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Saving Lives, One Groom at a Time: The Impact of Pet Assessments in Dog Grooming

Assessing pets before grooming is a critical step that ensures their safety and well-being during the grooming process. It not only helps groomers identify potential health issues but also builds trust with clients by demonstrating a commitment to their pets' care. Additionally, pet assessments can uncover health problems that owners may not have been aware of, preventing groomers from inadvertently exacerbating existing conditions. This is important because groomers can often be blamed for any health issues that arise during or after grooming, making thorough assessments crucial for both the pet's health and the groomer's reputation. In this blog, we'll explore the importance of pet assessments in grooming businesses and provide a comprehensive guide on how to conduct them effectively.

What is a Pet Assessment?

A pet assessment is a critical part of the check-in process in grooming, it is a thorough examination of a pet's health and physical condition before grooming, alongside any information that the owner can give you. This is especially important for young and older pets or pets who are new to your grooming business.  It involves observing the pet's behaviour, checking for any visible signs of illness or injury, and discussing any pre-existing medical conditions with the owner. 

A pet assessment should be done with the owner present, especially for new clients, to ensure all relevant information is documented.This allows for any pre-existing conditions to be noted and reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings between the groomer and the client. It's important to note that the first assessment may take longer than subsequent ones, as it establishes a baseline for the pet's health and ensures that all necessary information is documented.

One helpful tool for conducting pet assessments is a pet assessment form. These forms can be downloaded or bought online, or groomers can create their own. The form typically includes a drawing of a dog where areas of concern can be marked, such as lumps, bumps, or areas of tenderness. The form can also include checkboxes or spaces for notes on the pet's behaviour, skin condition, and any other relevant information. Having the client sign off on the form adds an extra layer of documentation and ensures that both the groomer and the client are aware of any potential health issues before grooming begins.

The Pet Assessment Process

1. Observation

Before touching the pet, from the moment it enters your salon or is walked out for your mobile service, observe its behaviour. Look for signs of lethargy, lameness, coughing, difficulty breathing or aggression. These could indicate underlying health issues that need to be addressed before grooming.

2. Hands-on Examination

As you begin the hands-on examination, start from the rear of the pet and move towards the front. Check for any lumps, bumps, cysts, or warts on the body, and inspect the skin for irritations, wounds, or parasites. Pay close attention to the pet's body language, as it can indicate areas of pain or discomfort. Additionally, feel for matting or compacted coat, this is the perfect moment to explain to your client that longer lengths may not be feasible or an extended period of time for the groom may be needed.

It's crucial to take precautions, especially if the pet is new to your salon and may be nervous. Ensuring your safety is paramount observe body language, secure the pet carefully and if necessary keep a muzzle handy. Consider having an examination table ready in the reception area or placing the dog on your grooming table and asking the client to wait briefly while you conduct a quick examination. If the client cannot stay, be sure to take photos or videos of any areas of concern to show them immediately. These precautions not only safeguard your well-being but also enable you to effectively communicate with your clients about their pet's grooming needs.

3. Specific Areas to Check

  • Eyes: Look for any signs of redness, discharge, or unusual dilation, which could indicate eye infections or neurological problems.

  • Ears: Check for foul odour, redness, discharge, or head-shaking, which may indicate an ear infection.

  • Teeth and Gums: Examine the gums for colour (pink is healthy), as pale, yellowish, bright red or bluish gums could indicate various health issues.

  • Coat: Feel for matting or compaction in the coat

  • Breathing: Check for any difficulty or abnormalities in breathing, which could indicate respiratory issues or other underlying conditions.

  • Skin: Look for signs of excessive dryness, redness, hot spots, wet patches, flakiness, or oiliness in the coat, as well as any unusual odours, which could indicate skin problems, fungal or bacterial infections.

  • Mobility: Observe the pet's movement and gait for any signs of limping, stiffness, or difficulty in walking, which could indicate musculoskeletal issues. Observe signs of arthritis or leg injuries, as these can cause pain when the affected areas are moved or touched.

  • Temperature: While not always possible during a grooming assessment, monitor excessive panting due to stress or heat, it is important to always keep pets comfortable and in the appropriate climate control with access to water.

  • Behaviour: Note any changes in behaviour, such as increased aggression, lethargy, or reluctance to be touched, as these could indicate pain or discomfort.

  • Body type: It's important to look for unusual body shapes or contours. A distended or hard belly area, for example, could be a sign of bloat, a serious condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.

  • Feet and Nails: Check for ingrown nails, swollen toes or cuts on the paws or pads.

  • Anal Glands and Rear end : Look for any swelling, redness, irritations to indicate anal gland issues or skin issues around the anus. 

  • Check for parasites : A thorough check for fleas, ticks ( paralysis ticks ) mites and parasites is imperative. 

4. Communicate with the Owner

Discuss any findings with the owner and recommend follow-up care with a vet if necessary. Educate the owner on, home grooming including brushing, combing and products and regular vet check-ups.

The Impact of Pet Assessments

By conducting thorough pet assessments, groomers can identify potential health issues early, leading to prompt veterinary care. This proactive approach not only ensures the safety and well-being of the pets in their care but also helps mitigate any risks associated with grooming. By identifying and addressing potential health issues before they escalate, groomers can prevent accidents or complications during grooming sessions.

The Benefits of Regular Pet Assessments

Regular pet assessments can have long-term benefits for both the pet and the groomer. Groomers worldwide have saved the lives of many pets by getting to know their pet clients and noticing subtle changes that may indicate underlying health issues. Groomers are often the first to point out anything that doesn't look or feel right, such as slight weight changes, signs of lethargy, or mood changes.

These small, subtle changes could indicate something deeper, and while clients may not notice them, groomers often do. Additionally, regular pet assessments help build a loyal client base that values the groomer's commitment to their pet's well-being. Clients are more likely to trust and return to a groomer who takes the time to assess their pets regularly, leading to stronger client-groomer relationships and increased customer satisfaction.

In my decades of grooming experience, I know I have saved the lives of many of my clients' dogs by noticing subtle changes. From something as simple as a compacted anal gland to a tender abdomen, which turned out to be a dangerous case of pyometra. The vet told my client that another 12 hours and that dog would not have survived without my mention to her of my observations. I've also noticed changes in the shape of a dog's body that led to further investigation and ultimately a cancer diagnosis. It's our job as grooming business owners to not only ensure we are aware of any problems before we start grooming but we owe it to our clients to be vigilant in our assessments.

Assessing pets before grooming is not just a best practice; it's a crucial step in ensuring the safety and well-being of the pets entrusted to your care. By following a thorough pet assessment process, taking a couple of minutes of your time, you can provide the best possible grooming experience for pets while also fostering trust and loyalty with your clients. Remember, dedicating a little extra time to assess your pet clients thoroughly could mean the difference between a routine grooming session and potentially saving a life!

Want to learn more and join a community of like-minded groomers? Come and Join us at Groomer Nation Safe and happy grooming my friends !

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