It never ceases to amaze me the problems dogs can have without their owners noticing. I realize that people who aren’t doggie fanatics don’t fuss over their pups the way we do at my dog business (www.thedoggieden.net.) But what comes into our grooming shop boggles the mind. It’s now the busy Spring season, and many people who come in only get their dog groomed once or twice a year. In those cases, skin and coat problems tend to be well entrenched.
Day before yesterday, an owner brought us his bichon complaining that the dog scratched constantly. Shawna (our groomer) turned him over and his belly was literally ALIVE! It was moving in a truly creepy way. Hundreds of thousands of fleas infested his belly, chest and bum. And who knows how many elsewhere? We soaped him up 3 times with our strongest flea shampoo, then disinfected the entire shop, especially the tub where we bathed him. I simply could not believe that anyone touching him would not have noticed the zillions of creatures moving around in his coat! We sent him home with Frontline and did our best to convince the owner to flea-bomb his home.
Shortly before that, a lab owner came in complaining that his dog stank. We also smelled the “dead things” odor. The owner thought pup must have rolled on a dead animal in the woods. When Maria went to take off his collar there was a wide band of horribly diseased skin and surface tissue underneath with no coat covering it at all. LOTS of dead tissue, which is what was causing the odor. Furious, Maria did manage not to turn to the owner and smack him upside the head. Imagine the suffering that poor lab endured while his family saw him as “fine!” Maria bathed and debrided the area with a medicinal shampoo. The odor went away and the dog looked as though he’d died and gone to heaven. Now you tell me, how the hell did no one in his family ever look under his collar in all those weeks?? Because it took weeks (if not longer) for the problem to reach this point. Was no one giving him an occasional scratch behind the ears??
In the end, we rinsed and dried the dog and exacted a promise from the owner that he would take him to a vet immediately. Who knows if he did.
So, please, get your hands into your dog’s coat. Often and everywhere. Scratch the area under his collar (it itches even if there are no skin problems; it ALWAYS itches). Give his ears a good, gentle rub. Put her on her belly and rub her chest and abdomen. Scratch the area on the inside of her back legs/haunches. Examine his bum for fecal staining or deposits and cut them out carefully with scissors if necessary. Give his underarms (front legs) a good scratch. And if you only have a second, well, scratch her back!!
Finally, it’s not just about discovering potential problems. Dogs need contact. They do it for each other in the wild. When a human does what a canine pack member might, dogs often reciprocate by licking (grooming) ones face. You think it’s kisses, but for her, it’s simply returning a favor. When I give my sheltie a good head and shoulders scratch she gets up on the back of the couch and cleans behind my ears! I have to remember to take my earrings off or she’ll chew them!