A visit to the groomer can be at most risky and at least stressful for geriatric dogs. It is not uncommon for senior dogs to have health issues that make grooming more of a challenge. Arthritis, back and hip problems might make it difficult for them to stand. They may have tracheal problems or heart issues. Let’s face it; whether you’re talking about senior citizens or senior pets, there comes a time when safety and practicality take precedence over fancy hairdos.
In our salon, we try to get them in and out as soon as possible. While most of our canine customers have been coming to us since puppyhood, in some cases where their grooming appointment is obviously overdue, we may ask the owner sign a release form acknowledging their pet’s condition and the risk involved. In cases where the coat is badly matted, we would opt for a short haircut rather than subjecting the dog to a lengthy dematting process. The older dog’s comfort and safety are our top priorities.
That said, there are some things you and your groomer can do to lessen the stress when your sweet old senior goes for her day of beauty.
Look for experience. Look for a groomer who has experience with elderly dogs who may have trouble standing, have skin growths, problems with incontinence or just get cranky about being handled. It’s difficult work that takes lots of patience and skill.
Safety First. Make sure your groomer knows about your dog’s medical issues and how they are being treated by your vet.
Health considerations. If your pet has tracheal problems, ask the groomer to use a harness rather than a grooming noose on her, whether on the grooming table or in the tub. This problem is common with toy breeds like Poodles and Pomeranians. Make sure the groomer will handle your pet with the utmost care and patience, washing her with a low-pressure spray in the tub and not using a high-velocity forced-air dryer that could spur a panic attack. Dogs like this should be toweled, then gently fluff-dried.
In and out. Schedule her appointment first thing in the morning and be available to come and pick her up as soon as the job is complete. Old dogs, puppies and pets with health issues should not be kept in the salon all day long. You might also consider using a mobile groomer. Having a salon on wheels pull into your driveway and groom your pet right at home might lessen the stress factor for both of you.
Don’t expect miracles. Neat, clean and comfortable is good enough. A short trim that’s easy to maintain is the best style for your furry senior citizen. On senior Poodles, we often recommend “terrier feet,” clipped with the same blade as the legs rather than shaving between each toe with a #15 or #30 blade. Some elderly dogs have dental problems and clipping the face close can be painful and stressful for them as well as dangerous for the groomer. A fuzzy face can look just as cute as a closely shaved muzzle.
Just like senior humans, senior pets like to feel beautiful. When your dog is clean and comfortable with a colorful bow on her collar and a spritz of doggie cologne to make her smell delicious, tell her how pretty she looks. As a loving owner, you will be doing your best to make your pet happy and comfortable every day you have her in your life.