the pets while they were exposed to heat with little to no air circulation.

Bugzy meeting his best friend Kapono.

Heatstroke begins when the pets’ body temperature surpasses 104 degrees. The factors that set the stage for heatstroke is when the temperature in their environment (cage dryer) becomes higher than their body temperature with little or no air circulation (cage), high humidity (heavy panting) and close quarters (cage). The risk is much higher if groomers cover cages with towels to speed up drying. This is the exact same scenario when people leave their pets in a hot car to go shopping.

Signs of heatstroke include lethargy, heavy breathing and panting, bright red gums and tongue, vomiting and diarrhea. Heatstroke can cause shock, respiratory distress, kidney failure, and heart abnormalities among other complications. Damage can become irreversible once their body temperature reaches 106 degrees. Death follows. It is imperative that the pet receives medical attention before their temperature reaches 106 degrees. The only way to prevent this is with constant monitoring of the drying area. Minutes can make the difference between the life, quality of life, and death.

Very young, very old, immune compromised, brachycephalic (dogs with pushed in faces), pregnant, and nursing dogs, as well as all cats are more susceptible to heatstroke.

What can be done if heatstroke occurs?

1. Remove the pet from the hot environment!

2. Lower the body temperature by wetting with cool water.

3. Do not use cold water or ice water. It is counterproductive. It will shock the system and cause a thermal barrier. The pet will be unable to cool itself.

4. Contact a veterinarian for instructions.

5. Transport to veterinarian as soon as possible.

This is a preventable accident. Drying cages are one of our tools. Use it responsibly. If you do not have someone to monitor the pets while drying, then table dry them. There is an empty home right now that needn’t be.

Bugzy 24 May, 2014

For Pet Owners:

1. Ask questions. If the groomer is too busy to answer them, find another.

2. Ask to see the drying area. Notice if it is in their normal field of vision. If not, ask if someone is stationed there.

3. Find a groomer that table dries. (Note- not all dogs are candidates for table drying. The loud noise of the high velocity dryers is too much for some pets.)

Bugzy in his cast


Dental Care For Pets

Dental care is important because the American Veterinary Dental Society reports that by age three; 80% of dogs and 70% of cats develop dental disease. In addition, the Society states that you can increase the life of your pet by 25% by practicing a healthy dental lifestyle. Clinical research shows a direct correlation between poor oral health and systemic diseases. Bacteria, food debris and saliva cause plaque. It takes three to five days for plaque to become calculus, commonly known as “tartar”.  In addition, bacteria enter the bloodstream at the gum line. These bacteria infect the heart, liver, kidney, and lungs, as well as weaken the immune system as it travels throughout the body. Left untreated, periodontal disease will lead to oral pain, tooth loss and systemic problems.

How do you know if your pet has periodontal disease?

Signs include:

  1. Bad breathe.
  2. Inflamed or red gums.
  3. Bleeding gums while eating.
  4. Tartar build-up on the teeth and gum line. Tartar is the yellowish-brown crusty stuff.
  5. Change in eating habits. It now hurts to eat. They are avoiding the hard kibble and begging for your softer food.
  6. Resorptive lesions on cat’s gums. These are very painful and damage the integrity of the teeth.

You have many options when it comes to caring for your pets’ teeth. You can practice that healthy dental lifestyle with ease.  But first, if your pets’ teeth are currently in poor condition, schedule a visit with your veterinarian first. You may opt to have an ultrasonic scaling done and start with a clean slate. An ultrasonic scaling is usually what veterinarians’ refer to as a dental.

Options include:

1. Dental Toys

What makes a toy a dental toy? The design should include ways to massage the gums, strengthen the chewing muscles, remove tartar build-up, and clean between the teeth. These include toys with raised nubs, rope toys and toys designed for power chewers. Keep in mind that you need to buy appropriate sized toys for your pets. Inappropriate sized toys can become a choking hazard.

2. Treats

Always read the ingredient list. Hidden sugars, such as beet pulp, molasses or high fructose corn syrup defeat the purpose of the treat as bacteria feed on sugar. The purpose of the treat should either create friction to break down the calculus or contains ingredients that do. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has set a standard. Products that have met their criteria carry their seal of approval. You can find information on their standards and approved products on their website.  (

3. Toothbrushes

While those $12 triple head brushes are good, a toothbrush from the dollar store will do the trick. If your pet allows you access to his mouth, a finger brush would be less intrusive than a toothbrush. A piece of gauze wrapped around your finger will also work.

4. Toothpaste

You need to use pet toothpaste. Toothpaste made for people contains fluoride and detergents, which are harmful to your pet. Introduce it to your pet in a gradual, positive manner. Start with something tasty like peanut butter or tuna water. Begin in the rear of the mouth and work your way out. Your pet may be more accepting of the brush leaving the mouth as opposed to entering it. Brush their teeth in the same manner as you do for yourself. Don’t get discouraged if you cannot finish in one sitting. It may take time and patience on your part for your pet to accept it. You should brush their teeth two to three times a week.

5. Dental Sprays

These contain ingredients that dissolve plaque and tartar when sprayed directly into your pets’ mouth.

6. Dental Wipes

The active ingredient is Chlorohexidine. Chlorohexidine kills bacteria that form plaque. Like the gauze wraps, they are less intrusive than a toothbrush.

7. Diet

Many commercial pet foods contain hidden sugars and a high carbohydrate (fillers) ratio. Bacteria feed on these ingredients. Read your labels. Your pets’ diet should include a high quality dry food in addition to a quality can. Dry kibble creates more friction than canned food. This friction helps to remove tartar.

8. Raw Bones

Raw bones are natures’ toothbrush. They are easy to find at any supermarket. To emphasize: RAW BONES. Cooked bones will splinter and cause intestinal damage. When your pets gnaw on the bones, it naturally removes plaque and tartar. The bones also provide a good source of available calcium. The marrow contains enzymes, minerals, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and bulk to help your pet stay healthy and regular. However, the marrow is very rich and could pose a problem for those pets with pancreatic concerns. In addition, too much marrow in a short period of time can cause pancreatic issues even in healthy pets. I usually push out the marrow if I offer raw bones to my pets more than once a week.

9. Water Additives

This is one of the easiest methods to use. Simply add it to your pet’s drinking water according to manufacturer specifications.

Your pets’ teeth need to last them a lifetime. A lifetime that could be 25% longer.

©2015 Mary Oquendo


Halloween Safety Tips 2014

Its that time of year again.

The sooner the kids come and relieve me of the candy in the house, the happier I will be. While I am more concerned with my candy consumption, there are real dangers for your pets.

1. Provide a safe place for your pet away from the door. It can be very confusing for them. The constant ringing of the doorbell, all the strange looking people, along with the screaming for candy, can be confusing and scary to your pet. Under these circumstances, your frightened pet may pose a bite risk.

2. Make sure that your pet is identified with readable tags and update your microchip company with current information. Many pets escape out the ever opening front door. Shelters see an increase in their numbers during Halloween.

3. Veterinarians and Animal Poison Control also see an increase in the number of pets as a result of poisoning and intestinal obstructions because the pet helped themselves to the Halloween candy you left within their reach. Most Halloween candy contains chocolate, artificial sugars, and wrappers.

4. Pets can knock over the lit candles in pumpkins causing a fire, chew on strung lights, choke on small ghoulish decorations, and poison themselves with fake blood and glowsticks.

5. If you must put a costume on your pet, remove all chocking hazards. In adition, watch for discomfort and blocked vision.

6. If you must take them trick or treating, put flashing LED's or lighted collars so cars can see them too. Look for signs of stress and exhaustion. They are not nearly as excited as the children are to go door to door.

Halloween is my favorite time of year. I do not want to ruin my holiday because my pet was injured, lost, or caused injury to another.

Written by Mary Oquendo,

Grooming Elderly Pets

As groomers, we all have a favorite breed; the one we look forward to when we see them on the schedule. For me, it is not a specific breed, but an age group. I just love the seniors. There is something about the white on the face and the gentleness of their eyes that just melts my heart. They are special and as such, need special treatment.


When I am able, I prepare my clients as far in advance as I can, but that is not always feasible. I rarely turn away seniors.


The Old Lady Speech


This is what I call “The Talk.” I convey to the owners, with kindness, that their grooming needs are changing and the comfort of their pet is my primary concern. For some, it means grooming more frequently. Pets with thicker coats that are not well maintained by the owners or requiring clipper work will need grooming more often to reduce the overall time. For others, it means less frequent grooming. Short-coated pets can increase the time between grooming, yet not impact the amount of time needed to finish them. As perfection is no longer an option, I may recommend a comfort trim. This is a nice way of saying that they now need an extended sanitary clip as they are not as neat as they once were when pottying. I will always ask what is the status of any medical concerns of their senior pet.


I may suggest grooming on the “installment plan”, if I cannot safely complete grooming in one session. The installment plan breaks up the grooming into two or more visits.  As this will drive the price up, most pet owners opt for whatever can be accomplished in one sitting. I am very clear that the grooming is over when I feel the pet has had enough.


This conversation can spark visions of the future death of their beloved pet.  It can be very emotional for some owners. As I am a mobile groomer, this conversation usually happens over a cup of coffee in their kitchen, which helps to remove any sterility. I spend whatever time I need to ensure the owner that I will always take the very best care of their pet.


Check-In On Day Of Appointment


When I worked at a shop, senior pets were scheduled on lighter days. I found that the less stress the older pets were exposed to, the better they did. I always requested that the owners pick up their senior pet when I was finished. We did not have orthopedic mats in our cages. The longer they stayed in the cage, the harder it was for them to get up.


During check-in of a senior pet, I do a thorough snout to tail assessment. I am looking for reasons not to groom this pet. Is he in pain? A pet in pain is more likely to bite.  Take it from me; I learned the hard way getting 2 stitches in the palm of my hand from THE nicest Golden Retriever. Is he coughing? Coughing may be indicative of heart failure. Are the gums sticky? Tacky gums could be a sign of dehydration. Are the gums paler than normal? If I see paler gums, my recommendation is to go directly to the veterinarian’s office, as blood is not pumping properly. In addition, senior pets have a harder time regulating their body temperatures. They can overheat or chill quickly.


I may even recommend that this pet’s needs are better served by grooming in a veterinarians office.


I discuss any concerns found during the assessment, as well as the prioritizing of the groom with the owner. We discuss what is important and what is not. I start with what is important, as I may not be able to complete the groom.


You should have waivers that will hold up in court in the event that the pet passes away in your care.  I recommend


My Work Area


My table goes as low as six inches off the ground and as high as tub level. One of the benefits of mobile grooming is that my table abuts the tub. The pet has a short step onto the table, as well a short step into the tub. If your work and bathing areas are separate, then walk up ramps are a must. My tabletop is non-skid. The older pets need a sure footing. In addition, I have orthopedic quality mats on the table. These mats help reduce stress on their already tender musculoskeletal system.


I use low vibration clippers and always keep a hand on the pet. Many older pets have loss of vision and hearing. Any unexpected touch or noise may incite a bite reflex.


This pet may have a difficult time standing up while you are working on them. Options include:

  1. A second pair of hands. They can cradle and lift the back end.
  2. Hip support slings.  The pet can sit in them and still be upright enough to finish. One caution about slings is that they can compress the internal organs. Use them for a short period of time.
  3. Start with the back end. Let them sit while you finish up the front.
  4. Work at an even height. You do not want a pet with a stiff neck either looking up or looking down at you.
  5. Lay them on their sides. Complete one side and “flip” them over gently to finish the other.
  6. Clip nails and trim the hair from their pads while lying down. Proper nail length is important. Nails that are too long will cause undue stress on their hips, shoulder, and spine. I keep the pads trimmed of hair. Hair on the pads makes it difficult for the pet to get up off the floor.


I work at their pace and end the groom if I see signs of stress or exhaustion. Offering add-ons such as T-Touch, Acupressure, Reiki, Massage, and Crystal Therapy will benefit the older pet.


Bathing The Older Pet


I have two choices for non-slip mats in my tub. The first is an orthopedic mat. For most pets, this is sufficient.  For those pets that cannot stand in the tub, I use waterproof cushions. It is easier to rinse off all the soapy water, as they are not lying in it. The water is just a touch warmer than I would normally use.  In addition, I use essential oil shampoo formulated for arthritis on elderly dogs that do not have sensitivity to essential oils.


Drying The Older Pet


If you are cage drying, place a non-skid mat in the cage. Make sure it is machine washable. I will always use a dryer with a heating element, even in the summer. The older, wet pet will chill easily. However, in warmer weather, I will turn it off or switch to a dryer with no heating element once they are almost dry, as they are more susceptible to heat stroke. If they have fallen asleep in the cage, I will bang on the side of the cage to wake them before removing.


If you are table drying with the high velocity  (HV) dryer, exercise caution as many older pets have been known to go into a dryer induced seizure.  For these pets, this is as far as the groom goes. If I cannot dry them, all clipper work is done before the bath. They are toweled off well and brought back into the house. One of my favorite clients would have a fire going and Toby’s bed ready. The only thing Toby was missing was a good book and cup of hot chocolate.


On those pets that I can dry on the table, I use a Happy Hoodie. It wicks the water off their heads and muffles the sound of the HV dryer.


Finish Work On The Older Pet


So what is the pet’s comfort level at this stage? Is the pet exhausted? These are the questions I ask myself before I reach for my shears. When working with elderly pets, sometimes we settle for “good enough.”


During the course of the groom, I may have found something I did not notice upon check-in. Nothing is insignificant and the owner is notified. On more than one occasion, I made an “executive decision” and brought the pet inside incomplete (and in some cases wet) and informed the owner they should call their vet. That decision to stop grooming saved the life of the pet.


Have you taken a pet first aid class this year? Protocols have just changed. Will you be able to perform CPR if it becomes necessary?


Grooming senior pets is not for everyone. They have needs that are different from younger, healthier pets. There are other groomers in my area that refer the senior pets to me and in return, I refer those breeds I do not want to groom to them. We are all happier.


I always give extra hugs and kisses to my older clients. While it can be heartbreaking to specialize in the older pets, nothing compares to having them rest their heads on your shoulder or look at you with their soulful eyes. I look forward to each and every senior pet. 


This article originally appeared in Groomer To Groomer and is reprinted with permission.

Lemon's First Groom

I have been in the pet industry for over 15 years. In that time, I have been honored professionally by the pet industry as well as, personally by my fabulous clients. Any recognition I have previously enjoyed pales in comparison to Lemon’s first groom.


What makes Lemon’s first groom so special?


Lemon’s owner is the daughter of one of my long-term clients who traveled over five hours so I could give Lemon his first groom. Alicia knew that Lemon needed regular grooming and wanted to make sure it was a pleasant first experience for him, as it could set the tone for the future.


When I arrived at her mother’s home, I asked that she and Lemon come join me in the grooming van. I want her to see what a grooming entails, as well as educate on owner responsibility, and correct any misinformation about his needs. We let Lemon explore a little bit while we chit chatted. This exploration gives Lemon an opportunity to become familiar with his environment. I have soothing music playing very softly in the background.


After a couple of minutes, I placed Lemon on the table and went over what to expect from this groom. During the explanation, I keep my hands on Lemon and pet him. I make sure she understands that I will go at his pace and it will not be a perfect groom. The expectation of the first groom is simply to familiarize Lemon with the process. Alicia’s one rule is she cannot stop the groom or become flustered. It sends the wrong message to the puppy. This is happy time, I don't want Lemon to make the connection that this is something to be scared about.


I demonstrate how to comb and brush, cut nails, and clean ears within the confines of his normal body range of motion. I suggested equipment, as well as the benefits of quality versus cheap products. Since I don’t sell equipment, I emailed her links to reputable online sources. We discussed what clip she envisioned on Lemon and suggested several grooming schedules that should work for her based on the amount of time she wanted to spend in between. 


Whenever Lemon became anxious, I stop and pet him while continuing talking to his owner. I offer owner approved treats, but Lemon isn’t interested.


So far, he is a champ.


Into the tub he goes. I am grateful for my Sav-Ur-Fur nozzle because I can put it on soaker rather than the spray setting for the recirculator. If I didn’t have one, his first bath would be by hand. His face, however, is washed by hand. Since she plans on bathing in between grooms, I go over eye care with her and suggest shampoos and conditioners.


After his bath, I put him back on the table and put a Happy Hoodie over his head. The Happy Hoodie will protect his ears, wick out water from his head, and act as a calming agent. I take the nozzle off my high velocity dryer and Lemon is fluffed dried.


It’s now time for the finish work.


Lemon is brushed out and combed. I let him sniff the clipper and run it over his body while it is OFF. I turn it on and start the clipper work. Lemon has just about had it for the day. A couple of passes with the clipper and he has had enough.  It is not a complete job. But we finished on a pleasant note.


Once we were done, he eagerly took treats from me. If Lemon had continued as my client, I would have worked with him to accept to the clipper.


It sounds like I have spent hours on Lemon hasn’t it. His groom took one hour from start to finish. It is why I don’t discount puppy grooms. The time and gentleness allocated now will result in saved time and ease in the future.



Cars, Pets, and Heatstroke


A very preventable cause of death of pets is heatstroke.

It occurs when owners leave their pets in the car for “just a few minutes”.  “People mean well by taking their pet along with them while they work, visit, shop or run errands. However, warm temperature can turn a car into a death trap, “said UAN President and CEO Nicole Forsyth.

It is for this reason that United Animal Nations (UAN) operates an educational website. It is a valuable resource to spread the word on the dangers of leaving pets in cars.

The site features include: 

  1. “It’s Hot” fliers to leave on car windshields.
  2. A weather forecasting tool. This allows people to enter their zip code and find out if it’s too hot to take your pet in the car.
  3. Free downloadable “Hot Weather Warning” posters to hang in store fronts.

San Francisco State University, Louisiana Medical Society, Stanford University and the Animal Protection Institute have all done separate studies and reached the same conclusion. It doesn’t matter if the windows are open. It doesn’t matter what the color of the car is. It doesn’t matter if you park in the shade. In temperatures as low as 72 degrees, the inside temperature of the car will rise 19 degrees in 10 minutes. In 20 minutes it will rise 29 degrees and so on. In as little as 15 minutes, the car can become deadly. Temperature Chart.

What are the principals behind vehicle warming?

The atmosphere and the windows of the car are transparent to the suns’ shortwave radiation. This is why it doesn’t matter if the windows are opened or closed. This shortwave radiation heats solid objects such as the dashboard and seats. These objects heat the adjacent air by conduction and convection. The objects give off longwave radiation which warms the trapped air in the vehicle.

Leaving the air conditioner on while your pets are waiting for you is not a good idea either.  For one, it is a mechanical device and mechanical devices are subject to breakdown. Instead of cooling the vehicle, it may warm it instead. Secondly, in your pets’ excitement, they may be all over your car. They could inadvertently turn it off.

Heatstroke begins when your pets’ body temperature surpasses 104 degrees.

This happens when the temperature in their environment (car) becomes higher than their body temperature with little or no air circulation (car), high humidity (heavy panting) and close quarters (car). Signs include lethargy, heavy breathing and panting, bright red gums and tongue, vomiting and diarrhea.

Heatstroke can cause shock, respiratory distress, kidney failure, heart abnormalities among other complications. Damage can become irreversible once their body temperature reaches 106 degrees. Death follows.

What can be done if heatstroke occurs?

  1. Remove the pet from the hot environment!
  2. Turn on the A/C if possible.
  3. Lower the body temperature by wetting with cool water.
  4. Do not use cold water or ice water. It is counterproductive. It will shock the system and cause a thermal barrier. The pet will be unable to cool itself.
  5. Contact a veterinarian for instructions.
  6. Transport to veterinarian as soon as possible.


If you seen a pet in a vehicle exhibiting signs of heatstroke, call local animal control, police, or 911. In addition, ask the management of the nearby businesses to make an announcement.


Every year every animal control officer has the same story to tell. One they are tired of telling. Please leave your pets home if you have to leave them in the car.

Spring Safety Tips 2014


After this past winter, I am very excited to present SPRING SAFETY TIPS!!! 




Poisonous snakebites are extremely painful. Keep a muzzle handy. The bite may not be immediately noticeable due to hair coverage. Signs include redness and swelling at the site, nervousness, weakness, disorientation, excessive salivating, vomiting, respiratory distress, and seizures. In the case of respiratory distress, remove the muzzle. Since the symptoms of snakebite and anaphylactic shock are so similar, check for possible wound sites. Pay particular attention to areas where they are licking. When we become overwrought our bodies give off specific pheromones. Your pets, in turn, becomes more excited and stressed. As their heart beats faster, the poison works that much quicker. Remaining calm helps. Remove all collars and clothing (from your pet, not you!) as body swelling may occur. Call you veterinarian FIRST and then transport ASAP.


There are two ways to treat a poisonous snakebite. The first is with anti-venin. Many vets do not stock this as it is very expensive and has an expiration date. The second is to treat it as an allergic reaction with antibiotics, steroids, fluid replacement, and pain relief. The sooner it is treated, the better the chance of recovery. If you live in an area with poisonous snakes, keep a constricting band in you pet first aid kit. Additionally, discussing options with your vet before snakebite is a good idea.


Treat nonpoisonous snakebites as wounds. Inform your vet, as they may want to prescribe a round of antibiotics.


A poisonous snakebite has two clear fang marks. A nonpoisonous snakebite has two semicircles of teeth marks. 




Though coyotes hunt mainly from dusk to dawn, females will hunt during the day to feed hungry pups. Do not think your 90lb. golden is safe. They hunt in packs and are highly intelligent, aggressive, and fast. Leash walk your pet and keep cats indoor during peak hunting times. I walk my dogs with an air horn. Most hardware stores carry them and are small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. The loud noise tends to scare them off if they are not rabid.




Bats, raccoons, skunks, and other animals are out in full force. If bitten, your pet will need veterinarian treatment as well as receive a rabies booster. If your pet is not current, they will be quarantined. You can rinse wounds with a surgical scrub. You can find it in the first aid supplies aisle of most stores.




You have a short window to de-skunk your pet. Their spray is oil based. The longer you wait, the more is absorbed into your pet’s skin. Have your de-skunking ready. My kit contains a plastic bucket, scrubber, small box of baking soda, small bottle of hydrogen peroxide, eyewash, and a small bottle of pet degreasing shampoo. It works better on a dry coat. I rinse the eyes both before and after the bath. Combine the rest of the ingredients with warm water, scrub and rinse will. Throw away any cloth collars, as they are not salvageable.




Insect, bee and spider bites can cause your pet to go into anaphylactic shock. This is life threatening. Do not use tweezers to remove bee stingers, as this will squeeze more venom into your pet’s body. Use a credit card instead. Place the card under the stinger to lift it up and then flick it out.


Symptoms include pain, redness and swelling at site, unconsciousness, seizures, excessive salivation, vomiting, and respiratory distress. This is very similar to snakebite. Keeping calm helps your pet to stay calm. It is a good idea to investigate whenever your pet is licking at an area, as it may be the first sign of a bite. Your pet first aid kit should contain an antihistamine dosed for your pet by your veterinarian. If you suspect anaphylactic shock, contact your veterinarian for instructions prior to your arrival at their office.




They spread disease and severe illnesses. Every year there seems to be another new tick borne disease. Use a preventative. I, personally, do not use topical spot on products. I feel that the cons far outweigh the pros. In it’s place I use essential oil based products. The biggest drawback is they need daily application. Aromapaws, Aromadog, and Pet Naturals of Vermont make repellants I have used with success. 




Know which plants, bulbs, and shrubs are hazardous to your pets. The ASPCA’s website;, has a comprehensive list of poisonous plantings. Many commercially prepared types of mulch are treated with chemicals that are toxic and cocoa mulches contain cocoa, AKA chocolate. Store fertilizers and pesticides in their original containers and away from your pets. Keep pets away from treated areas, as they will absorb toxins through the skin or pads. In addition, they may lick their paws and ingest the poison.




Poison Controls number is 888-426-4435 and their website is Pet Poison Helplines number is 1-800-213-6680 and their website is This is not a free service, but will be the best money ever spent as minutes matter in poisonings. Both hotlines are staffed with pharmacology-trained veterinarians. What are free are the refrigerator magnets from their websites and Pet Poison Helpline has an app for the smart phones.  


Frontline is fatal for rabbits. As with any product, use it in its intended manner. The label must indicate it is safe for your pet.


Keep holiday candy out of reach. Chocolate contains Theobromine. It affects the heart and circulatory systems. Even small amounts are dangerous. Pets cannot process Theobromine and it builds up in their bodies. Sugar free candies contain xylitol. It is fatal. Wrappers can cause intestinal obstructions and know where you hide the Easter Eggs. You don’t want your pet to eat a rotten one.




Spring storms bring thunder and lightning. It can be fearful for some pets causing them to run off. Make sure your pet is well identified. A well-identified pet has a better chance of returning home. Thundershirts,; is a snug fitting jacket that helps alleviate anxiety during storms. Herbal remedies, from Bach’s and Alaskan Essences; may offer some relief.


We are transitioning from cold to heat related injuries. A pet can suffer a heatstroke in a parked car when the temperature exceeds 78 degrees in as little as 15 minutes. A pet suffering from heatstroke needs immediate attention. Cool them off gradually with lukewarm water. DO NOT USE COLD WATER OR ICE, as it will create a thermal barrier. This thermal barrier will hinder your pets’ ability to cool down. Call your veterinarian ASAP for instructions.




As nicer weather comes our way, thoughts of dog parks, hiking and other travel destinations come to mind. Are you prepared to travel with your pet? A good resource guide is Let’s Go Fido by yours truly. Visit my website at for details on how to order this invaluable guide.




Do you know where your after hours emergency pet hospital is? Is their phone number handy? Calling them before you leave gives them time to prepare for your arrival as well as give you any life saving instructions. Make a practice run, so you will know exactly where they are. It is not a good idea to try to locate them in a state of panic.


Is your pet first aid kit and hiking kit stocked with what you need? Here is a link to my article at Groomer To Groomer magazine detailing my personal pet first aid kits.

Antifreeze leaks can happen any time of the year. They clean up easily with soap and water. Antifreeze is fatal.


Trust me, Its here, so take a few minutes to Spring-proof your pets’ life. They will thank you for it.

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 [email protected]. 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.

Winter Safety Tips 2013

We have two new puppies! This will be their first winter with us. Probably the only reason I am looking forward to it. I want to keep them safe, while they are having fun.

Car Safety

Watch for antifreeze leaks. Its sweet taste attracts dogs and cats, very poisonous, and the bright green color is a DEAD giveaway. It cleans up easily with soap and water.

Outdoor cats looking for warmth frequently sleep on car engines. Banging loudly on the hood before starting your engine should rouse them.

Leaving your pet in your car while you shop at the mall is like leaving them in a refrigerator. The car retains the cold and your pet could suffer from hypothermia. A great way to gauge the interior temperature of your vehicle is with a Too Hot For Spotã window cling. It is a thermometer that tells you if it is too hot OR too cold for your pet. You can source them at On the flip side, you do not want to leave them in the car with the engine idling. A couple of years back,  a Long Island, NY man went into a Cool Beans for a cup of coffee and left his car running. His dog knocked the gearshift into drive and proceeded to go for a ride. He ended up IN the business next door. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

The Great Outdoors

Animals that spend a lot of time outside need more food. In particular, a higher protein diet is required.

The very young and the very old have little tolerance for the cold weather. Provide them with outerwear for both body and feet.

According to the ASPCA, more dogs are lost during snowstorms than at any other time. They can lose their scent, become disoriented and lost. Remember, a well-identified dog has a greater chance of returning home.

Use pet safe ice melt. When that is not possible, or you are unsure of what is being used; wash their feet BEFORE they get a chance to lick them.


Insects will be coming into our homes for the winter. Watch for spider and insect bites and familiarize yourself with the signs of anaphylactic shock. Insect traps are baited with something tasty, so keep them out of your pet's reach.

The Holiday Season is in full swing.


The most common holiday plant is the poinsettia. It is toxic. Keep it out of reach of your pets. Both Pet Poison Helpline ( and the ASPCA ( has a database of toxic plants and phone apps.

Chewing on electrical cords can cause cardiac arrest. Tripping on electrical cords can cause broken body parts and sudden blunt force trauma. (OK, maybe more of an issue for me.) Dogs chasing after something have been known to be dragging a Christmas tree behind them after a cord was snagged on a paw.

Glass ornaments pose a problem for those pets that confuse them with tennis balls.

Garland and tinsel is a particular problem for cats. Remember; never pull it out of your cat, as there may be an ornament hook at the other end.

Pine water is poisonous to pets. Fertilizers and pesticides will leach out into the water bowl.

Holiday Food and Drinks

Alcoholic beverages can cause intoxication, coma and death.

Coffee, tea and other caffeine products contain theobromine. It is toxic and affects the cardio and nervous systems.

Ham, fat trimmings and turkey skin can cause pancreatitis.

Cooked bones can cause intestinal obstruction and lacerations of the digestive system.


Stuffings may contain sage, onions, mushrooms and raisins.

Too many sweets can cause obesity and diabetes. Artificial sugars cause a fatal drop in blood sugar, especially xylitol.

Holiday snack trays may contain macadamia nuts and grapes.

Chocolate contains theobromine.

A list of the most common people foods that cause problems for pets is found at both Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA’s website.

TIP: Broccoli can cause digestive upset and VERY gassy pets. You may want to keep that to a minimum unless you want your guests running for cover. Of course, if your guests have overstayed their welcome, then broccoli is the way to go.

You also want to provide your pets with a quiet place during the holiday parties. Even small gatherings can be stressful for them.

Cold Injuries

Cold injuries are caused by extreme or prolonged exposure to low temperatures. The most common areas affected are the tail, ears, paws and scrotum. A snout to tail assessment is always a good idea after coming in from the outdoors. Check for ice and salt in the pads and for any signs of frostbite or hypothermia.

The skin can become swollen, red and very painful. In later stages, it can become hard and pale. Additional signs of frostbite and hypothermia include shivering, slow or shallow breathing, lethargy, decreased heart rate and gums either pale or bluish in color.

If you suspect frostbite or hypothermia, you should first make sure the pet is out of the cold. DO NOT RUB THE AFFECTED AREA. The frozen ice crystals in the skin can lacerate the skin cells. Contact your vet for rewarming instructions. This is very important so that you can prevent further pain, stave off infection and minimize the possible tissue damage.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday season.