Sunday, December 30, 2007

5 Tips for Winterizing your Dog

Ever notice that your skin gets drier in the winter months? Your dog or cat has the same problem. The nights get longer, the days cooler and the temperature drops. As your heating bills go up, your dog's skin and coat gets drier.

Here are a few tips to help keep your pet's coat and skin in tip top shape this winter.

  1. Shampoo regularly. A regular bath will help keep your pet's skin clean and the pores unclogged. It helps to loosen dead hair and will keep the skin healthy. Use a mild, natural shampoo that is formulated for pets. The PH balance for pets is different than for humans so a human shampoo is not the right choice. At Happy Tails, we recommend Espree products as they are all natural and remove dirt without stripping the natural oils from the coat.
  2. Brush regularly. Brushing your dogs coat will help to stimulate the skin. It removes dirt and tangles and keeps the coat from matting. Matts prevent the skin from drying and can contribute to fungal and bacterial infections of the skin. You will want to brush your dog out completely before bathing as small tangles or matts will become larger as the coat dries.
  3. Condition the coat. Always use a conditioner or remoisturizer after the bath. These products are specially formulated and help to seal the hair shaft. This prevents moisture loss and makes the hair smoother to prevent tangles and matts. There are many options for different coat types. If you are not sure which is the best for your pet, ask your groomer or veterinarian.
  4. Keep Feet clean. Dogs grow hair between the pads of their feet. During the winter with frequent rain or snow, this hair needs to be cleaned and/or removed to prevent infections. Just think about running around with wet socks outside. Whether it is cool and rainy or icy, this is very uncomfortable. Ice and snow can back inside the pads. The hair gets wet and matts and then does not dry completely. Removing this hair is the best option but if you can't do that, make sure that your dog's feet are clean and get dried when they come inside.
  5. Supplements. The best way to care for your dogs skin (and your own) is from the inside out. Make sure that you are feeding a good quality dog food. Dog foods should contain Omega 3 and 6 oils. If you are noticing hair loss or dry skin, it's a good idea to supplement their regular diet with additional oils. Almost all of the skin and coat conditions will clear up with proper nutrition. I recommend Nu Vet Supplements as they are made with human grade ingredients and I have seen amazing results.
With a little extra winter care, your dogs coat and skin should remain healthy and shiny through the winter months. Stay warm!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Solstice's Story

Solstice’s Story

I work for a local vet and on June 21, 2007, a lady pulled up with a kitten. The kitten was solid black and was very sick. This lady had seen a red car stop in the middle of the highway and drop something out. That something was Solstice. He had a virus and his eyes were weeping and crusted shut and his nose was running. After being deposited on the highway like a piece of trash, he just sat there bewildered and lost. He couldn’t open his eyes to even see where he was or to find a safe place. Thankfully, the good Samaritan lady rushed to his rescue and brought him to the vet. After 30 seconds of soul searching about taking another animal home, I agreed that Solstice could come live with me.

Most of what Solstice needed was good nursing care. Like any virus, this one needed to run it’s course and we needed to make sure he ate and drank while it did. I picked up a jar of goat’s milk from a local goat farm. Goat’s milk is much easier to digest than cow’s milk. Solstice could get all that he needed from it and a little kitten chow. I put eye ointment in his eyes to help soothe them and keep them from getting any more infected. Within a day he was feeling better and after a week, the only sign he still shows is a cloudy eye that was caused by an injury. He most likely scratched it trying to get his eyes open with all the crust around them. Had he been taken to a veterinarian when he first started to get sick, he could have been treated for all of this for very little cost.

A tube of eye ointment and some goats milk and a little time and Solstice is ready to come out of the sick room. Katja has decided that he needs looking after and spends her time nosing him around the house, licking him and trying to get him to play with her. Amazingly she is very gentle with him and he has decided that she is his best friend. He follows her around the house, climbing all over her.

Solstice is not a kitten that was wild. He shows no fear of people or dogs and will follow you around the house. This was someone’s pet and when he got sick and needed them most, he was thrown away like a piece of garbage. Solstice’s story has a happy ending but there are thousands of kittens born that will end up tossed on the side of the road or in a dumpster. Every dog or cat that is born faces the chance that someone will throw them away if they get sick, or even if it just becomes inconvenient to have a pet. The animal shelters and rescue groups are overwhelmed with animals that people just don’t want anymore. If you are a breeder, breed responsibly and place your animals with an agreement that they can come back to you at any time and insist on spaying or neutering of pets. If you are not a breeder, spend a few dollars and have your pet neutered. They will be happier and so will you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Home Ear Care

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Importance of Regular Home Dog Ear Care

Routine home dog ear care is very important to the health of your dog. Performed between your regular checkups with the veterinarian, it will help keep your dog’s ears healthy and pain free. If you see signs of trouble you may be able to head them off before they require an extra visit to the vet. Excessive wax, foul odor, redness, constant scratching, excessive matting of hair in the external ear, rubbing the ears against other objects, head shaking, and disorientation can all be signs of ear problems.

Inspect Your Dog’s Ears Regularly By Using Your Eyes & Your Nose!

By performing a home dog ear care inspection you will be able to detect problems early. Use both your eyes and your nose. If you need help seeing inside your dog’s ears you may want to invest in a pet scope. A tool very similar to the kind your doctor uses to check your ears. Check for redness, excessive wax build up or any other foreign matter.

Sniffing your ears is another way to detect problems early. Normally a dog’s ears shouldn’t smell foul in any way. If you see a dark waxy discharge this may be a sign of ear mites. On the other hand, if you see a pus-like discharge along with a foul smell this may be a sign of a bacterial infection. Allergies are also known to cause some dogs to have smelly ears. If you’re new to this and are unsure have the vet check your dog’s ears. Right after the vet gives your dog a clean bill of health make sure you inspect your dog’s ears. This way you will learn how your pet’s ears should normally look and smell.

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Your Groomer
Your groomer should be cleaning and plucking (if needed) your dogs ears as part of a normal groom or bath. They should notify you of any abnormal smells or discharge and this is one of the benefits of having your dog groomed with the same person on a regular basis. She will be familiar with your pet and will be able to give you a heads up about any changes that she notices. The groomer is not a vet, however, and should not diagnose what the issue is or prescribe any treatment.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Peke Week

Over the years I have groomed a variety of breeds of dogs. There have been many cocker spaniels, a multitude of Shih Tzu’s, parades of Pomeranians and Poodles but very few Pekingese. How ironic is it that my first two customers here in Ft Mitchell would be Pekingese? Both my first client, Sir Pippin Booker and my second client, Chloe Taft were the sweetest Pekes I have had the honor to meet. They were both lovely to groom, enjoying their baths with a bit of primping afterwards. I had a little extra time after Chloe’s bath so we got a snapshot of her for the album.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pet Food Recall

I was just reading the AVMA list of recalled pet foods. It is just scary how many different companies and foods have been included at this point. AVMA updates their list daily and it makes sense to check it to make sure that the food and the treats that you are feeding your pets have not been recalled. The recall, which started out as only canned foods, has extended to some dry foods and treats. While stores like Petsmart pull their products off the shelf as soon as the recall goes into effect, smaller stores may not. Cost of food is also not an indicator as the higher priced brands were the first to be recalled and some of the store brands have been added recently.

It makes you really think about preparing your own food for your pets. There are several different schemes for providing a complete diet for your pet. The one that comes to my mind is the BARF diet. BARF stands for Bones And Raw Food, not anything regurgitated, and was developed by Australian veterinarian Dr. Billingshurst. Personally, for me, it seems like an awful lot of work. I have enough trouble just trying to provide a balanced diet for two teenagers, however, if they keep recalling pet foods I might have to try it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


The first thing to welcome me and the five dogs to Fort Mitchell were the ticks. They were thrilled to have new warm bodies to swarm all over. In my first week here, I must have picked close to a hundred ticks off myself and the gang. I went right out and bought Frontline Plus to treat the dogs but still had ticks jumping off them and onto me. Ticks of every size and descriptions, big one, little ones, fat ones, skinny ones. I itch just thinking about it.

Ticks are more than just an aggravation. They carry Lyme disease and • Ehrlichiosis as well as other diseases. While Lyme Disease is a lot more well known, Dr. Rachel Swan tells me that she sees a lot of Erlichiosis in this area. Without going into the medical details, I can tell you that both of these are pretty nasty diseases.

There is not much that I can do as a groomer to prevent ticks. The dips that we used in years past are highly toxic and didn’t last long enough to really be worth the trouble. The best that I can do is a flea and tick shampoo to kill them and then to remove the ticks that are on the dogs. When I use the high volume dryer, I can find almost all of them and remove them.

After their grooming, I recommend using Frontline Plus or Advantage for long term control. These need to be put on your pet approximately 48 hours after their bath. They are distributed through the oils in the skin and the delay lets the skin and hair recover from the bath. Both of these products are available through your local vet and they will tell you which they prefer. I have also seen these available locally at the feed stores. Your vet is the best bet as they will be able to give you the correct dosage based on weight and let you know if your dog needs a vaccination for Lyme’s disease.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Trying out the grooming room

I received my new dryer yesterday. I have been waiting to groom poor Kaylee until it arrived. We got started early this morning with a bath and blow dry. You can see that Kaylee looks a little sad about it all.

For all that she doesn't look too happy, she stood like a champion without really moving at all. We did take a break halfway through which is something I will never do again. In 2 minutes she managed to get her feet soaked and muddy halfway up her anklets. Sigh. I should have re bathed her but decided to just dry and brush it out. I must say that next time I will just bite the bullet and wash and dry her feet over again.

She was thrilled with her new cut as you can see from this picture. She ran out and jumped for joy! And the other dogs were properly impressed by her new 'Do'.

I got a little experimental on this groom as I will probably end up trimming her up again in a week or so. This is a very modified continental clip. Instead of balls on her hips, I put hearts. Maybe I will get brave and color them pink. What do you think?


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Double Coated Breeds or Should I clip my Dog?

One of the most frustrating things that I come across as a groomer is an unnaturally thick undercoat on double coated dogs. Double coat means that the dogs have outer guard hairs and a soft undercoat that is generally shed in the summer months. Dogs such as Chows, Siberian Huskies, Collies, Australian Shepherds have a LOT of undercoat and when the weather starts warming up, it starts coming out. It's perfectly natural and it's perfectly natural to want to help your pet by removing it so they will be cooler. But wait....

While on the surface it makes sense that shorter hair would mean cooler dog, it is not necessarily true. While humans perspire to cool their bodies, dogs pant and while that undercoat can certainly keep the heat in, shaving it makes it shorter but does not remove it. The air can still not get to the skin and the shorter hair doesn't come out as easily as the un cut coat. When the new coat starts coming in, it weaves into the sheared undercoat and you get a much thicker undercoat that is unhealthy, dense and does not come out naturally. In nature, dogs lose their undercoat in stages as the weather warms up. The long soft undercoat loosens and gets rubbed off in clumps. The long guard hairs remain to keep the heat, bugs and sun out.

Now I know you are thinking to yourself.... but all that HAIR!! It gets everywhere, in everything and it takes over my house and I agree with you! What I recommend to my clients is monthly bath and brush outs in the spring with a good quality conditioner. A warm bath loosens the undercoat, the conditioner helps make it easy to remove and if done on a regular basis, should control shedding. If done regularly, it should not be anymore expensive than an annual clipping for a large dog.

Your dog will be happier with the long silky guard hairs to protect him from the summer sun and evening mosquitos.


Being a pet groomer has it's moments anywhere but in the country, it can be a riot. Dogs and cats in the country have a whole different set of issues as dogs in the city. For instance, I have yet to find a way to remove grease paint from the hair of fox hunting hounds. If anyone has any suggestions, I would be glad to hear them. I don't think that city groomers run across this kind of thing but then, maybe I am wrong.