What I wish groomers looked for

May 2, 2018
Courtney Campbell, DVM

Im not arguing for diagnoses and ineffective remedies. But I think pet service providers should be our informed partners, not our adversaries in veterinary medicine.

It's not diagnosing. It's not treating. It's paying attention and helping everybody: pet, pet owner and veterinarian. (Shutterstock.com)Part of what keeps me grounded in the veterinary profession is realizing that many pet care service providers-including dog groomers, and owners and employees of pet stores, kennels and boarding facilities-are in higher demand than veterinarians. Veterinarians certainly serve a crucial role in pet healthcare, but pet owners visit some of these service providers every week, if not every day, so training their teams to recognize obvious signs that might necessitate a visit to the veterinary hospital is helpful.

Let's take groomers, for example. Here are a few things I wish they knew when it comes to watching for health problems in pets they're grooming:

Pruritus, flaky skin, bumps and more

Itchy pets are one of the most common reasons for a veterinary visit, but I believe many pet parents are more likely to visit the groomer for a bath before heading to the veterinarian. This could either be due to the disparity of expense between the veterinarian and the groomer or perhaps they have a more frequent and friendly relationship with their groomer than their local veterinarian. What might groomers notice because they see a pet first?

> Allergies. Pet groomers and other pet service providers could help itchy pets by recommending that they be seen by a veterinarian for allergy testing. This could also help the groomer manage the owner's expectations. If the pet visits the groomer every week and doesn't get relief from pruritus, that could lead to pet owner dissatisfaction, loss of business and a bad review-and, worse, a still-miserable pet. Could we provide groomers basic training on signs of allergies in pets, so a pet parent could get the help they need at the veterinary hospital and the groomer could keep a client-and look like a hero?

> Endocrinopathies. A groomer's ability to recognize that a dog's skin condition might be (might be-we're not diagnosing here, people) related to a hormone condition-dry, flaky skin in the case of hypothyroidism or thin skin due to hyperadrenocorticism-could be a boon for business. The groomer would encourage a pet owner to visit a veterinary hospital for diagnosis and treatment. A happy client could say, “My groomer was the first to notice that my dog has Cushing's disease (or hypothyroidism).” That observation may improve the groomer-client relationship not only for the life of that pet, but may augur well for an entire family or generation of pets.

> Infection. As veterinarians know, pruritus may never resolve until the pet's yeast or bacterial skin infection is treated with an antifungal or antibiotic, respectively. Trained pet service providers who notice abnormalities could be excellent partners with veterinarians and pet owners. After all, the veterinarian may recommend that the client visit the groomer armed with a medicated shampoo. Twice-weekly medicated baths are an integral part of managing superficial pyoderma in dogs, and many pet parents would prefer these be done by a groomer.

> Immune-mediated conditions or neoplasia. Many manifestations of disease might have been noticed first by a groomer. Explaining to pet service providers that life-threatening conditions can have an insidious onset-or a benign appearance but act malignantly-could help pets get the care they need sooner. “Why didn't my groomer recognize that this was a serious condition?” isn't something a groomer wants to hear.

> Respiratory problems and pain. Veterinarians know that dogs that pant excessively or show other signs of distress when being dried at the groomer's or exhibit noisy breathing could have brachycephalic airway syndrome, laryngeal collapse or laryngeal paralysis. Obese dogs-or those with chronic pain from spinal or joint diseasee-may also pant excessively after the manipulations during grooming. All of these conditions could ultimately have dire outcomes and some dogs may be surgical candidates. I've personally known two bulldogs who have died at the groomer's from overheating. Being trained to recognize signs of these conditions could help groomers avoid tragedies as well as liability.

What do you wish pet care service providers knew about veterinary medicine and signs that it might be time for a visit to your hospital? Comment below or email us at dvm360@ubm.com.

Courtney Campbell, DVM is a surgical associate at VetSurg, a veterinary surgical specialty practice in Ventura, California. He focuses on orthopedic, soft tissue, and minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Campbell loves to take time away from work competing in fitness competitions, volunteering with rescue organizations, running and freelancing in theater and short film projects.