What should I look for in a shampoo?

My veterinarian Dr. Cathy Alinovi brought up the subject of blogging and asked me if I knew any groomers who had a grooming blog. I gave her some names and links, and also my own which is not necessarily grooming but they are all dog related topics. Well she asked me if I needed a few questions to get me started blogging again, I told her yes, so she came up with "What should I look for in a shampoo?". After being a groomer for 17 years, and having a plethora of pet shampoos at my disposal, this is a difficult question. One thing that stands out to me as a groomer and a consumer is pet products do not require ingredient labelling on the shampoos because they are not regulated. This is scary! I'm not really worried about shampoos per say, but when you use one on a dog and either the dog breaks out or YOU break out because of using it, don't you think it may be important to know what ingredient isn't agreeing with you? Case in point, I had a client who brought their own shampoo they bought from their vet and my hands began itching after using it on their dog. I called the company who told me that I am not a veterinarian and that information is proprietary. They wouldn't tell me what was in it. Well this made me furious, because as a groomer it is ME, not the vet who is TOUCHING the shampoo and it is ME who is having an allergic reaction to it. How dare this company have such little regard for groomers! What if the owner of the dog broke out? Would they get the same line when they called them? As a pet care professional it is my duty to know what the heck I am using for which type of skin or coat issue. My business relies on my expertise, after all every dog that walks out of my salon is an advertisement for my business. If a dog breaks out because of an allergic reaction to a product and the company will not disclose all the information because they are afraid I may give their secret away and make a knock off and get rich from it... well do you see my frustration? Do you see human hair product companies doing this? NO! Why? Because they are regulated and have to list ingredients. Are there knock off Pantene's? Yes, and everyone wants a bargain but customer loyalty is usually very high with certain products and I really don't see the Pantene company suffering from it, So for me, complete ingredient listing is important.

The next thing to look for is what kind of skin and coat does my dog have? Is my dog itchy, dry, flaky, or smelly? Does my dog have a harsh wiry coat and I want to keep it that way? Does my dog suffer from allergies and is sensitive to just about everything? Does my dog have a long coat that mats easily? Is my dog's coat oily? This is why I have so many shampoos and conditioners in my salon. You never know what is going to walk in the door. A good groomer can point you in the right direction as far as which products to use. We have had lots of practice!

Most people use the "sniff"  method to determine a good shampoo. If it smells good to you, it will be great! Yes and no, depending again on what is going on with your dog's skin. If your dog has normal skin and coat, you can do this. If you dog is sensitive or allergy prone, skip anything with fragrance because that will set them off.
Then there is the "feel" test.  This requires that you buy the product and use it, and feel your dogs coat to see is it still oily? Does it smell good? Is the hair soft to the touch if it's supposed to be or harsh and wiry if that is the type of hair the dog has?  How long does this feeling last? A couple of days? More than a week? (That is if your dog doesn't go out and roll in something awful.)  Does it feel good every time you shampoo or after a few shampoos does it begin to lose it's luster?  Depending on what is in the shampoo, you can get build up just like we do if we use the same products over and over.  Sometimes switching between a couple of products is helpful. 

Also over using medicated shampoos can exacerbate the skin problems! The bottom line is you can't fix bad skin with shampoo alone.  It starts from within.  If your dog is greasy, flaky or itchy there is a good chance he has an allergy and 9 times out of 10 it may be what you are feeding your dog. Find a good holistic veterinarian in your area and discuss diet with them.  www.ahvma.org is where to start! Many main stream vets honestly just do not have expertise on what ingredients are in dog foods, or they simply go by what the dog food reps tell them.  (Don't get me started on that subject)  Research dog food ingredients!  Go to sites like www.truthaboutpetfood.com  and read the articles.  There are many good websites that have popped up with good information on them after the massive 2007 dog food recall. You would be amazed at the role diet plays in your dogs skin and coat! 

Finally, when in doubt, just ask your groomer!  We are always happy to help our customers with any questions they have regarding their pets. We love them too! There is no greater joy for a groomer than an owner who cares enough to ask what to use and how to use it! 

9/19/10 How to turn your husband into an animal lover

How to turn your husband into an animal lover

Okay, so the title is misleading. The truth is, I’ve been married for over 22 years now and when we first got married my husband was a farm boy. He was strictly “no animals in the house” and I was raised that way too. Our dogs lived outside, but had a barn and dog houses to stay in. We didn’t tie them up, they were able to roam, but that has its consequences too. One of our dogs was hit by a car. I look back at those days and think how stupid we were.
Now we have 3 dogs, 2 cats and a rabbit living inside the house. Acting as throw rugs to walk over, and they are our constant companions. So what snapped in him? What made him go from farm boy, no critters in the house to this? Well, honestly, it wasn’t him that changed, it was me.
Most men like to put on the tough guy image, they like animals, but they don’t normally show how much they like them. Or maybe that’s the farm boy mentality. Once a dog or cat is in your house, you can’t ignore them. They are there, looking at you. It’s only natural to reach out and pet them as you are relaxing, watching TV. Most animals will not allow you to ignore them. I know mine won’t. You will get a little nudge to your hand, or Dolly will lay her head on your lap and look at you with a pitiful expression. That look will melt anyone.
The trick is you start out slow, gently allowing your mate to get used to having a furry friend in the house. Always be sure to bring in the pet cleaned up and smelling good. While some dogs can be very rambunctious at first in the house, they quickly realize that this is a calm place to be and love it! All kenneled or tied up animals will be a little hyperactive at first; after all it’s their first taste of freedom! Who could blame them?
Normally I advise doing this while your spouse is at work, so the newness of the dog being inside wears off by the time “Daddy” gets home. Of course, seeing your spouse will get Fido acting a little hyper and happy, and he may be a little too eager to greet dear old Dad.
Be sure to “puppy proof” the house beforehand and get down on your hands and knees and be on the look out for anything dangerous to your pet! You’d be surprised at what they can get into to get hurt, or destroy things you never thought they would. My rule is if you want to keep it, you better put it away. If the dog eats it, it’s not the dog’s fault; it’s yours for not putting it up.
Pay attention to your pet! If you see him circling or sniffing around, chances are he needs to go out. Take him out on a leash, let him do his business and then praise him! Make sure you stay out long enough for #1 and #2. Don’t make the mistake of giving him a treat for going potty after he goes, because that treat will trigger the urge for #2 again!
Now the next part is the tough part. However, if you are over 30 years old, you may not find it hard at all. You IGNORE all negative words that come out of your spouse’s mouth. You simply think to yourself, this is my house too and I’m keeping the dog inside! Eventually the turbulence will subside, and you will catch your mate petting the dog when he thinks you aren’t looking. Soon, he’ll be sharing tidbits with him, and you may even find him talking to the dog when he thinks you aren’t around.
It’s a pretty interesting metamorphosis when you change your husband from a farm boy who thinks all furry things are livestock, into a caring human being who actually enjoys the company of your dog!
A little guilt never hurts either. Once when I rescued a collie (we already had one) he asked me, “Who does the dog belong to?” I said, “What dog?” hoping he would mistake him for our dog Brittany. Okay, so trying to trick him into double vision didn’t work so well, but when he yelled at me to get the dog out of bathroom when he went to shower, I scolded him and told him that the dog had been abused by a man and did NOT need to hear him yelling! It was a little white lie, but it worked. He quieted down, and petted the dog on the head.
It also never hurts to remind them of the truth. After that little run in, I reminded him that you’d think after 17 years of me bringing critters home, and knowing that they will live with us, that he’d learn that I always get my way, and to just pipe down and deal with it. I haven’t heard a peep out of him since.
So you see, it wasn’t really him that changed, but it was me who went from a meek and mild, obedient wife, to an independent woman who knew what she wanted and how to get it. Now I get to see him enjoy holding the dogs’ leashes and walking them when we go to shows, and happily telling people all about them at rest areas and gas stations. He doesn’t fool me. I know he loves the attention they bring him too.

7/16/10 The Problem with Cats

The problem with cats

Wow, it’s been a busy few weeks at my house. We survived the fair, rescued some puppies, and found them homes. We even rescued some birds, and have seen some animal neglect cases that I hope get prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Just today a man visited me with a sibling to the puppies we rescued; he is also looking for a home for her. These puppies are adorable! They appear to be Chihuahua and Beagle mixes or possibly a little Italian Greyhound too. I’m working hard to help them find her a forever home.
After seeing the sheer volume of unwanted pets in town alone, I’m convinced we need more education on spaying and neutering. Money shouldn’t be the issue because there are many low cost spay and neuter options. In fact, there was just a “Tom cat special” offered for only $15 through North Central Indiana Spay and Neuter located near Battleground. Even local vets are known to give a good deal on the feral cats. There is also the FACE clinic in Indianapolis, I’ve used them before, and they are awesome, their website is www.facespayneuter.org and you can call them at (317)638-3223
There are TNR (trap, neuter, return) programs out there for feral cats, to fix them so they don’t reproduce anymore, but release them back where they came from. The other thing that TNR does is, with “fixed” animals, you won’t have the problem with spraying territory from tom cats, you won’t be hearing the caterwauling from females in heat, you won’t have your heart torn out trying to find homes for kittens, or watching them die. You won’t hear the cat fights from tom cats shredding each other over territory, and watching the loser of the fight die
You can contact Tri-county TNR to schedule spay/neuter appt. for feral cats call (765) 491-0930 or email nlallen48@hotmail.com
Neutering and spaying works great for barn cats! In fact, I recommend it for all farms with barn cats, because it will keep the kitties near the barn and not give them an urge to roam and disappear or be eaten by coyotes. Also, if the feral cats are infected with diseases like feline leukemia or feline AIDS, they won’t be passing it on to their offspring, and they will be much less likely to fight and pass it along to other cats. If you need barn cats, there is no shortage of cats needing a home. Contact your local pound and tell them how many you can take, before it’s too late. Cats don’t stand much of a chance for adoption when we have the numbers of feral or wild cats that we have now.
Spaying and neutering won’t rid the town of the unwanted pets we currently have but it will GREATLY reduce future numbers.
For instance,
The Prolific Cat 1st year x 3 litters = 12 offspring (oftentimes they have more) and if those kittens aren’t spayed or neutered…
2nd year = 144 offspring and if those kittens are also not spayed and neutered….
3rd year = 1,728 offspring etc.
4th year = 10,736 offspring etc.
7th year = 370,192
Do you see the problem folks?

The Prolific Dog 1st year = 4 offspring with 2 females (again many times there are more, big dogs = big litters) and if those puppies aren’t spayed or neutered…
2nd year = 12 offspring and if those puppies aren’t spayed or neutered…
3rd year = 36 offspring etc.
5th year = 324 offspring
In my experience, these numbers are very conservative.

Now I realize that feral cats and cats in general who roam outdoors are a nuisance animal to many gardeners, and uncovered sandboxes. There are some products you can apply to your flower beds to deter them from using them as a restroom, as well as motion activated sprinklers which will scare the cats away from a garden area. I realize not many people are cat lovers, or even likers for that matter, but not all cats are wild, some are just pets that get out.
I’ve heard the old redneck saying “a .22 slug is cheaper” to fix the feral cat problem but what if it was your pet? How would you and your kids feel if the neighbor killed your cat or dog? What if your cat was trapped and taken to the pound, and by the time you figured out who to call to see if they had seen it, it was too late?
But the current thinking is to trap and euthanize as many as possible to thin them out. My thoughts are, that’s only a very temporary solution because they breed like rabbits! Soon we will be back at square one again. Even if it was required for all pet owners to spay and neuter all pets, we would still be overrun with cats, due to the heavy feral population which just keeps growing. Statistics prove that TNR programs do work, and reduce feral cat colonies in no time.
Part of the problem is feeding them because after all they need to eat, who can watch a kitty starve even if it is too wild to touch? Many well-meaning people put out food for the feral kitties and don’t consider them their pets. One problem, if you are feeding them, guess what…they ARE considered your pets. If you feed them, fix them!
In many cities there are ordinances that require a leash law for cats as well. This would pose a huge problem for me personally, because I have a cat that goes through my dog door. I can’t keep him in. I’ve looked at the electronic dog doors that open only when the dog who wears a transmitter around their neck gets near it, but the problem is, I’ve seen my cat dart through the dog’s legs as they are going through the dog door.
I’m looking into netting to put at the top of the fenced in area. There are companies that carry it online. I’m getting prices from “Affordable Fence” at www.catfence.com. I’ve already put up a “Fido Shock” electric fence around the bottom of my fence to keep the dogs from digging out, I could put one at the top, and hope it zaps the cat and he goes back inside, but I am a little hesitant to do that, he would probably hit it and rocket himself over the fence and never come back.
So how do you identify your pet cat from a feral cat? Collars with I.D. tags on cats work until they get it caught on something and it breaks away or falls off. My other cat who doesn’t go out wears one, just in case. For the “Houdini” cat, I plan to have him micro-chipped but at the present time, our own animal control doesn’t have a scanner, so if your pet is chipped, nobody will know. (Don’t worry, folks, I’m working on them about that!) The good news is he is already neutered, so he won’t be helping produce more “Houdini” cats.

7-5-2010 Neglect and Abandonment

Neglect and Abandonment

I received the following ad found on craigslist in the Chicago area, that I thought was very appropriate, and something I’ve thought to myself I should write often:

You aren't looking for them, but I found your 2 dogs
Date: 2010-06-02, 11:47AM
Sigh. No one is looking for these guys. And I see why.
They hump everything in sight, try to dominate our old doggies, try to
eat our cats and pee on everything and bark at everything. Neurotic,
lick constantly. They know no commands, either in English or Spanish.
They are aggressive and most likely lived in a puppy mill.
You dumped them, probably, and we picked them up before they were killed
by traffic. Unneutered, no tags, two small males under a year old.
I hate you, person who dumped these dogs.
There are no lost ads on phone poles, no lost ad on Craig's list, no
lost ad in the paper.
We put signs up all over, put a found notice in at the local pounds. If
you were looking for these filthy little ragamuffins, you would have
found them.
We are afraid to take them to the pound because under stress, your dogs
were snappy and horribly afraid, and dogs are judged by temperament for
adoption placement. They would not have passed that test.
They are, under their filth, mats and horrible habits, adorable.
They have learned "Quiet," "Come," "Sit."
They have stopped being so neurotic and we have broken most of their bad
habits in just a few days.
They are smart and sweet and are looking for guidance and WANT to be
good little dogs.
One is a purebred little white and buff guy with an under bite, the
other is a brown little dog that looks almost exactly like a miniature
version of a larger breed dog. They know each other and were obviously
(by the same bad habits) raised (poorly) together.
We will get them neutered, train them and get them into a good, loving
home with people who use the brains God gave them.
If these are your dogs, come on by. Not so you can have them back.
So I can kick your ---.
This has been an eventful week for me as well. My kids found a couple of puppies who followed them home. Word on the street says they were dumped off. The puppies were so covered in fleas; I’m surprised they were still alive. I got rid of the fleas and fed them and that helped with the anemia. Sweet as pie, they surely belonged to someone at some time. They were very used to humans and very loving. I took them to the vet to deal with their bloody diarrhea which I feared was parvo, but luckily for them, it was hookworm and whipworm. I took care of the worms, vaccinated them and they soon became the bouncy puppies they should be. I found a foster home for them who called me today to tell me they are 99% sure they want to adopt them. I’m so glad!
I’ve also received an email from Carthage, IL about two kittens found in the Mississippi River. They were caught on a fishing net, and one kitten was hooked by its ear. Luckily somebody saw them and rescued them. One kitten’s foot was swollen and feared broken but while at the vet they discovered that it was infected and full of maggots, and not broken. I wonder if there were more kittens that weren’t lucky enough to get caught on a fishing net.
Why are people so evil? What makes someone hate an animal so much they will throw it in a river instead of finding someone to give it a home instead? What makes someone dump off puppies full of fleas and parasites instead of find it a home or spay their mother? I know that times are hard and rescues are full but there are people to help. Dumping them off is not the way to do this. Call a vet, a groomer, a rescue group, a pound, a human society or anybody! Put an absolutely free ad in the paper. Put up a poster at the grocery store. There are a million things you can do instead of just dumping them off, hoping some animal loving person will take them in and care for them, even when they don’t have the time, or money themselves to do it.
I have to say I was not happy to see these little pups show up but my son reminded me, “Well Mom, what would you do? They had fleas so bad, somebody had to do something!” so they brought them to me to do something. Sometimes I feel like my kids are the pied pipers of Attica, but instead of leading the critters out of town, they lead them to our house. While I love puppies as much as anyone, I know the work they require and the time commitment and I am just not set up to deal with puppies. I’m glad I was able to help them though. They are sweet loving little pups who deserve a chance at a forever home, and I think they got one.
I’ve also done some favors for our dog pound on behalf of the animals. Some of the cases they deal with are horrifying. I’m glad I was here to help. Do I have extra time to do this? No, but I do it because somebody has to. It seems to be my lot in life.
I was chatting with a client about rescue and needing foster homes and volunteers, and they were genuinely interested in helping! It doesn’t mean you have to foster dogs, or adopt dogs or give money. Oftentimes, just taking a dog to Petsmart for an adopt-a-thon and sitting there chatting with people about them, and giving the dogs exposure will help find them a forever home. If you can do more, great! There is always something to do to help in rescue. One of the rescues I’m working with is called “We Care Animal Rescue” and we are most grateful for any volunteers. If you are interested in helping you can call 765 491-8860 or visit their website at www.wecarerescue.org and find out ways you can help.
If we all do a little, we can help a lot.

6-19-2010 In the Public Eye

In the Public Eye

After my television debut on ABC’s “Nightline” last week, I guess I was right about my luck with the media. A Nightline reporter followed us all around for three days, sitting through creative grooming seminars, watching us prep our pooches and seeing how much we all love and cherish our pets, and then they did what I feared they would. They called the piece, “Really, would you do this to your dog?”
Naturally that title alone conjures up images of abuse. Their facebook page started immediately getting comments even before it aired, after just showing a few photos. Most of the emails were from people who thought this was above and beyond animal abuse. Of course, I immediately responded and told ABC how disappointed I was that they would do this. ABC responded to me by telling me to “wait until it airs, then see what you think”. So I stayed up late, it was put off due to a ball game and came on after midnight.
We were shown first, followed by all the other creative grooms, and then they turned the conversation to “What about the physical and mental well being of the animals?” and showed a close up of my dogs looking sad. They were actually bored, because they were waiting for their turn for presentation, and they were chilling out. Then they managed to find one groomer in New York who apparently doesn’t go to grooming shows, otherwise she would know what this is. She thinks this is, in her words “disgusting”.
They showed her their clips and she heard that some of the grooms take 30 hours to do. She assumed that was 30 straight hours! We like to eat, sleep and take breaks too. Standing up for 30 hours straight would be inhumane for us, let alone a dog! You see, they didn’t bother to tell her that we work on these designs weekly, as we bathe them. Just a little bit at a time. Then when we groom them at the show, it’s a quick 2 hour contest, the dogs are already washed and dried, and we just cut the hair and add decorations and a little more color. The dogs are usually pre-dyed. No different that a regular groom for a client really, but a little more “exciting”.
Then she saw the clip of a zebra looking dog lying on the table, and relaxing. She took that to mean the dog was exhausted and depressed. Actually it was lying down so the groomer could reach the top of the neck. I put Jasmine on the floor to do her back so I could see it better, since the tables they provided us with don’t move up and down like the one I have at home.
She thought that since the zebra dog was only a year old, it was too calm for a young dog, and something was obviously wrong. What was “wrong” was only the dog is well trained, and used to being groomed weekly. In fact, Pickles (the dog’s name) is a therapy dog and goes to visit autistic children in schools. A therapy dog must be calm.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, when the other groomers were on the Today show, Martha Stewart cornered one of the groomers and told her she thought that it was cruel to do this! Of course, that didn’t make it on the air. Oh Martha, you are a sly one behind the scenes!
This makes me want to mail Martha a “gift” from my dog, all glittered up and pretty! Maybe she can make a lovely centerpiece out of it! I get so tired of all the negative comments from people like this. They just don’t have a clue. Meanwhile some of the groomers are getting phone calls with people cursing them out, and thinking creative grooming is a terrible thing, and we are awful people. Who knows what some over zealous, insane person would do in the name of animal rights? Guess it’s a good thing we have our dogs as body guards.
This is the problem with the media. You can’t believe even a reputable news show to give you the whole truth. They take bits and pieces, and when they put it all together, it will skew anyone’s opinion. If it gets your riled up, then they get ratings. It has made me rethink everything on the news lately.
The good news is the TLC show “Extreme Poodles” didn’t stoop to that level, and actually showed the groomers and their dogs having fun and made it very clear these dogs were well loved, and enjoyed a great life. This is a fact, because I know some of these dogs personally. Whether “Extreme Poodles” becomes a series or not, remains to be seen. I hope they make more shows and help show the public that we are not monsters, even if we may make our dogs look like monsters, or camels, lions and Clydesdales.

6-5-2010 Obese Dogs

Obese Dogs

I just had a conversation with a groomer friend, Linda in Wisconsin who called me up complaining of her aches and pains from her day of grooming. The cause of the aches and pains was a golden retriever client that she hadn’t seen in two years. Back in 2008, this golden retriever tipped the scales at a whopping 260 lbs! She measured his waist and it was a huge 40” around. A 40” waist may not be so bad if you are human but if you are supposed to be a normal sized 60 lb. dog, that’s extreme!
She warned them in 2008 of the health risks associated with their dog’s obesity, and tried to convince them to put him on a diet. Apparently, they didn’t listen. Which leads me to the question, why did she book the dog for grooming again?
Well I can answer that one. It stems from hormones and childbirth. When you want to have a child, there is an overwhelming urge and your biological clock begins ticking. Once you become pregnant, as happy as you are to be pregnant, the morning sickness hits you, and even though you are indeed glad to be pregnant, the side effects can be awful. Along towards the end of your pregnancy journey, the feet and ankle swelling begins, along with the general aches and pains, and restlessness. Sleeping in a bed is no longer comfortable; you opt for the recliner instead. Then labor hits. You may have decided to be a “he-woman” and not take any drugs for the pain. Although this is what your Lamaze coach recommends, all you need for pain is to focus on an object and breathe…once you are actually in labor, you discover that you not only can’t focus on anything except for the pain, but breathing has also become hard to do! What were you thinking?
They say you never forget the pain of childbirth, this is true but then those darned hormones hit and you get that overwhelming urge in a couple of years to have a second child, and it isn’t until you are pregnant again that you remember how bad it was the first time.
That must be what she did. She just forgot how bad it was the first time, or maybe she thought she had actually gotten through to her clients and they took her advice and put their dog on a diet. Well when she opened the door today, she found out that the dog had gained an additional 30 lbs. in the past two years, and his waist size has ballooned to a whopping 53 and a half inches around! A 290 lb. golden retriever! Now that has got to be some kind of a record.
Why is this dog so overweight? Does he have some kind of thyroid imbalance or immune disorder which is making him gain? Well, we just don’t know because the owners never took him to the vet to find out. It seems they live on a farm and he eats the grain that the cows eat along with 4 cups a day of his dog food, and eats the barn cats’ food, and whatever else he can get into. I’m pretty sure a vet would’ve read them the riot act over letting this dog get so heavy.
At his enormous weight, the dog is having difficulty walking; his hocks are breaking down from carrying the immense weight. I know that his heart has to be working on overload, along with his other vital organs. The dog is getting pressure sores on his body from lying down, and of course he was a mess from not being groomed in two years.
I’ve seen clients kill their dogs with kindness by over-feeding them. Just because he’s giving you those “doggy eyes” doesn’t mean you have to give in and feed him more. On every bag of dog food you’ll find a chart on how much to feed a dog that weighs x amount of lbs. Now, you are supposed to feed the amount for what the dog SHOULD weigh, not what he currently weighs. If your dog weighs 50 lbs, and should weigh 30 lbs, then you need to feed him what a 30 lb. dog should eat daily. Measure it with a REAL measuring cup, not the extra large cup your coke came in from McDonalds. There is a difference!
My friend Linda told her clients after she had completed the grooming that unless he lost weight, she would not groom him again. The clients were shocked and confused as to why she would say such a thing. Then she felt bad later. I told her not to feel bad because she had to protect her own body. None of us are getting any younger, and nobody can afford to hurt their back or shoulder etc. She took some pain relievers and hot bath and hopefully with some luck, she will get out of bed tomorrow and face another day of grooming. Unless you’ve been a groomer, or done some of your own dogs’ grooming it’s hard to understand how physical this job is.
I only hope her clients see the light and take some action to get their dog to the vet, and put him on a strict diet and confine him so he can’t get into the other livestock’s feed. It won’t be long until he does collapse and they will not be able to pick him up and take him to the vet. The one who ultimately suffers is the dog.
Don’t kill your dog with kindness, be loving but firm, food and treats don’t equal love and attention.