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December 2010

Grooming With Canine Disease In Our Salons

This guy needs grooming too; how would you care for him?


As we all know, our canine clients often come to us with pre-existing health concerns or issues that may at times need our attention.  Most all canine diseases in some way affect all aspects of a dog's life- from its physical condition to its mental state, and these can vary at any time.  Some pet dogs will exhibit a variety of symptoms that a diligent owner will inform us of in effort to make the pet's visit as enoyable and safe for both parties as possible. With others, we are on our own to understanding how a dog's condition changes its experience in the grooming salon, as well as being honest with the owner in the event that it changes the outcome of the groom itself. 

Each disease, in general terms, carries its own set of symptoms, yet these symptoms can also be shared with other diseases as well, so it is always important to remember not to try to diagnose the dog on our table, but to always keep an educated eye on the pets in our care, to keep open communication with your clients, and to remember that a pet with special needs is just that--they need us to do what we can to assure their safety, comfort, and betterment of care. 

In general, remember that pets diagnosed with medical conditions should always be cared for as quickly and carefully as possible in the salon. Make efforts to help them enjoy their stay, meet their needs of care as thoroughly and gently as you can.  Always keep their Veterinarian contacts on hand during their stay.  Be sure that your client discloses to you as much medical background as possible, and have them sign a medical release waiver or form at each visit. Having one form with multiple signature lines helps save time & paper for keeping current. 

Remember that as with any disease or illness, some visits may bring the pet in feeling better than during other visits. And remember that if a pet acts out, this may well be the only way that they can communicate that they are in some sort of pain.  Be gentle, be educated, and remember that they are someone's cherished pet.

Listed below are some of the more often seen canine illnesses and their related symptoms.  In addition to this, I have listed what areas to manage with care while grooming. 

**On a side note, remember that changes to a pet's coat and skin can be a side effect of hormonal changes, high fever, or anesthesia- so if you see a coat change aside from seasonal shedding, etc., always talk with your client.

Also, to have on hand, here is a wonderful website for reference:

Merista Vet Logo Merista Vet



Allergies can come from multiple causes, including being a symptom of an underlying disease, so it is always important to never try to diagnose but instead to avoid possibly causing any further reaction by the pet, and to provide relief if at all possible. 

What we should do:

use simple and hypo-allergenic products during the groom. 

avoid scents- like colognes- as needed

avoid treats as needed

avoid contact with kennel bedding & towels as needed

clean & sanitize your equipment thoroughtly before contact with an allergic pet (as always)

make the pets visit as brief as possible

use care when handling the pet's skin & coat and avoid excessive mechanical (scrubbing) cleaning of skin, ears, etc. if irritated.

 Arthritis & Joint Disease

-Can affect any area or areas of the pet, can be diagnosed at any age, and may show no outward symptoms.

-Can have multiple causes; varying from acute trauma, to congenital or developmental or metabolic or hormonal disease, but the most common outward symptoms are:  stiffness, limping, or favoring a limb - particularly after sleep or resting, inability to rise, a reluctance to jump or climb stairs, and noticeable pain including vocalizing, swelling or heat around a joint. 

What we should do:

Allow the pet a large enough kennel space to stretch out if needed

Make their visit as short as possible

Be sure their bath water is warm and not too cool

Be sure to handle the dryer, your grooming tools, and your use hands gently on affected areas

Use utmost care to not overextend or pull on any symptomatic areas; lift appendages slowly and minimally

Displasia, Luxating Patella, etc.

-Displasia is a disease affecting the hip and/or elbow bones & joints & connective tissue.  It is caused by abnormal joint structure and a laxity of the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments that would normally support the joint. As joint laxity develops, the articular surfaces of the two bones lose contact with each other and subluxation can occur.

-It can be symptomatic at any age, and is more predominate in certain breeds, later in life.

-It can be present with no obvious outward symptoms. Most often the outward symptom is a popping or clicking of associated joints, stiffness and lameness, and many of the same symptoms associated with arthritis. 

What we should do:

Handle the dog in much the same manner as you would for arthritis & joint disease. 

Be sure that if a joint does become dislocated, the groom is stopped and the pet is taken to the vet for care. 

Some dislocations can happen without our knowing, and some may even right themselves without manipulation. However, the pet could exhibit signs of injury hours or days later, so always alert your client if you suspect a problem, and work with care.

 Hearing & Vision Loss

-As with any loss of a sense, often the other senses will compensate with extra attunement. So, it is important to remember that for instance, a dog who cannot see well, will likely be more sensitive to loud noises and voice commands, scents & smells, etc.. Symptoms can associate themselves with the affected area- ie; vision loss can cause head shyness, staring and focusing on inatimate objects, reactiveness to their surroundings like snapping or ducking or cowering, etc. and hearing loss can cause similar symptoms.

What we should do:

Always take the lost sense into consideration when handling, moving or being in close proximity to an affected pet.

Remember that any outward trauma that caused the loss of sense, ie: chronic ear infections, cataracts, loss of an eye, etc. is likely to be physically sensitive to the pet, so handle those areas with extra care.

Mind slippery surfaces.

Use gentle touch, a gentle low voice and avoid extra noise in the salon if possible.

Make their visit as brief as possible.

If they are old,,maybe take the time to give them an extra cuddle or kind word--they feel it, and you will, too.

Dementia or canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome

-Dementia, or loss of cognitive function or response, is often associated with older age. Indeed it can also be a symptom of a neurological disease or stroke, so age may not always play a factor in its definition.  Remember that pets with dementia may also feel humiliated at their actions or responses, such as pottying uncontrollably, so be tender to their feelings as much as their symptoms.

Symptoms can include loss of bladder or bowel, barking or howling, loss of motor skills and coordination, forgetfulness, snapping at the air, biting uncontrollably, or any other off the wall, weird or abnormal behavior that goes along with not being in contact with reality at any given time.

That said--symptoms are widely ranging, and so should be your level of awareness.

What we should do:

Handle the pet carefully

Always be on alert to your proximity to the pet's teeth

Mind loud noises and engaging environmental changes in the salon

Use a gentle and low voice

Lyme Disease

When canine Lyme disease occurs it often does not begin to manifest for weeks to months after infection at which point arthritis signs are noticed. Sometimes there is a fever. In dogs, heart and neurologic issues are exceedingly rare. Often in larger dogs there will be excessive lethargy and stiffness.  These precautions for the salon should be considered with regard to the extent and phase of the disease, ie; if the pet has been diagnosed, is finished with their required initial medications, and is not running a fever.

What we should do:

Handle the pet carefully

Be mindful of joints and muscles as with arthritis pain

Make their stay as brief as possible

Look for areas where the pet has licked or chewed due to discomfort and be sure to remove any matted hair and notify the owner if there are any secondary sores, etc.

Alert the owner to any issues that you notice during grooming, such as swollen joints, fever, stiffness of appendages or neck & spine, etc.


-Hyperthyroidism is generally a disease in older cats, caused by a benign growth on the thyroid gland due to it producing too much T3 (an inactive form of triiodothyronine- or active thyroid hormone, which works normally to set the body's metabolic rate).

"Pre-existing kidney insufficiency can be masked in hyperthyroidism. This is because the heart disease and high blood pressure that goes with hyperthyroidism actually increases blood flow through the kidneys making the kidneys more efficient (virtually the only positive aspect of having hyperthyroidism)."- exerpt from MeristaVet,

so remember that increased urination or thirst may be evident at times.

-The most common symptom of hyperthyroidism is weight loss regardless of how much the pet eats.  During a salon visit, you may notice these symptoms:

     weight loss and muscle loss or wasting (shrinkage)

     bones being closer under the skin due to weight loss

     poor coat quality; including non-regular and excessive shedding; especially of the          undercoat

     increased thirst & drinking or frequent urination


-Hypothyroidism is the condition where one has inadequate active thyroid hormone. It is also the most common hormone imbalance of the dog.

The most common symptoms of this disease are increased weight and inactivity.

What we should do for either condition:

Allow a potty time during the pet's stay

Allow access to drinking water during the pet's stay

Be careful picking up the pet under the belly as there is often distension and possibly an enlarged liver which could be uncomfortable

 Addison's Disease

Addison's disease is a deficiency of the corticosteroid hormones.  These hormones are what help dogs to cope with stress.  This disease is predisposed for some breeds such as Standard Poodles and Bearded Collies, and is more prevalent among females of those affected.

The symptoms of this disease can be vague but may culminate into an "Addisonian Crisis", by which, due to even small stressors, a dog can "collapse in shock due to its inability to adapt to the caloric and circulatory requirements in stress. Blood sugar may drop dangerously low. Potassium levels soar and disrupt the heart rhythm because there is not enough conserved sodium to exchange for potassium. Heart rate slows, arrhythmias result. The patient may not survive this episode".

-(courtesy of Merista Vet Library)

So, it is important to understand that if the grooming client is diagnosed with this disease, or is now, but develops these symptoms during the grooming process to take them very seriously, notify the owner and their vet as soon as possible.

What we should do:

Avoid stressors as much as possible such as loud dryers, barking dogs or hectic ould environmental surroundings

Possibly schedule these dogs during your more quiet or slow periods of the day

Groom quietly and progressively to have the pet in & out as quickly as possible

Brachycephalic, Collapsing Trachea, etc.

Many of the breeds of dogs that we groom have a short muzzle, facial folds, or "smooshed" face.  There are several structural similarities that these conditions share. Most occur due to the skull and facial respiratory structure of these short nosed breeds, but also can occur concerning the windpipe and lung capacity of these breeds. 

Brachycephalic literally means "short head".  These breeds of dogs are bred to have  normally formed lower jaw, and a compressed upper jaw. This cosmetic feature produces a smaller amount of space for physical formation of the dog's air intake and expulsion organs- the nasal passages, the mouth palette, the throat and the windpipe.  It also can affect the formation of the dog's tear ducts and ear canals as well as the brain case of the skull.  In short, keep in mind that these breeds are put together in a way that has shrunk the amount of space that holds many a very important part of what the dog needs to breath and cool itself.  Remember also that these breeds' lung capacity may be smaller as well- even if the breed is actually a larger dog.  In addition to these issues, these dogs may also be predisposed to having dental problems since they have less room for their teeth set.

A collapsing trachea is often associated with this physical attribute, but can also be evident on its own in dogs with a longer muzzle structure.


Since these breeds of dogs are innefficent panters, they cannot adequately cool themselves by panting, so adding heat to their grooming process, whether while drying or in the salon atmosphere in general should be monitored.

What we should do:

Do not kennel dry these breeds in a dryer where heat is produced

Do not dry these breeds in a manner where a large amount of air or air at a high velocity is forced against the face

Thoroughly clean & dry the facial folds

Be aware of eye, ear canal, or teeth issues and alert any of these concerns to the pet parent

Be careful holding or squeezing the muzzle of any dog that has excessive teeth issues as they may be tender, swollen or even have an abcess that could rupture.  If you notice any swelling under the eyes, or around the gums of a dog, be sure to alert the pet's owner.

Use care when holding the muzzle of any dog as their nasal cavities run across the side of their nose, and can inadvertently be pressed shut when the face is held. If your dog thrashes its head or begins to cough while having its face held, this could be the reason.

Use your grooming loop across the chest and under one front arm instead of directly around the neck of a dog that "reverse sneezes", coughs, pants excessively, is wheezy or exhibits any breathing changes during their visit.

If the dog shows excessive signs of stress, either end, or give a break to the grooming process, and possibly have the pet owner present for the grooming in case of any issues.

Cushings Disease

Cushings Disease is caused "by the body's exposure to cortisol or related hormones over a period of time.  “Cortisol,” is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands which are located atop the kidneys. Cortisol is stored in the adrenal gland and is released in times of stress where it helps our bodies prepare for a “fight or flight” situation. It adjusts the metabolism to expect physical exertion by mobilizing fat and sugar stores and retaining sodium and water. It puts us in a state of “break down” so that our stored resources can be used quickly. If the body is exposed to this hormone most of the time, however, instead of during short stressful periods only, the state of break down becomes debilitating".

-(courtesy of Verista Vet)

Symptoms of Cushings Disease (are often associated with the aging process of a dog):

Excessive drinking, potbellied appearance, excessive hunger, muscles weakness, hair loss and possible subsequent skin disease- such as acne and darkening of the exposed skin, dermatitis, post clipping alopecia, poor healing ability, skin dryness, calcium deposits within  the skin (hard light colored lumps), secondary skin lesions/infection due to scratching.

What we should do:

Allow the pet adequate water as needed

Make their stay brief

Be aware that their muscles may be weak for standing long period of time or for leg lifting, etc.

Be careful handling or lifting the dog if their belly is distended

Address any skin issues that the dog may exhibit such as dryness, sores/lesions, acne or missing hair with supportive handling and products to help their condition. Groom them as best you can! 

For acne and alopecia, a follicular flushing shampoo or a detoxifying masque will help clean up the skin and hair follicles.


Thank you to Merista Vet for their wonderful site!


Depending on the cause and the area affected with Cancer, remember these concerns:

Cancer affects every part fo the dog's body regardless of what area it is associated with

Cancer can cause intense amounts of pain that the dog may not outwardly exhibit, but may cause it to react suddenly to if hurt.

Cancer causes all the systems of a dog to function differently and that can include their mental state, so always handle these dogs with tender care and compassion.

Do your best to work with the owner to provide supportive grooming care for the pet as long as their visit is not stressful and is comfortable for their current life stage.

Make them comfortable and clean, and remember that some parts of their grooming may need to be discontinued if necessary- and that is alright. Their condition is most important.

Advanced Heart Murmur

Heart murmurs can be caused by multiple congential or developmental issues. What it is caused by is the "left ventricular outflow tract just below the aortic valve has a scar-like narrowing or “stenosis“ (which is another word for “narrowing.” This means that the left ventricle must pump extra hard to get the correct blood volume through the narrowed area. The blood squirts through in a turbulent fashion which creates a sound known as a “heart murmur.”

-(courtesy of Merista Vet)

What we should do:

Allow the pet rest periods during their groom if they are panting or seem stressed

Avoid excessive stressors for the pet

If the pet seems lethargic or listless, or unresponsive as normally they should be, call their owner and alert their vet immediately.

Hypoglycemia & Toy Breed Hypoglycemia: 

Read more on its causes and symptoms here:

What we should do:

Be aware of any shaking, weakenss or listlesness. Convulsions and seizures should be taken seriously.  End the grooming process if these symptoms occur.  You may attempt to feed a treat or kibble but be careful of putting hands near the mouth, or objects into the mouth in the event of a seizure, and call the pet owner immediately.


Remember that seizures are to be taken seriously.  They can be caused due to outside stimuli such as light, dark, noise or heat/cold. They can be a symptoms of a multitude of health conditions as well.  They can be precursored by listlessness, aggressiveness, nose bleeds, shaking, panting, urinating or defecating, etc.

Use your discretion as to when to end the grooming visit when a seizure has occured. But know that a seizure often leaves a dog exhausted, muscularly sore, disassociated, disoriented, and can cause later loss of bladder & bowel.  In most cases, the grooming should be stopped, the pet layed on the floor, talked soothingly to, and pet firmly- with good pressure to help them concentrate on this interaction, to help them regain their consciousness to their suroundings.  Keep all things away from their mouths and help support their heads and limbs if thrashing.


Read more on Diabetes at length here:

What we should do:

Avoid treats

Be aware for wobblyiness or listlessness and in this event, contact the pet owner


End the grooming visit until the pet is stabilized.

Hemophilia or von Willebrand's disease:

This disease causes the pet's blood to not clot properly. Simply put, even the smallest cut might cause severe blood loss or hemorraging.

What we should do:

Try not to cut the pet!

If we do cut the pet: apply pressure, elevate the injured area above the heart, and call the pet's Vet and owner immediately. 

Pets having previously ingested poison such as antifreeze or rodent poison and are living with associative symptoms:

Remember that these poisons affect both the dog's organ and system function, as well as their mental/cognitive funtion and response. 

What we should do:

Be aware of possible skin tenderness (rodent poison attacks the circulatory system of a dog and can cause irreversible clotting and circulatory problems including tender skin, hair loss, bruising and ruptured capillaries)

Be aware of and openly ask questions of the owner as to differences they notice at home and take those symptoms into consideration when grooming- such as: weakness, vision loss, loss of equilibrium, excessive thirst, changes in breathing/lung capacity ability, etc.


Always be aware of the whole dog on your table. Never be afraid to address any issues or concerns that you witness or have.  Educate yourself to these and other canine and feline health concerns. Openly communicate with your pet owners and their vets and you will find you have a greater confidence while grooming, and a more comfortable response mechanism in time of need. 

Remember that we as groomers and pet stylists are an integral part of a pet's overall health and life quality.  Being proactive and skilled in your ability will only be an asset to your business longevity and reputation.

Happy Grooming!


























Credit to for some of the medical explanatives of these diseases.

Cinnamon for Dogs & Humans

Permission to crosspost:

An Essential Spice for Dogs and Humans to Share

From Dogster columnist Julia Szabo

Of all the items in my pantry, the one I never want to run out of is cinnamon. My dogs and I enjoy this amazing, deliciously fragrant spice every single day of the year. The dogs get cinnamon sprinkled over their food at every meal; I like it in and on everything from yogurt, lemonade, and chai tea to vegetable curry, baked apples, and rice pudding.GCR36p

Not only does cinnamon smell and taste great, it has many health benefits, as we’ll see below.

But first, what is it and where does it come from? Cinnamon is a small tree that grows in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam, and Egypt; its bark is dried and rolled into cinnamon sticks (also called quills), then ground into powder.

There are four varieties, but Ceylon cinnamon (its Latin name is Cinnamomum verum) and Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) are the most popular; Ceylon, also called true cinnamon, is sweeter, lighter in color, and more expensive than Cassia, which is the darker type of cinnamon more commonly found in supermarkets and Starbucks. Whichever variety you choose, it’s definitely worth it to spend a bit more on organic cinnamon, which tends to be even more wonderfully fragrant than its non-organic counterpart.  

Traditionally, cinammon has been used around the world to remedy flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, and painful menstrual periods. It’s also believed to boost energy, vitality, circulation, cognitive function and overall brain health, and to improve the digestion of dairy products.  

In one study, sniffing cinnamon was shown to result in improved brain function – test subjects performed better at memory and attention after a whiff of this spectacular spice. So if you’re working with your dog on learning new tricks, definitely offer him or her a sniff of cinnamon before you begin your training session!

Recent studies have shown that just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day helps to regulate blood sugar and raise insulin resistance; it actually boosts the body’s ability to use insulin to improve blood glucose levels. This is vital for anyone at risk for Diabetes – and that includes senior and overweight dogs. So in addition to feeding a low glycemic index dog food, top his kibble bowl off with cinnamon! Other studies reveal that cinnamon is antifungal; it works to combat Candida albicans, the fungus that causes yeast infections. These infections are often resistant to medication, but not to cinnamon. (Dogs who suffer from allergies are often prone to yeast infections).

Cinnamon is also antibacterial, and slows down the spoilage of food. When I have to store part of a can of dog food overnight, I’ll sprinkle half a teaspoon of cinnamon over it before refrigerating (on a side note, never refrigerate dog food in the can – to preserve palatability, spoon it into a glass storage container with a plastic top). Researchers at Kansas State University found that cinnamon even prevents the growth of E. Coli  bacteria in unpasteurized juices! So for safety’s sake, be sure to add some cinnamon to your raw apple cider.   

CinnamonAn anti-inflammatory, cinnamon is great for senior dogs struggling with arthritis. With my K9 seniors, I’ve had great results mixing a half-teaspoon of cinnamon with a tablespoon of honey. This is the recipe used by researchers at Copenhagen University, where arthritis patients were able to walk without pain after just a week of taking cinnamon with honey every day. Yet more studies show that cinnamon can lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, and slow the growth of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.

Here’s a caveat: Cassia cinnamon (the darker, more common type) contains a compound called coumarin, which can damage the liver at high levels. One more reason to use Ceylon cinnamon instead! But Cassia cinnamon is safe as long as you don’t overdo it; a teaspoon or so every day with food will still be beneficial in all the ways described above, but won’t give you or your dog nearly as high a dose as the higher concentration found in, say, a cinnamon supplement capsule (which would contain a substantially higher amount of coumarin).

Also, cinnamon has a mild anti-clotting effect on the blood, so too much can cause bleeding problems if a person is on blood-thinning medication such as aspirin. And pregnant women (or dogs) should not take too much cinnamon, as it may have a stimulating effect on the uterus.

But in small amounts – half a teaspoon at every meal – cinnamon obviously does a lot more good than harm. Enjoy!