Assessing Medical Problems
Most of the dogs that we groom see the groomer more often than they see their vet. It's important for us as groomers to be an additional set of eyes. During grooming we often find problems that owners weren't aware of or we take a closer look at something that they're concerned about.
We can help keep pets healthy by observing the dog's behavior and condition. Look for changes from one grooming to the next. Take note of any areas that are sensitive to touch. This could be a place that is sore. A dog who's usually great for working around their face but is shying away from your hands and tools may have an ear problem, a tooth problem, an eye problem, or skin problems.
When we look at health, we should look for our things like:
- Is a dog sensitive to touch?
- Are there any red areas?
- Do any areas look swollen?
- Is an area hot to the touch?
- Is discharge- what does it look and smell like?
- Are there any new lumps on this dog?
- Is there an odor?
- Is there broken skin?
- Are they favoring an area?
- Do you notice new behaviors?
- What is their skin and coat condition?
- Is this dog gaining or losing weight?
Grooming requires a lot of movement from dogs. We go through most of their range of motion. Their bodies are extended and flexed during grooming. We often notice changes in balance, extension, flexion, and comfort levels before an owner notices.
A dog who is sensitive about stretching their left rear leg for a nail trim maybe sore. Take a look and see. Is there a skin problem? A cut, a mole, a matt stuck between toes? Are the nails on the left side or wearing down differently than the nails on the right side? It's common for dogs to wear their nails down differently from back to front, but differences from left to right could be a foot that is dragging or not being used the same.
Describing What We Observe
When we find a problem, we need to list our observations without crossing the line into diagnosing.
For example, I'll tell a customer that the dog was sensitive about me touching the right side of his head. When I looked closer, I noticed that the right ear was red, swollen, warm to the touch, and has an odor. He needs a doctor to look at it.
If I were to say "ear infection" that would cross the line into diagnosing. It could make the customer think that "it's that ear thing again" and go home and pull out some old medication from a drawer. That medication could be for a different problem. Many owners have told me they had no idea that there are multiple things that could be going on in their dog's ear! I tell them that it *could be* bacteria, yeast, mites, infection, something stuck in the ear, etc. Each of those things would be treated differently. Go to the Vet.
I use the high velocity dryer to get a good look at the dog's skin. This is a great way to find lumps, moles, ticks, and skin issues. It's a great way to get a close look at an area.
I use my phone to take pictures of problem areas. This can be used for my own records, for the owner, and for the vet. Taking a picture can also help to show an owner that we discovered the problem but didn't cause the problem. If we discover a crusty mole that has been oozing and forming a scab it may start oozing again after the bath. Our before picture tells the story.
We can help keep pets healthy while building trust with owners and local Vets. Our observations are important.
Author - Chrissy Neumyer Smith
Chrissy Neumyer Smith CPG, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA has been working with dogs since 1986 when she got her first internship for her Animal Science major at Essex Agricultural and Technical Institute. She started Happy Critters Dog Training in 2000 providing house call grooming and private dog training in the Nashua NH area. As a groomer, behavior consultant, and trainer she understands the unique needs of the grooming setting.
She started the Creating Great Grooming Dogs Podcast in October of 2018 to help groomers, trainers, Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, owners, and all other dog pros to teach dogs be good for grooming, vet visits, and other types of husbandry. She lives with 2 border collies who are addicted to flyball.