June 20, 2009 Ears to you!

Ears to You!

What a week! It’s hot and all the dogs are blowing coat so I’ve been up to my elbows in dog hair. Yesterday, my son Drew who is my right arm in grooming, broke his right arm! This is going to put a little kink in our summer. He is unfortunately like his mother. He’s right handed, very right handed. In other words, if it wasn’t for our left sides holding us up, there would be no other use for the left side. I’m anxious to see how we compensate for that little fault.
Our Sheltie Dreamer came down with a ruptured ear drum for some unknown reason that stumps even the vet, and we are doctoring him and trying to keep him comfy too. It is his right ear also. Hmmm, makes me why everything “right” has suddenly gone wrong.
This brings me to the reason for this column, your dogs ears. This is another place few people venture to look. Signs of an ear infection are lots of dark smelly debris in the ear, head tilting, scratching at the ears, shaking the head and pain upon touching the ears.
What causes ear problems? Well that can be just about anything honestly. In Jasmine, my standard poodle, eating anything with wheat in it, will cause her ears to become filled with black gook and itchy. This is a very good reason to read your dog food labels, some dogs are very allergic to wheat, corn and soy and ears are one way they show allergy.
Polyps in the ear can cause ear problems, and you can’t see them, they are way down inside the ear, only your vet can tell.
Too much hair inside the ear canal can act as a wick for bacteria and also impedes air flow to the ear canal. This is why some dogs have to have their ear hair plucked by the groomer or vet. I know it sounds painful but unless the ear has a problem it really isn’t. But this too can be a double edge sword, Bogey my Bichon is a dog with ear hair but if you pluck it, then he will begin to shake his head and scratch. So for him, plucking is not a good thing. We just keep his ears as clean as possible and pluck when absolutely necessary.
Dogs with droopy hanging ears tend to have more ear problems due to lack of air flow so those dogs tend to have dark moist ear canals and if you aren’t keeping them clean, they will begin to have an odor that many people mistake for simple “he needs a bath” odor. Nope, it’s his ears.
Foreign objects inside the ears can cause problems too, ticks, weed seeds, foxtail you name it, I’ve seen it inside ears. You really need to be aware of what’s inside your dog’s ears, dogs are like kids, they get into everything!
Ear mites are another cause for infection; those blood sucking little parasites are very common in cats and can be passed from one animal to another. It looks like your pet has coffee grounds inside his ears. That’s one symptom of ear mites.
If you have ever had an ear infection, you know how painful it is and how miserable you feel. Young children and babies are prone to ear infections. What do you do when your child has an ear infection? You go to the doctor and get some medicine. After all you don’t want your baby to lose his hearing right? So why is it that people have such a terrible time going to the veterinarian when their 4-legged baby has an ear infection? Animals can lose their hearing too!
Now one thing I want to add is this. If the groomer gets water in your pets ears that is NOT why he got an ear infection! I swear if I hear that old wives tale one more time… I heard it on the animal planet show last year “Groomer Has It” from the vet judge on the show. Her words were “if you get one drop of water into the dog’s ears you’ll cause an infection.” I have to tell you the groomers of the internet and vets in the know all came unglued at that comment! Water does NOT cause infection. How does your vet clean out the animal’s ears when they put them under anesthesia? They flush the ears out with a steady fast stream of WATER! Many vets use a water pik® for doing this. Dogs that swim can get “swimmers ear”, the solution is the same as the solution for you, a few drops of rubbing alcohol into the ear does the trick.
In fact, if you have a dog or cat with ear problems and you just put medication on top of the dirt and debris inside the ear, explain to me how that medicine is going to get to the root of the problem and clear up the infection? It CAN’T! You have to clean out the ears if you want to treat the problem. But first, you need to know if the eardrum is ruptured. Do not put anything inside an ear with a ruptured eardrum.
So if your dog is exhibiting any of the above mentioned problems go see your vet so they can examine the dog’s ear with an otoscope and see all the way down to the ear drum. They will advise you what to do. Ask questions, many vets seeing the same problems over and over will forget to mention what you should do, simply because they assume you already know. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Ask them how to clean out your dog’s ears, what products to use, and be sure to tell them what is in your pet’s food and treats! Chronic ear infections lead to expensive surgery to open up the ear canals, or deafness not to mention a life of misery and pain. Lift up those ear flaps now and take a good look inside those ears!

June 6, 2009 Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

As a groomer, I have a regular clientele that I see over and over again and just when I get into my steady little niche of folks who come, then life happens and shakes up my world again. Clients that are dear to my heart move away, or their beloved pet passes away, or sometimes even my dearest clients pass away. Lately I’ve had several of these things happen at once and I can’t tell you how sad it makes me to see them go.
One dear dog that I’ll miss terribly is moving to another state. Cupid is an Afghan Hound that belongs to Dave and Karen McDonald who are moving on to greener pastures. I had the pleasure of grooming Cupid one last time today. Dave told me that the groomer he’s been taking him to in Georgia hasn’t ever seen an Afghan Hound before. “Ahh, you get to break in another groomer huh?” I said to him. I remember being in that position. When Dave and Karen had adopted a pair of Afghan Hounds from a rescue shortly after I moved here, Karen called me and asked me if I could groom an Afghan Hound. “Well, I CAN groom them, but I haven’t ever done one before” I told her. They took a leap of faith and tried me out. I did what they asked me to do, and was completely intrigued by the breed. Every time they came to be groomed I learned more about them. I took classes on them in Chicago and Atlanta when I went to grooming shows. I bought brushes and products with them in mind and I really did enjoy grooming them, although they were MASSIVELY time consuming, with all the de-matting that had to be done. Long locks like those tangle easily. But the dogs themselves were just unique. Regal looking, and the beautiful walk they had on a leash was breathtaking to me. These creatures were something special! Over the years, I’d laugh at their antics, weep with exhaustion over grooming them and when they aged and became sick and passed away, I cried.
Cupid is another rescue who came along before they lost their last Afghan Hound. He was just a young dog, not a year old when he came. He was scared of everything! Still, he got through grooming 101 and passed with flying colors. He had a different personality than the other Afghans but was still charming, elegant and a trooper for grooming.
It’s amazing to me how close groomers become to the dogs they groom. I have a lot of dogs that I’ve become “Aunt Sandy” to over the years. That must be why it’s sad to see them go away. Those dogs aren’t just clients, they’re family, and many times so is the person on the other end of the leash.
Dr. Pete was another client I will dearly miss. His dogs went to Chicago with me to be demonstration dogs for seminars on Terriers. The top groomer in the country got to work his magic on Paddy, Onya and Sophie and teach a room full of hopeful groomers the techniques. I learned to have my car keys in my hands when I picked them up, because it never failed that as I loaded them into my car and walked around to the driver’s side; one of them would hop up on the door and lock me out. They were always happy to see me, and their tails went a mile a minute. When Paddy was accidentally let out of his yard one day, he walked all the way to my house, I was just coming home from shopping and there was Paddy in my driveway! Now that’s love! Dr. Pete’s wife Ann used to borrow my old dog Katy to teach Paddy manners when he was a pup. Katy would put Paddy in his place when he started playing too rough, and they really enjoyed each others company.
While nobody can replace the dogs or the people behind them, there still seems to be a string of new folks calling and getting into the loop that will make more new memories for me. I’ll have to remember to write down the memories of those that leave a paw print on my heart and one day make a book of memoirs of them.