Building Client Relationships

The Society of Holistic Pet Stylists

A long time ago I began to feel that I was different.

Be nice! LOL

But seriously, I have always been a little different in my thinking, my outlook on most things, and especially I felt different in that I could never force myself to stay at a job for very long if I wasn't happy doing it. I struggled with leaving things at the door, with doing tasks that I felt didn't have lasting result, with feeling lost in a sea of faces, and most of all with just taking my paycheck and writing the rest off.

But luckily, I eventually found grooming.

Gratefully, I have been able to do a job that I love, and for that it rarely feels like work.

When I began grooming, I noticed right away that everyone worked just a bit differently, and that was rooted deeply in their general personality traits.

I groomed over the years with many, MANY different types of people, but I learned most of all about MYSELF.

I learned what I liked, what I couldn't tolerate, my strengths and weaknesses, to challenge myself to always think outside the box, and to never fear trying something different. I learned more about myself from the dogs I groomed each day than any other aspect of my grooming experiences. How I groomed began to define a very large part of who I was as a person. And to this day, it still does.

It is in honor of the time I've spent just pondering and watching the pets I groom, of the previously unimaginable awe of a pet's unconditional love I have come to know, and of all the wonders an animal can bring to your life, that I still find myself so passionate and overflowing with joy that I find in grooming.

In honor of the lessons I have learned, of how "different" I am so happy to be, that I have worked so hard to try to encourage other groomers and animal lovers to NEVER ignore that little voice inside themselves, and to ALWAYS follow your curiousities... that I have worked to form a new and wonderful association for groomers that may have also always felt "a little different".

Of these honors, I am very grateful and happy to announce,

The Society Of Holistic Pet Stylists.


Our new society promises to be like nothing our industry has ever seen, a breath of fresh air, and a place for all stylists to come together to learn and share and forever change our industry through doing great things.

Together with Mary Oquendo, Barbara Bird, Daryl Connor, Lori Gulling, Sue Palmer and Melissa Jepson, we are creating an entirely new learning format and an entirely new opportunity in skill sets for the grooming industry.

Please visit our website for more information, or contact me directly with your interest! or




Those Cuddly Fluffy Terriers!


As I wrote before, don't get bogged down in frustration or being overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do to get a groom to look its best. Why not instead seize those opportunities and take what you know, and find a way to overcome? Remaining proactive will get you much more accomplished and help you realize that most usually, with a little creativity, anything is possible!

I wanted to share some information that can help stylists and groomers to better achieve great groom outcomes even with less than ideal upkeep or appointment rotations in the salon. Options for us to make our clients happy, and to keep our workload down while maintaining efficiency.

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So, right off the bat, let's tackle how to address one of the hardest types of coat to keep up in the salon atmosphere: the Terrier coat.

Anyone who spends any time grooming dogs knows that any one breed's standard dictates the trimstyle and coat upkeep needed on their breed to bring out its truest type. But, as a steadfast rule, genetics and breed lineage determine the quality of coat and the palette of attributes we as groomers have to work with to create the best possible groom. 

All of those things aside however, the final say is always left up to the wishes and the genuine ability of the pet's owner in terms of their at home upkeep and their devotion in priority, and financial ability of keeping a regular rotation of dedicated grooming visits. In no way can we as a groomer bridge that final gap that sometimes exists between what we know to be correct for the dog and its breed, versus the decisions and methods we have to mold our practices around for the client dog when factoring in the actual care the pet gets from its owner.

It is very important to take proper care of terrier skin and coat in order to keep texture, layers and color visible year round. We all know that if terriers are not kept up depending on their genetic coat growth cycles, that you end up with a lackluster, overgrown, soft coat that is not indicative of a terrier at all. Therein lies the problem; you can't cheat on terrier coats. You can't cut actively growing hair off with a clipper, right along with the dead hair sitting within the same follicle. What happens when you do that, is that you back up the follicle with dead coat and this allows less & less new coat to come in. As less new, actively growing coat doesn't have room to come in, and the dead coat isn't removed from its place in the follicle, you inevitably end up with fluffy, soft, dull, dead coated terriers.

We also know that a lot of times your terrier owners in the pet salon cannot or will not commit to a two, three or four-week regular rotation you need in order to keep coats true. So what can we do his pet groomers that is both time effective and profitable in the grooming salon atmosphere as well as helps to maintain skin and coat on these breeds that grow & shed or "turn coat over" quickly, and keep clients happy?

We need to utilize the next best options as much as we can to get the most out of the coat growth phases while providing the methods of care such hair coat still needs to look its best. Those options come in the form of clearing out all of the dead hair coat, removing built up oils and dander from the skin, flushing out the hair follicles, and then using our hands and tools in a method that mimics the handstripping that these breeds require for upkeep. All the while, doing this within a time frame that keeps us efficient. And as a final measure towards a happy groomer AND a happy client, we need to PRICE our services properly to reflect the fat that we are playing a game of catch up at every visit. This is a skill greatly unrealize by many groomers.

Take it from me, until you decide to charge more for a difficult groom, nothing will make you feel better about having a dog coming in that you know will be a mess. That is, unless you've added tools to your arsenal that help you groom easier, and seal the deal by charging more for your hard work.

Below is an Irish terrier who only comes in every 8 to 10 weeks. Yes, 8-10 weeks. Believe me, you'll see what I'm saying when you see the before photo...

Genetically, I know this terrier needs a dedicated weekly stripping rotation on average to keep the undercoat down, and the harsh guard coat in all its fast shedding glory. This means that weekly, a person should be putting in about an hour or so of solid pulling of dead secondary coat and dead and dying guard coat to keep the skin debrided, and the coat colored, tight, and tailored true to its breed.
I have found that with a lot of salon clients that cannot keep up a tight grooming rotation schedule, or those that say they don't like their dogs short and tight coated or "naked", that these methods below are able to effectively bridge the gap between reality and being a groomer that delivers.

You and I know full well that if we don't give a client what they're asking for, they're just going to get it somewhere else. Obviously we need to educate and take the time to create a repoir with each client in the best interest of the dog that were grooming, but in the end if we don't give them what they want I'll just go elsewhere to get it. That doesn't help the dog and it doesn't help your sales revenue.

At times like that I groom the dog to the best of my ability and knowledge, and I keep a smile on my face the whole time I'm discussing with clients what is that they'd like to have their dog turn out like. Knowing full well that in the end I will do what I have to do to get them what they want as well as best caring for the dogs coat within my own a professional ability, but always without losing my profit margin.

Our first job as a groomer is always to remove dead and un-needed hair and dirt so that the healthy skin and coat can shine through. We are the housekeepers of coat.

To this effect, I always tackle every coat on my terriers with rakes, carding knives, a stone, a stiff bristle brush, and my hands, before even putting them into the tub. Working the coat with its natural oils present helps you to not irritate the skin by working it, and it helps you to be less likely to accidentally break coat when doing your initial raking and carding if you're working with very long tangled coat, or still mastering your terrier skills.

After working thoroughly through the coat in these stages below, the dog goes into the bath and receives a good benzoyl peroxide to or other follicular flushing shampoo. I do not use clarifying shampoo is in the salon on these coats as they are most usually overdrying and will put the skin into overdrive to create an abundance of oils in order to rehydrate. This can cause excesive oiliness at their next visit. I do not use terrier or texturizing shampoos which deposit a sealant on the coat that increases texture. Texturizing shampoos left on the coat for any length of time will most definitely cause breakage. As well I do not apply heavy cream conditioners on most any of my terriers with exception sometimes to long furnishings. Instead I opt for a light spray on conditioner put onto the coat as a final step just to add light moisture but nothing that will attract dirt.

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This is our terrier; in all her fluffy glory- ready for her initial coat removal before her bath.

First I use my coat rakes to rake through the coat in multiple steps. I begin with my coarse rake going over the entire dog to pull out the last layer of dead, long hair- working in layers- including the furnishings; but working carefully on the legs with any coat removal tool that has sharp tines. Next I move to my fine rake and repeat the thorough going over of the dog from the neck all along the jacket area. I do not fine rake the leg furnishings or the chest or side coat of any terrier as that would be asking for breakage.

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After that I move to my carding knives. I start with my coarse carding knife and then move to my fine carding knife, working in each step completely through the coat of the dog with exception to the head and leg furnishings.

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I work with a flat knife, or laying the knife flat gainst the skin at all times. I never turn my wrist or fingers as that will stand the knive on its teeth and most usually abrade the skin and/or break coat.

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This cycle always results in another pile of dead coat.

Finally, I work through the entire coat- including the furnishings and beard- with a final brushing with either a stiff bristle brush or palm pad, or a very soft flexible style slicker such as Les Poochs or my newest favorite tool- the ActiVet brush pictured below and available from Groomer's Helper.

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This final cycle of fine brushing pulls a little more oils up & out of the skin and gets the last it of hair ready to exit the coat.

Lastly, I do my handstripping work to pull out coat that needs a little direct attention to get out.
The head and leg furnishings I also always pull my hand, because you'll find with breakage of finer hairs that these areas and that since these hairs grow and then shed the fastest, that they also lose their texture and color the fastest, as well as flatwork areas of coat (areas where the hair naturally grows in shorter & must be kept tighter such as the head, cheeks, throat and butterfly or inner thigh areas).

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After a complete cycle of raking followed by a complete cycle of carding knives, I go through the jacket coat and roll it loosely between my fingers pulling out only the longest and most ready to shed hairs within the coat. You can use powder for this step, but it is not necessary.

After the jacket pull, I quickly pull the head & beard hair down as needed by hand including as much of the ear hair as they will allow. It is important regardless of whether or not you're leaving more coat on your pet terrier than what he should by breed standard have, to at least nail the head profile on these dogs so that they still look like a terrier in the end.

After all of the dead coat is removed, we have a dog that's pulled pretty well down.

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Next its into the tub, and a then a thorough HV drying with the growth of coat to set the lay of coat. Setting the lay of coat with your dryer will help create a tighter profile in the end. You cannot allow a dog to kennel dry in order to help *marcelle* or keep natural wave to the coat, but I have found that with these pet dogs actively drying the coat helps to remove every bit of dead hair and is incremental as a part to keeping the coats free of dead coat for a longer grooming rotation.

After the HV drying, I work through the coat again in the same stages repeated over the entire dog, which goes much faster as most all of the hair is already out.  

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From there I do the clippering portion of the groom to tighten everything up. I use a skip tooth blade of my desired length depending on what the owner has asked for. With this dog I chose a #4S (Skip) tooth blade. With this blade I skim loosely over the coat to tighten everything and make sure that there are no moth-eaten (uneveness caused by areas of blown coat) areas in the coat to the best of my ability. After the clipper work on the jacket and neck area of the dog, and doing the sani areas and feet tight with my clipper.

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Terriers are diggers and tight feet will always help with mess!

From there, I tidy up and finish the headpiece on the dog and hand pull anything needed on the leg furnishings and the tail in the sensitive areas. I also will flat re-clipper the throat latch mark outs and the butterfly area on the back of the dog as well as the inner ear of the dog nice and tight and the flu needs to be cleaned up as well.

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If a client says that they want their dog "fluffy",  and some do- I will help reintroduce some curl to the coat as a final step. To do this, I apply a light leave in or terrier coat conditioning spray and lightly dampen the jacket & neck coat with a spritz of distilled water. Then I softly squeeze the coat throughout the length of the dog. This is a technique known as marcelling for breeds like Kerryblue Terriers. It's purpose for pet grooming is to reintroduce the soft curls and a separation to the coat that the owners find appealing to keeping them curly and soft looking. (And yes, some terrier people want a fluffy cuddly looking dog just as much as some Poodle owners are adamant of not having a "poodly-looking" Poodle). From there they go into the crate to finish under a low setting fan to get them completely dry or to air dry depending on their length of visit.

This is the end result, and another reminder photo of what we started out with!

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Here are several other terriers who also get the same method of care!

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Until You've Walked a Mile In Their Shoes...

You see it time & time again. In posts and threads online, in group meeting discussions and amongst friends in the same line of work....groomers complaining about how poorly their clients care for their pets. Groomers not being able to let go of the frustration and anger towards clients over how little they care or know about grooming, how little respect they feel they get, or how little money they make to deal with the level of issues they see walk into their businesses. Groomers having to vent negativity on a regular basis. Bubbling over with anxiety and stress until it spills out on those around them.


Few people will be brave enough to pop in as a voice of reason and remind people that they are the one who dictates their pay rate as well as their own level of enjoyment in their work, no one else.

When I see or hear this stuff, I'm usually one of the first to state my personal opinion and then quickly and quietly exit stage left....

Recently there have been multiple "reminder posts" from long time groomers that had been there, done that, asking disgruntled and stressed out groomers to take charge of their own destiny and take that energy and put it into more proactive efforts.

I couldn't agree more..

I've got to tell you, I'm personally thankful this level of angst is a minority.

And both in person and online, with all of the trade shows and classes, or groups and chat rooms sitting there at your disposal, it is easy to notice that it seems that certain groomers often go through these levels of contempt or frustration in what comes to be to the quiet onlooker as definite cycles...

Imagine that....


It should be mentioned that with the 5 minutes of fame you get from being the "flavor of the day" online, or getting cheers from fellow naysayers, its really self defeating to your own work, and to the work of others in the industry you call home, to participate in melodrama or endless ranting. Instead, in the best interest of your own emotional well being, those standing on the outside of the mob invite you to eagerly run away at full throttle from any negative venting that is laden with nastiness.

Remember, people who are always intolerant or gossipy, will eventually bestow their gifts upon you.

But I digress...

I'm quite sure that every industry deals with it share of Negative Nellies, but perhaps because groomers are truly a passionate and creative bunch, or because since we are unregulated, social and news media coverage of bad situations are allowed to get out of hand pretty quickly with little recourse, we are especially hard hit by those who behave badly or with bad poor forethought. 

 I wanted to write this blog to discuss these peronality types and to shed some light on the thought process (or lack thereof) behind being reacitve and negative towards clients. My purpose is not at all to shame or ostrecize, not to bring poor behavior into the limelight, nor to emphasis a negative (but small) aspect of the people who work each day to comprise our industry.

Instead I'd hoped to maybe offer a different viewpoint to those who may just have their toes hanging over the edge of "going to the dark side" and struggling with not getting caught in the undertow of frustration. And especially to help our new groomers- who are just now learning the ropes of their profession- to understand that negativity and dishonesty is not the norm, and it is not well received by industry peers who seek to bring our work to a higher level or respect and consideration from pet owners and governing bodies.

Those of us who have been grooming for a very long time, have had successful businesses, and who speak and write to fans and peers who come to us for knowledgeable advice, have groomed in our salons most happily for many years. We have learned through personal experience that you must find the joy in what you do in order to do it for the right reasons. We have created a lengthy list of faithful and respectful clients by cultivating mutual tolerance, respect and appreciation. And we have been the designers of both a profitable and fulfilling career. 

If you are one of those groomers who finds yourself often upset through the day, your grooming day drawing to a close with yet another sequence of frustrating events, I would ask you to take an honest look at how you felt when you came in to work. Because unless some truly altering event happens, it is surely still the way you'll feel when you finish work, if not worse.

Some honest questions for the consistantly frustrated stressed out and angry groomer:

Why was it again that you got into this line of work?

Because you love animals?

Do you realize that its the animals that lose out when you allow your emotions to get the best of you?

You do realize that part of our job description requires that we fully realize that we do not own all of our the pets that come to see us? That part of our job in all fairness should be fixing mistakes and kindly educating and having patience with other humans just as much as that dog on the table in front of you?

And you do realize, don't you, that our entire industry loses out every time another animal loving and compassionate groomer closes their doors out of not learning to better work alongside their pet clients' human counterparts?

And you do realize that forever in the balance between being truly right, or being truly wrong, there are hundreds of gradiations of compromise and simple differences in opinion...?

So, you as a person in this world, do you want to be part of the problem, or part of the solution?

Do you want to put out good things and feel at peace with your efforts each day, or do you want to allow yourself to fold on all of the differences you can help cultivate- effects that could ripple out and possibly change many more events than you can't currently foresee?

It is important every day to stop to realize how vast each small corner of our world actually is. And even that with all it is comprised of, it is still infinitely small when compared to the realization that each and every person has their own tiny place to fill, their own set of responsibilities, their own version of reality, and their own goodness to bring to this big world. And all of these things have to come into unison just to get then to walk through your salon door.

So what will you do to get them to keep coming back?

At times we walk a tightrope between skirting our best judgement and giving our paying customers what they want and are still able to pay for. Some say never compromise, but after all of these yers grooming, I have learned full well that cutting off your nose to spite your own face, can come at the expense of your business. Sure, we all want what's best for us because we're the ones doing the work, and should never put ourselves or our clients in harm's way. But over many issues we can take with any number of opportunitues in the given grooming day, we have to set our emotions aside and ask, "Is it really worth it"? Is it worth it to possibly ruin a client relationship over? Is it worth it to tarnish the level of respect and appreciation you work so hard every day to both earn and to deserve? Is it worth it to remove the opportunity to truly help the pet that sees you for the care they need to feel better? Who really gets let down in that equation? No one's ego, that's for sure. Furthermore, it can weigh heavily on your self respect for you to look back on a confrontation with a client and wish you'd done things differently. By then, the lesson learned and the reflection you make with have settled too late. 

Is it safe to be completely unforgiving in a profession where at any given moment, it could be you who needs the forgiveness and understanding? 

It is important to never compromise our ability to the point where we do something not in the dog's best interest nor with their comfort and safety at the helm. But it is also important not to sweat the small stuff. Not to let yourself get frustrated by what you see walk into your business each day, and not to judge minor infringements on prioritizing pet care to the top of everyone's list. To remember that unless a pet is truly being caused pain, there really is no definite assertion of cruelty. And if they are being put in harms way, you'll do them far more good by being an advocate for them than a tyrant.

What we as professionals notice, whose job it is to note all of the aspects of grooming and general health, often mistake as common knowledge the things we see being missed or not cared for, are simply not always apparent to a pet' owner. Mats here & there, dirty ears, overgrown nails, a lump or bump- and the owner never even knew it was there?! HOW?! you say, does an owner not know these things?!   Well, because not everyone is alike. Not everyone cares for a pet the same way, to the same level or way that you personally do, and no one in turn can be held to any one person's standard of judgement when we each must live our own lives each day. We all prioritize differently, we all find different things to be a soure of joy or a source of difficulty. And on any given day, our lives can change. Changes that ripple out and can drastically cause but brief interruptions in our normal schedules, and in our normal activities, or can permanently change the course that we had planned for ourselves. It is unfair as professional pet care providers to pass judgement on our clients. Yes, there is always a right and a wrong way to do any one thing, but isn't the perception of what is right and what is wrong as invidividually decided as the individual who sets their perceptions? What we perceive as neglect, may simply be something someone overlooked.

Do not immeidately attribute to malevolence what could as easily to attributed to ignorance.

It is not realistic to assume that we all hum along on the same set of algorythms and are all on the same page when it comes to how we take in or give back forms of love and relationships like those we as animal lovers find necessary towards happiness.

I personally find brushing my dogs to be a moment of zen. Both of bonding with them, and with accomplishing a task at the same time of finding sweet release in a repetitive behavior that is second nature to me. But in reality, by the time I've groomed everyone elses' dogs, some days I barely have the energy to eat a decent meal before falling into bed.

On those days, my dogs go unbrushed...

*GASP and clutch the pearls!*

It's true, and if anyone said I was a bad pet owner for having unbrushed dogs, or taking a #7 to my Poodle, because after all, I am a GROOMER, they'd likely recieve a stern reminder of an alternate reality and a parallel universe very quickly. ;)    

 The saying goes; "Be the change you want to see in the world".

Well, are you?

In the following series of articles, I will be writing about methods and mindsets for the salon that will help us overcome the shortcomings of pet owner upkeep and the lofty dreams of styling outcomes versus what we can do short of a magic wand.

Things that we can do to best help our pet clients, and best help our level of sanity, and to remain profitable, all the while being proactive towards staying happy and feeling accomplishment.  


Please stay tuned for many more blogs!

Understanding the Double Coat

Below is a simple chart showing the growth stages of the canine double coat; one with a dense guard coat to undercoat ratio.

This is a handy chart to have on hand when relating to clients the importance of keeping up their double coated breed. It diagrams how a coat works either for or against the dog's well being and comfort.

Double Coated hair stages

Worn Nails

Just a quick note- worn nails can be an indicator of knee and hip problems, as well as possible neurological issues concerning gait and balance.

When you lift a pet's foot to trim the nails, if you see that they worn on the sides at one angle, or especially if they are worn on the tops of each nail, the pet likely rolls its feet when walking.

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Nails worn on the outer side- rolls foot under as they walk


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Nails worn on their top surface show that the foot is dragged or not fully lifted with each step. This can be from being overweight, having a lazy gait, or from having bad or dysplastic hips. 

Why is this important to us as groomers?

As groomers, we need to take note of such symptoms as it can mean knee, hip, or joint pain, possible issues with steadiness or balance in the pets standing on our table, and these things should always be mentioned to the pet's owners.

On Weepy and Odorous Eyes

The following was an email sent to me by a fellow groomer, and my response:


"I have seen on the forum that you have some products that may improve certain skin conditions on dogs.  I have a client with a shih-tsu and his face stinks.  His eyes tear all the time and it results in a stinky, wet face.  He doesn't have eye gunk or crusty stuff on his face.  It's wet and stinky. 

Do you have any idea what can I do to help?  or what can I suggest the owner do between grooms?



Hello Maria!

I do believe that this odor could be from a common cause- yeast. For dogs with larger eyes and those which have a short muzzle- or are brachycephalic- one commonly sees staining, odor and wetness across the stop and under the eyes within the folds of skin found there. In the damp or wet space that holds moisture as the eyes weep, yeast will commonly grow here as it is a perfect environment for it. Diet choices which are high in grains can also add to the yeast count of a dog's skin and inner systems, as well as allergies or underlying health issues which pull down the natural flora and balance of the skin and inner systems of a dog.

Redness or staining can have multiple causes- from simple red dyes in the food and treats (ask the owner if they can alleviate all red colored food and treats)- which leach out in the pet’s saliva and tears, to high mineral or iron count in the drinking water (which are present in the tears and saliva and as they wet and then dry onto the coat), they oxidize and leave behind staining. To an overproduction of yeast that is elevated in the mucus membrane areas of the dog and also leaches from the saliva and tears (part of the reason we see a licked area also turn a rusty red) and will culture upon the skin in a localized area when it is kept moist.

Yeast is ever prevalent in a dog’s GI tract, and on their skin, but when it becomes too prolific, that is when we begin to see redness or sometimes secondary skin ulcers or eruptions, and smell the odor that almost always goes along with yeast overproduction- especially candida yeast.

Anyway, now that I have set the explanation of how this occurs. There are a number of ways we can possibly help this with our grooming and consulting with owners.

Talk to the owner about quality foods and treats. The better a food, the cleaner its ingredients and there for the better digestible ingredients for the pet- the less filler it will also have and therefor commonly far less a possibility for being the origin of adding ingredients to a pet’s  systems that will only be synthesized as food for yeast growth. Poor diet is the number one cause to not just yeast, but a plethora of many other diseases and symptoms.

Sometimes a dog which is diabetic, or has serious allergies, or has hormone imbalance- can be sugar sensitive and will commonly also have yeast issues. Without working with their vet, it is best to simply mention the sugar and yeast relationship (grain or starches begets sugars and sugars feed yeast) and leave getting to the bottom of possible health issues to the owner and their vet.

As groomers, we need to keep the skin folds beneath the eyes of these dogs trimmed closely so that no hair rubs against the eyes and could possibly cause more tearing which leads to more yeast.  Tell the owners to bring them in often even if it is only for a face trim, and to wipe the face with a warmly wet clean cloth (with plain tap or distilled water)often thru the day to help keep it clean. Commercial eye wipe pads can have peroxide in them which may lighten stains (check the label), but this does not end tearing and can actually with time irritate the mucus membranes of the eyes and lead to worse tearing or eye crust. Some dogs also GROW hair from the cornea of their eyes (if you look at the ShihTzu breed, they are prone to have active hair follicles which produce actual hair and it will grow from the eye and cause it to tear or weep constantly). Look at the dog's eyes to be sure that indeed no hair is growing from the eye surface. I know it sounds weird- but it is possible.

As groomers we also need to do a very thorough job of washing the pet’s face at each groom. I personally will clipper the face some before the bath so that I know I can get in there very well when using my fingers to scrub the face. I use a good clarifying tearless shampoo, or a facial wash on the face to be sure that it is completely clean and odor free when they leave the salon. Dogs with allergies should not have highly colored or fragranced topicals (shampoos, conditioners, coat sprays and colognes) used on them as fragrance is one of the most common causes of allergic reaction relating to the grooming experience. I also personally wash the face well first and then wash the rest of the dog- allowing the face to soak in the shampoo- before rinsing the entire dog in the tub.

Keeping the eyes well trimmed of surrounding hair, or looking for ingrown eyelashes and plucking them if needed, noting any lumps along the eyelid which can sometimes be calcium deposits- which can block the tear duct and interrupt regular tear production, or noticing an ingrown hair, these can cause the tears to pool on the eye and the eye to be always irritated and therefor to weep in effort to cleanse itself- by looking for these things we can often find a topical reason for weepy eyes. Remember that inhalant or contact allergies (those where direct exposure can cause the eyes to be irritated much the same as with humans) can also cause weeping.

Once diet is out of the equation, the hair around the eyes is trimmed away from the eyes (or banded  and wrapped if the pet is kept in full coat)- and hopefully there is no hair growing from the eye itself- if the face is kept clean and as dry as possible, you will most likely see a drastic change.

At home, the owner feeding these things can also help lower elevated yeast levels in the dog's body:

Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Coconut Oil (does an excellent and quick job of killing back yeast and can also be rubbed directly onto the coat, into ears and into the foot pads of dogs with a bad allergic response)

High quality, grain free food or super premium food and treats if the pet is sure to not have grain allergies (the most common type of food allergy is to grains- notably corn)



As groomers, cleaning and trimming will give us the best and fastest results for the client and their pet. To completely end yeast as much as possible, the owner will also have to follow up with at home care. As well, they will need a vet who does not off the cuff prescribe a steroid or antibiotics to end what they see as an allergic reaction and can commonly only be yeast overproduction which has the same accompanying symptoms as allergies: itchiness or painful areas, discolored hair and skin, skin lesions or loss of hair from licking and/or chewing, and a strong odor.  Symptomatic pets need a vet with an open mind and not just allopathic care methods.

When you have time, do some online reading on "yeast and dogs", there's a whole world of info out there arising about yeast and allergies and supportive veterinary care for the canine.

Hope that this helps!

Be well.


The Effects Of Fleas on the Canine Coat

The following is a chapter from my new book, "Caring For the Canine Coat, A Salon Guide for Canine Estheticians and Pet Stylists".


This dog has had a severe reaction to flea bites and as a result- the skin has erupted into many lesions, as well as having severe coat loss, and the pet has taken to self-mutilation.

Aside from that which is visibly obvious to us; itchy or reddened bite sites, black specks of flea dirt (flea feces), oily coat and/or dry, brittle coat- what is happening on a microscopic level is similar to that of a war zone. As this pet’s skin attempts to heal and normalize itself- it does so by producing an overabundance of oils and also revs up cellular production to replace damaged skin cells on the skin’s surface. When a flea bites, the site by site irritation from each bite is due to an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to the anti-coagulant or anti-clotting enzyme, histamines and a number of other substances within a flea’s saliva. One flea bite can cause hours and days of intense itching.  This itching causes the pet to physically scratch and lick or chew. This chewing and licking are what then causes a domino effect of reactions deep within the skin aside from what we can see on the outside as sores, lesions and loss of coat.

Due to the overabundance of oils and hyperkeratosis- (or thickening of the skin’s horny layer) which is due to hastened cellular replacement, the next step is that the skin follicles become occluded or clogged with built up sebum and waxeous oils produced by the skin intended to help it heal.  In essence, the skin’s healing mechanisms have now become part of the problem instead of a step in the direction towards naturally normalizing the skin.

This oil production is due to the mechanical effect that itching has upon the hair and skin: the abrasive action against the follicle and hair shaft, the tugging at the hair shaft and subsequent action of the arrector pili muscle each time the skin is scratched at, the oil production from the follicle in attempt to flush itself and heal the aggravated skin, and so on.  


 This is followed by the next step; where the skin follicles which are still becoming occluded also have a continually growing population of bacteria and microorganisms building up that cannot be flushed from the skin properly and are ever populating- creating a more and more unbalanced environment. This unhealthy flora thereby causes another reaction upon the skin to those additional irritants.

In finality, these overproduced microbes cause the follicles to become inflamed or narrowed, thereby allowing for less oil dispersion, disallowing dead hair to easily be shed; clogging up the follicle for new hair emergence, and in fact causes the new emerging hair to have increased cellular production due to this irritation and overall poor growth environment.  When new coat does emerge, it is thicker and more harsh and brittle than the previous healthy coat.   

Unhealthy skin cannot house a healthy follicle, and an unhealthy follicle is unable to produce healthy hair.

Fleas can also have a psychological effect and subsequent medical impression upon a pet. When a pet lives with an illness or an affliction, this inevitably changes the pet’s mental ability to exist day to day without at any given time, fixating on the pain, agitation, or discomfort they are feeling. This then has a secondary effect on a pet’s daily activities which would otherwise be considered as normal. This is important to us because these pets may enter the salon in a heightened sense of alert response, making them have the propensity to more easily act out and could cause side effects such as aggression or defensive reaction. 


Being a host to a pest can cause side effects of self-mutilation as well. In the cases where flea allergies are present, the loss of hair and generally uncomfortable skin can leave the pet in not just a physically influenced state, but a psychological one as well.  When a pet enters the salon with the degree of symptoms as that of the one pictured above, it is recommended to reevaluate the grooming visit at that time and refer to a vet for medical advice as to whether or not to proceed in order to not cause further pain. It may be necessary to address the pet’s condition with a prescription formula topical which we would not have at our disposal to help begin the healing process the most effectively and carefully.


Eradicating Fleas

Once the presence of fleas has been determined, and it is decided that the pet can be groomed without causing it additional pain, it is vital to move the host pet to the bathing area immediately for a topical flea treatment method. Always remember to not pre-wet the coat of a pet with fleas before applying the shampoo. Doing so can lessen the effect of the shampoo and allow for fleas to remain alive on the skin. When fleas feel threatened, they can excrete a chemical in their saliva which creates a sealing barrier around their bodies against things like pesticides or soaps- and this can cause them to emerge unscathed by our shampoos. On a pet with fleas, handle the skin and coat carefully and even more so if there is additional irritation present. Use tepid bathing water and long cool rinses to help soothe the skin and offer some antipruritic (lessening of itching) effect. Apply the flea shampoo liberally and pay close attention to areas such as the underarms, groin and navel areas, base of the tail, under the ears, and carefully attend to the head areas as well. Fleas usually congregate in areas of deeper yet loose coat, and areas where there is good blood circulation just beneath the skin, and ample warmth.  Per the product’s usage instructions, adhere to the dilution ratio (or lack thereof) and contact time- do not leave the shampoo on the pet for longer than recommended even if the fleas are at an infested level. Using multiple applications is still safer than leaving the shampoo on longer than prescribed.  After using a flea shampoo, follow up with a gentle formula cleansing shampoo and a quality coat conditioner to help hold some of the moisture on the skin which can be depleted by the stripping nature of most pesticidal shampoos.

Fleas in hair

Whether a groomer chooses to provide a flea dip, bathe with a flea shampoo- either natural or not, or follows up with a topical flea treatment- this is up to the individual groomer and the pet’s needs.  A growing number of groomers are acting upon the results of studies and educating themselves to the dangers of prolonged pesticide exposure, as well as the effects of certain pest control ingredients. It is recommended that the groomer inform themselves thoroughly on the active ingredients in any given flea treatment method, be knowledgeable in the allowances of flea treatment with regard to state statutes, and understand the residual effects, if any, of the topicals they provide.  Most importantly, only second to actually ridding the pet of its current flea population in the salon, is taking the time to talk with your client about the condition of the pet, how you will address coat and skin health, and how to treat their home and begin a care plan for the pet to end the cycle.   Take the time to organize an informational brochure, have website referrals, or at the very least- a dialogue for how to inform the client effectively and to move them in the direction towards helping the pet.


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.