It never ceases to amaze me how many people think dog groomers are too stupid to do anything else. What they don't understand is the amount of education and practice it takes to properly groom pets. Pets aren't the only ones abused by people. Daily my staff and I are abused, as well. Here are a couple of stories that happened recently.
As with any business, we are a for profit company. I pay my employees very well with starting wages usually higher than most industrial businesses around Pendleton. We have a mortgage on our building, utilities, supplies, maintenance, payroll, insurance, repairs, taxes, and more. It takes roughly $40,000/month just to keep the facility up and running and employees paid. Grooming equipment is not cheap. A decent set of shears can range from $250 per pair to $1800 per pair. Clippers that don't break and die within 6 months start at around $349.99 per clipper. I routinely use 3 different clippers on each pet to achieve the quality we are known for. To date, I have not received a regular paycheck since opening in 2013. As we increase prices inflation increases and eats up anything leftover that I would normally pay myself.
I think one of the most painful things is when I have loved, bonded, and cared for a pet for many years, but then a new groomer sets up with cheaper pricing and the majority of my clients flock to the lower cost and have no regard for the amount of training and love I have poured into their pet over the years. They seem to forget you get what you pay for. They don't care their pet wasn't groomed with the same level of expertise, with products with full ingredient disclosures, never placed in cage dryers, and the pet was groomed for speed and not quality. While we understand some may truly need a lower cost, it is always painful they don't feel the need to speak to me first to see what I might be able to do to help them.
One of the clients that recently left for cheaper pricing has an extremely old shih-tzu with many, many medical conditions. I took the time to research the conditions so that I would know exactly what to look for, how to treat the skin/coat symptoms, and I would know what to look for to alert her owner to changes. This pet routinely came into me for over a year completely caked in a yellow, gooey, skin infection. This took extra time, it took advanced safety precautions to prevent injury to the skin, exacerbating the skin issue, and having to rip my clippers and blades apart to clean the gunk out of them and properly disinfect them. I never charged extra for the extra work. I did it for my love of the pet. It was more important to keep her hair short so the skin had access to oxygen than to not groom her at all. Had I charged for all of the extra work it would have been an extra $25-$50 each groom. At a monthly groom over the course of 18-24 months while the vet battled the skin condition, that could have been an extra $450-$900 when averaging 18 months that I would have loved to have for my family. But I knew the importance of this pet being regularly groomed and wanted to make it as affordable as possible for the customer. But all of that was mute as they left for cheaper pricing. It hurts, it really does. This pup was my friend, and I miss her dearly, yet I will probably never be able to see her again. We called the client to ask if she was ok since we hadn't seen her in awhile and was met with a mocking tone of how they now go to someone cheaper who does not have the training or background I do to really be able to help pets with her conditions. The customer even made comments chastising us as if we are doing something wrong by charging what we do.
Lets talk about cats. Cats can be dangerous. One bite can lead to sepsis within 12-24 hours. I actually know people who have lost fingers and arms due to the severe infection that set in after a cat bite. My doctor is on standby with a prescription for antibiotics every time I take a bite or scratch from a cat. They are painful. I once had a cat completely sever the webbing between two fingers on my left hand. It took weeks for it to knit back together and to this day I still experience pain and discomfort with those two fingers. Usually when doing cat nail trims, it is relatively quick and easy. However, it is still dangerous. Cats are temperamental. They can be good for one grooming session and a little devil the next. Recently, while doing a nail trim on two cats the owner went absolutely insane over the nail trim cost of $25 each. Our general manager tried to explain to her that we are not immune to inflation, and that in order to stay in business we had to raise prices. The pet owner did not settle down and continued to belittle me and my staff, even going to the point to yell, "It's not like what you do is hard!" Excuse me Karen?! You physically do not have the ability to trim your cats' nails, and you want to yell at us saying what we do isn't hard? Grooming is a brutal business. We don't do it to get rich. We do it for our love of the animals. I have been mule kicked by a standard poodle who managed to crack my sternum, I have a tear in a rotor cuff and my shoulder routinely dislocates which requires a chiropractor appointment or to live with the pain until I can afford to go. I will have to eventually have to have surgery due to an injury I sustained from a large doodle. Daily we have to pick hair slivers out of our skin. Sometimes they fester and get infected. Most recently was one that imbedded into my eyelid until it abscessed and flushed itself out. Talk about painful!
Be kind to your groomer because you don't know what they do behind the scenes for your pet, the amount of abuse they take from the owners, the amount of ridicule, the amount of being treated as too stupid to do anything else, the strain their bodies go through. There are many days I feel so beat down and belittled that I question the value of my life. Treat your groomers how your pet treats them. With love, compassion, and friendship. They do this for pure love of pets. Don't abandon them for cheaper prices, have the decency to talk with them and understand what you do differently, their level of training and expertise, and if you're having a difficult financial time, most groomers rather work with you than lose you and your pup as clients. We grieve every time a pet leaves us due to being lured away by cheaper prices.
How many of you remember getting sick because another kid in your class was sick? I know for me, normally I was exposed to someone that wasn't even showing symptoms. One thing my mom didn't do is blame the school for me picking up an airborne illness, and she certainly didn't stop sending me to that particular school. Nope. As soon as I was better my butt was right back in my seat.
So, the question is, is it the school's fault that an airborne illness exists and spreads? How many of you have refused to send your child back to school because they contracted a cold, flu, or other virus? How many of you have stopped going to work altogether because you picked up a bug from a coworker, or better yet, how many of you have quit your job and gone to another employer because you picked up a virus while working for the first employer? I bet absolutely none of you have even thought of behaving this way. Who's fault is it that an airborne virus was introduced by an asymptomatic person and spread to others?
I ask these questions because airborne pathogens do exist among pets. One of the most common is the Bordetella virus, also known as Kennel Cough. It is a common misconception that kennels cause kennel cough. That is completely false. That's like saying Walmart caused the Covid-19 virus. It's called kennel cough because it is highly contagious and spreads quickly through aerosol droplets when a dog coughs or sneezes, or through shared water bowls. Usually at pet facilities, such as Pupcakes, there are multiple dogs in and out every day which means if one came in that was contagious yet asymptomatic, it could rapidly spread, hence, that is how the slang term for Bordetella was born. In fact, Bordetella is so contagious that it can just as easily be spread by a healthy dog greeting a contagious dog while out for a walk.
Kennel Cough is an upper respiratory infection in dogs which is marked by lethargy, lack of appetite, and a dry hacking cough. The cough can cause inflammation of the bronchioles which could open your pet up to a secondary infection. You should always seek medical treatment for your pet through a licensed veterinarian.
At Pupcakes we make sure that every pet coming in for boarding and day care has provided us a current proof of vaccination. However, just like with Covid, the Bordetella virus also rapidly mutates, and strains will develop that may not be covered by the vaccination. Due to the rapid mutation, it is suggested that your pet be vaccinated for Bordetella every six months if they frequently encounter other pets. In 2021, one of the makers of the Bordetella vaccine, Zoetis, issued a recall after their vaccine was proven to be altogether ineffective. If you believe your pet received the Zoetis vaccine you should consult with your veterinarian. Additionally, we use a veterinary grade disinfectant that kills everything from Bordatella to Rabies. Every surface in Pupcakes is disinfected multiple times a day. We also utilize UV light disinfecting ovens for all our grooming tools between pets. Our policy always has been and always will be, if a pet comes in and shows any sign of illness we send the pet home immediately. We also ask that pets who have shown signs of illness within 48 hours of an appointment stay home until the vet gives medical clearance. We have also set up touch-free handwashing and sanitizer stations for our employees so that between pets they can wash their hands more frequently and have a lesser chance of spreading an illness to other services.
If you feel your pet is suffering from any medical condition, you should always seek attention from a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. The information provided in any of my blog posts should not be used in substitution of veterinary medicine, nor is it meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition. None of the information has been evaluated or approved by the FDA or AVMA. This is strictly informative only. Any suggestions should be discussed with your veterinarian first.
Do you have a pet who suffers from chronic ear infections? I do, and I understand how frustrating it can be to constantly be dealing with the treatment, reoccurrence, and smell that comes along with it.
There are many reasons pets may suffer from reoccurring ear infections. One is your pet may have a congenital issue that is causing the problem. Another is your pet may suffer from an allergy. Your veterinarian may be able to either provide an allergy test or refer you to a specialist who can help you determine what your pet may be allergic to. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from an allergy the first things I would suggest eliminating from their diet is chicken, potatoes, and peas. Chicken allergies are prevalent among dogs. That means you need to go through and read the label of every food and every treat. You will want to eliminate any whole chicken, chicken meal, chicken by-product, etc. The same for pototoes and peas. No potato, potato starch, pea starch, etc. When your pet has an allergic reaction it can cause an imbalance in yeast. In reality, your pet has about 300 different kinds of yeast on and in it's body. Potatoes and peas are a starch. When ingested they turn into carbohydrates which turns into sugar which feeds the yeast.
Did you know your groomer can help? Firstly, if your pet suffers from chronic ear infections and has long hair on its ears, the best thing to do is shave that hair off. By removing the hair on the ear leathers (the technical term for the ears themselves) and in front of the ears, it allows more oxygen to get into the ear canal which can help to keep the canal drier and the yeast better balanced. Also, having your pet's ears cleaned on a monthly basis can assist with keeping the harmful bacteria at bay and the good bacteria thriving. Allowing your pet's ears to become packed with dirt and debris will only lead to further complications. Some pets such as poodles, doodles, shih tzus, any type of terrier, Maltese, Havanese, schnauzer (basically if it can grow long facial hair it will fit this category) have hair that grows down into the ear canal. A well-trained groomer can pluck this hair with little to no discomfort. Now, some veterinarians will disagree with this and say not to pluck the ears. The reason they feel this way is that because when the ears are plucked it can cause microscopic openings in the skin in which bacteria can take hold and cause an infection. This is something each pet owner will need to decide for themselves. For this groomer, I'm a plucker and will always be a plucker. Often times I get pets that are only brought in 3-4 times a year and they have grown several inches of hair into that ear canal which has become packed with dirt, debris, wax, and bacteria. I have often pulled out hair that was so impacted with junk that it looked like the candle Shrek pulled from his ear. Keeping the amount of hair that is in your pet's ear under control can also help with bacteria and yeast control. If you suspect your pet has an ear infection already then DO NOT have the ears plucked until after the infection is cleared up. Imagine what your ears would be like if you only cleaned them every 3-4 months!
There are a few products on the market that used in conjunction with your veterinary prescriptions may help. One is Lisa Leedy's Miracle Ear Elixir. You should be able to find that on Chewy or Amazon and just follow the instructions on the label. The other is Zymox, which you can also find online but also at stores such as D&B, PetCo or PetSmart. These two products help to dry the ear so that the yeast and bacteria have a less hospitable environment. My favorite solution you can make right at home:
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother) you can find it at Safeway. Shake the ACV up thoroughly and then strain one cup through a fine kitchen strainer or cheesecloth.
1 cup steam distilled water. This is very important! You must have steam distilled water. Tap water could possibly contain other contaminants that could cause harm to your pet. Steam distilled water is the safest to use in your pet's ears.
*Optional...6-10 drops Colloidal Silver OR Tea Tree Oil....DO NOT USE BOTH, CHOOSE ONE. You can find both of these products at Walmart in the vitamin section.
Please note that Tea Tree Oil is a neurotoxin to pets and humans. It must always be diluted. DO NOT use it straight.
Once you have your solution you can leave it stored in an airtight container for up to one week. I suggest not refrigerating it, even though you could, but cold solution into a sensitive ear sounds like it would be uncomfortable. If you refrigerate it, I would let it warm to room temperature before proceeding.
I will take about 1/4 cup at a time and pour it into a glass, then I take a large syringe and draw it up. I then use the syringe, careful NOT to push it into my pet's ear canal and squirt it down into the ear. I massage the ear for about 20 seconds and then I take clean cotton, the kind you get at Sally's Beauty Supply, it comes in a long roll, and you just tear off what you need, I push the cotton down into the ear canal and give it a few seconds to start absorbing the solution and then pull it out. I continue to push and pull clean cotton until I feel all the solution has been absorbed. If I'm still getting a lot of debris, I will flush the ear with the ACV solution one to two more times. If my pet has an active ear infection, I will continue to do this every day before applying the meds from my veterinarian. If my pet has a problem with chronic ear infections, I will continue to do this once a week after the initial infection has cleared up, as a preventative.
Make sure you never use the same syringe for both ears. Have two and clearly mark them for left and right. When you're done make sure to sanitize your syringes. You never want to take the chance of cross contaminating bad bacteria to a healthy ear or bacteria back into an ear that's trying to heal. I soak my syringes in 70% rubbing alcohol for no less than 10 minutes. The same goes with the cotton. Never take cotton from one ear and use in the other. If you're getting a lot of debris, I would also suggest washing your hands between ears.
A few other ways your groomer can help: if your pet grows hair in their paw pads, have it trimmed out on a regular 4-6 week basis. When hair builds up in the paw pads it can cause yeast to grow. Your pet will then lick their feet in an effort to get relief from the itchiness. Many times, this will result in a yeast infection starting to grow in the flews (the little pockets each dog has on their bottom lips, there is one on each side of the mouth) or even around the eyes if they have a lot of facial hair with eye drainage. Also, pets will take those yeasty feet and scratch their ears thereby transferring the yeast to the ears and Voila! you now have a pet with an ear infection. These infections can progress and build up on the skin. They love moist places like on the belly, or in the armpits. They will build up under matted hair. Severe cases can even infect the skin around the nails, the nails themselves, and get into the blood stream. By keeping your pet regularly bathed, properly brushed, and correctly dried, your groomer can help keep the yeast on your pet's body better balanced. Your groomer can help you keep an eye on your pet's health. By using the same groomer for long periods of time they get to know your pet and can detect and alert you to possible medical conditions that need veterinary attention.
I hope you found this information interesting and informative. Stay tuned for more posts to come!
Just like when adding anything new to your pet's diet, we do suggest starting your dog out on coconut oil slowly with approximately half the normal dosage for the first week and then increase to the full dose over the course of the next week. Giving the full dose right from the start can cause mild flu like symptoms.