• By Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, ICMG 8-23-20

    Before anyone misinterprets the title of this blog post, I want to say loud and clear that this blog title in no way is to diminish the absolute respect and deference we hold for all veterinarians. They are THE experts in our field and we see their judgment and expertise as far above that of the average groomer. Veterinarians are our HEROES and know way more than most of us about anything related to our pets.

    I have great veterinarians that I have loyally been attached to for over four decades. I do what they advise and they are central leaders in my life working with animals. They are incredibly smart, hard-working people who went to school for a VERY long time. They are expert and indispensable in our pets’ lives. Everyone should find and attach themselves regularly to a wonderful veterinarian near you and thank goodness for them every single day. Their jobs can be very tough, dirty, and emotionally heart-wrenching.

    It is absolutely a matter of practice at Love Fur Dogs that we do whatever a client’s veterinarian directs us to do. Further we SEND a ton of our clients to see their veterinarians over issues we find with their dogs and cats during their grooming as a part of our 6-point well-being check that we perform with every full groom: teeth/gums, ears, skin and coat, parasites, feet and nails, and rear ends.

    At least 4 times in the years since we opened in May of 2014 we have been credited with finding something in a dog that we referred the client immediately to their vet and the dog’s life was saved – such as a recent beloved doodle client where we found an almost impossible to see growth that proved to be mouth cancer. We were credited with facilitating early action that got the treatment done in time to save the dog’s life. And that has at other times in our business, given our strong commitment to work to get our clients to their veterinarian whenever they need it.

    We are PROUD of our relationship with veterinarians and will continue this commitment! So, please, keep these caveats in mind as you read this discussion of admittedly small matters in comparison to the life and death work that Veterinarians do every day.

    But I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen actually tears of sadness or red-faced anger on the part of my clients over these issues. They pay a lot of money for their veterinary services, and they expect them to be done with perfect professionalism. I write this as a way to help them to hear feedback that they may really want in order to improve the customer service aspect of their businesses.

    And I am 100% positive that many veterinarians could write a blog themselves about what they wish we groomers knew. I hope that someone will do so, and I will in fact publish it here on this page.

    Here comes the “but . . .” that you were expecting:

    Why do the staff in veterinary facilities over-shave dogs who desperately need their coat, hair or fur?

    There are things that we groomers care about, know about, and see the long term consequences of that most veterinarians, and more importantly for this discussion, all Veterinary Hospital Staff do not do, in our view, correctly. We actually believe this first problem of over-shaving the hair to give a shot or do a blood draw, for example, is largely being done by veterinary technicians. We hope that good veterinarians will help guide them better.

    No photo description available.
    Unnecessarily extreme leg shaving of a doodle by a veterinarian

    This dog’s haircut and over all look has been ruined for many months to come, and unnecessarily. The owner was very upset and will have to look at this for months. It is even more frustrating for the owner when she finds out that this degree of shaving was not at all medically necessary.

    Why do they shave that poor little Doodle’s legs like that? Just to give shots or draw blood? The owner of this dog actually believes that they only needed access to one leg and complained to us that they shaved the other just to make the two legs match?!

    My own veterinarian removed a suspicious cancer growth from the top knot of my poodle with only a 1/8″ shaved perimeter. He knows that preserving her hair is important to me and to her, and he only removed the minimum he needed to do the procedure safely and successfully. To this day she has a beautiful top knot. She is pictured in my arms on the Home page of this website.

    The common explanation is to preserve a sterile field for injections, surgical areas, blood draws, etc. But actually there is a big difference between a SURGICAL area being shaved (only enough to keep the hair out of the incision area – a necessary step to prevent infection and wound contamination) and the minimal hair removal needed for an IV needle inserted or shot given into the vein of a dog’s leg.

    Veterinarians have confirmed for me that most of the shaving done by vet techs around these areas are far more excessive than needed for any legitimate medical purpose.

    We know that knowledge in any field is UNEVEN at best for anyone in a given profession. Not every teacher knows as much as every other teacher, same for plumbers, roofers, lawyers, doctors, etc. And it seems that the biggest problem in ANY field, including grooming is that there are some in any profession that are “old school” – that is, they don’t stay up on the most current, best information in their fields. Not every Veterinarian, Doctor, Lawyer, Plumber, or Groomer for that matter, stays current on Best Practices based on the best and most recent information.

    “Old School” thinkers in any profession are always an issue and a problem.

    Remember, they only need 1/8 of an inch to make a sterile field. And actually there is no need to remove any hair in order to access most procedures like shots or blood draws. Only around a surgical wound should there be any shaving, and then only enough for the sterile field. Absolutely minimal.

    And the leg shaving is NOT necessary at all unless it is for a surgery – its a blood draw and a shot. There is no need to do any significant shaving, if any at all. Just sterilize the surface of the skin and insert your needle. Hair is not a problem for this level of procedure and should not need to be shaved at all.

    This blog is written in the hopes that pet owners will TELL their veterinarians they do not wish to have any significant shaving of areas around an injection.

    So this groomer wishes that more veterinarians knew what my vet knows – that shaving the dog broadly and closely for most procedures is not necessary, and actually emotionally hard for families to look at sometimes for the many months that follow.

    Also, injections can be done on the inside of back legs to hide any areas that need shaving to be treated.

    It takes months to get the hair back when vets shave. They always use surgically close #40 or #50 blades which leave NO hair at all – just skins it! Dog hair grows maybe 1/2 inch a month. Sometimes these shaved areas come back discolored permanently and even scarred.

    Also, dogs’ skin contains Langerhans cells that are essential to a dog’s immune system. These cells are the skin’s immunity, yet they die or can become cancerous with exposure to sunlight. Dogs have very thin skin and very thick hair – the opposite of people (we have very thick skin and very thin hair) – dogs rely on their coat, hair or fur, to protect them.

    So lesson number one here is for veterinarians to instruct their techs to do as little as possible for procedures unless absolutely necessary and only then the small area around the procedure to allow for retention of the dog’s natural coat. This should be the NORM in all veterinary hospitals everywhere.

    Complaint #2 –

    Toe nail clips.

    I attended a grooming conference a few years ago where a veterinarian VERY harshly rebuked groomers for not taking nails short enough. He cited significant research that dogs’ major cause of late-in-life orthopedic and arthritic issues were a result of toenails being too long and the bones being bent as they walk on them. (See my blog on the topic on this website!)

    And yet Veterinarians knock dogs out for surgeries almost daily and do not cut their toenails back into the quick, the blood vein in the nail that is painful if done when a dog is awake. They can cut and cauterize it and the dog will never feel a thing after it wakes up. This “quicking” procedure is actually essential in many cases when a dog’s toenails have been neglected. Orthopedic pain is a SERIOUS health problem, especially for larger dogs and can cause painful lameness and permanent discomfort, pain a dog feels with every step they take as they age, if these nails aren’t cut way back.

    We groomers can only cut TO the quick, not into it. We can’t do a quicking which dogs should be on pain medication for, much as we see the necessity of it. So it should be standard practice for ALL veterinarians who have a dog knocked out under pain meds or anesthesia that they cut into the quicks and cauterize them back as short as possible. The emphasis on this need for short nails has come from the national veterinary community itself as data has emerged in recent years about the importance of short nail clips for a dog’s long term health. Yet I have heard clients report that some vets, albeit of the “old school” variety will dismiss and even ignore this request.

    And worst of all when they do perform nail trims, which Veterinary offices do every day, many times, all over the nation, they often do not take them close enough to the quick, the living blood vein inside, to be effective to keep the nail from being harder to properly trim in the future. They charge twice what we do at my grooming shop and they do not do nearly as effective a job.

    We make sure that when we clip a nail, we REVEAL the quick but without cutting into it. Then there is pressure exerted on the quick to stay inside the nail, retracting away from the air – vital for the dog’s long term orthopedic health, not continuing to grow out and become much harder to trim routinely. This kind of precision nail trimming I teach my staff – most vets and staff do not know how to do – very thin slices, look in the center of the nail for the living tissue.

    Some veterinary offices obviously do this better than others. What has simply been stunning to me is the number of veterinarians who are not aware of the nationally important data in their own field – that dog toenails that touch the floor when walking are very likely to cause serious pain of arthritis or orthopedic issues later in life.

    I realize not everyone in a profession stays “up” on the Best Practices new research in their industries, but this nail trim matter is so big and so important, you would think more Veterinarian offices would be up on this.

    I will be adding more topics to this blog about what we wish Veterinarians knew, such as their industry general lack of awareness of a vital technology – Microbubbles – to treat a wide variety of frustrating dog and cat (and human) skin conditions!

    Love you, veterinarians!!