6 Pet Health Hazards at the Groomer's

Hey, it's hard being a dog — or a cat — for that matter. All that lying around during the day, eating biscuits (or catnip), chasing toys, going for walks ... it might not be a 9-5 job, but it still has its demands, which is why your furry, four-legged friend deserves an indulgent day at the spa.

OK, so the "spa" is really called the "groomer's" and there aren't any mud masks or massages, but we're willing to bet that Fluffy and Fido will enjoy a blowout and pedicure — no matter how much they put up a fight.

“I think that groomers are a good thing for our pets,” said Dr. David Bessler, senior emergency clinician at NYC Veterinary Specialists. “Without groomers, they wouldn’t have dignity, and they would have health problems from mats (in their fur). I see a lot of accidents when people try to take grooming into their own hands.”

That said, certain hazards can occur at the groomer's, even if by accident.

1. Self-Hanging

The biggest hazard to worry about is the hanging collar that groomers use to keep dogs (and sometimes cats) still while they cut their fur, Bessler said.

“Dogs can’t sit still,” he said. “It can be life-threatening. Sometimes dogs — or cats — will struggle and try to jump off the table. They are usually caught right away, but the way strangulation works, it only takes a second for the airway to be obstructed.”

2. Clipper Burns

“If the pet is clipped a little too close to the skin, it causes pain and irritation to the skin,” Bessler said.

There are some areas on an animal that are more sensitive than others, like the hind quarters, and if that is affected, the animal may be itching quite frequently.

Bessler said he gets a lot of calls about clipper burns, and he usually treats them with a soothing lidocaine spray.

3. Soap in the Eye

Most of the time, the groomer will use a safe shampoo, but if that shampoo comes in contact with the animal’s eye, a corneal abrasion can occur, Bessler said.

The owner may notice the animal’s eyes are red and squinty, in which case he or she should seek attention from a veterinarian, who will treat the condition with eye drops.

4. 'Swimmer's Ear'

Dogs with floppy ears that hang over the ear canal are prone to ear infections, so groomers have to be careful not to get water in them, Bessler said.

“They can get the equivalent of ‘swimmer’s ear,’” Bessler said, “and it’s frustrating for dogs.”

Owners should watch for dogs that are scratching or pawing excessively at their ears, shaking their heads frequently, or have pain when the owner touches the ear. Also, if the owner manages to get close enough to the ear to look at it, the ear will look red in color, Bessler said.

5. Sedatives

Sometimes groomers will give animals sedatives, Bessler said, and he has seen disastrous results occur because of this. If your groomer offers to sedate your pet, say no.

“Sedatives should be administered only by licensed vets or by specific instructions for specific pets,” he added.

Animals have died by overdosing on sedatives given to them by groomers, Bessler said, and in his tenure as a veterinarian, he has seen animals so heavily sedated that he has had to intervene. Sometimes the drugs can be reversed.

6. Dryer Cages

Although rare, disasters can occur in dryer cages.

Thomas Bruckner, of Point Lookout, Long Island, lost his dog Bailey, a pug-beagle mix, from heatstroke in September 2008. The dog had collapsed at the groomer’s, shortly after she had been in a dryer cage, Newsday reported in April.

Bessler said that although dryer cages are certainly something to think about when taking your pet to the groomer, he has never seen an animal left unattended in one during his six years of practice.

“Overall, groomers are compassionate people,” he said.