Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mats and Haircuts

We who have the longhaired breeds struggle with mats. It seems that one day your dog has a few knots and tangles which you religiously comb out and the next day, boom! You have mats and your dog will have to be shaved down to start anew.

Many customers ask us not to shave their dogs down to the skin. You probably chose your dog at least in part because of his or her beautiful coat and you don't want to lose it. But here's the thing with mats. Once you get them you have to shave close to the skin to be humane. Also, you wouldn't want the cost of attempting to preserve the coat as it would take many hours longer to do.

What happens is that the hair of many breeds known for mats has a rough texture on the hair shafts that tends to knot and tangle where hairs rub together. The knots and tangles twist in the friction areas, such as under the "arms" and behind the ears or wherever your dog or cat sleeps or rubs. As they twist, the knot takes up more and more of the "slack" hair, making it larger and tighter to the skin. Thus, a fully formed matt lies right up against the skin, often getting impregnated with skin and dander and making a big mushy mess.

If you're old enough to remember using a telephone with a spiral cord between the phone and the receiver, you'll remember how each time you picked up the receiver it twisted that cord and over time the receiver got so tangled and twisted that you couldn't really put it up to your ear and you had to untwist and tangle the thing.

That's how it is with mats. However, the phone doesn't have sensitive skin, and your dog does, so pulling on the mat to untangle it hurts your dog. The quickest and least painful solution is to shave under them. This removes them with no irritation to your dog and less cost to you. Sometimes if you catch them while they're still loose knots you can preserve a little bit of coat length, but if you're feeling mats, they're already close to the skin and you'll have to shave close.

The good news is that hair grows fast. If you do have to shave your dog down, his or her hair will be back in a few weeks and you can start again. If you keep your dog's coat less than 1" long and brush every day you'll never be troubled with mats. And if you mess up, as most of us do, and the mats get away from you, we can give your dog a stylish short clip and get him clean and cute again. No worries.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rescue Story: Barney

This gorgeous boy came to the MSPCA when his elderly parents had to move to a small, second story apartment, where Barney couldn't follow them, in order to cope with some health challenges. Although matted and dirty, Barney is every inch a gentleman, here pictured getting some special attention from MSPCA visitor Savannah Janik-Pecknold.

Barney and Savannah have something in common: they are both nine years old. For Savannah, that's the age of discovery - finding out about life and its promise. At nine years of age, Barney has reached his peak performance of giving love and requesting little in return. He's definitely a senior in terms of his breed's life expectancy, but clear-eyed and big-hearted, he seems poised to take on the next phase of his life with grace and dignity.

The American Kennel Club describes the Great Pyrenees dog as having "the distinct impression of elegance and unsurpassed beauty combined with great overall size and majesty… He possesses a keen intelligence and a kindly, while regal, expression. Exhibiting a unique elegance of bearing and movement, his soundness and coordination show unmistakably the purpose for which he has been bred, the strenuous work of guarding the flocks in all kinds of weather on the steep mountain slopes of the Pyrenees."

We spent our Sunday afternoon with Barney today to give him a makeover to help him find a home for his golden years. We styled him as a lion, leaving a generous mane and natural front legs while clipping out the matted and dirty areas around his hindquarters, tail and chest. In a few weeks his glorious white coat will fill back in, but in the meantime, he's clean and cool for summer.

Barney's a gentle giant and a willingly soul. He gamely tried to jump into the van and onto the grooming table, but needed some help as he's weak in the hind end. He walks easily on a leash and seems comfortable either lying down, or sitting for short periods. He didn't object to his bath at all, in fact, he jumped right into the hydro-bath (with a boost) and seemed to love being dried and brushed out. He needs so little to be safe and comfortable: board and room with a soft bed and a weekly brush would fulfill his needs.

Aussie PetMobile Cape Cod would like to support Barney to be happy and healthy and pledges to discount Barney's regularly scheduled grooms by 10% for life.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunburn and Your Pet

Everyone knows you should protect your skin from sun damage by wearing a hat, staying in the shade and using sun protection products, but fewer people are aware that sun is a medical risk for their pets as well. Light or short coated dogs such as Maltese, Boxers, and the Bully breeds are especially vulnerable, as is any dog clipped short for the summer and those breeds that are susceptible to skin tumors such as Dobies, Poodles and Schnauzers. Even a shaggy-coated companion can get burned in sun-sensitive areas such as the nose, ear tips, belly or groin if exposed to bright sun for long periods of time, such as a day at the beach or on the boat.

Happily, you can take much the same precautions with your dog as you do for yourself. Provide shade and apply a sun protection product on sensitive areas that's especially formulated for dogs (cats too!) Using human sunscreens is risky because dogs, and particularly cats, will likely lick the product off and then you have to worry about whether it's safe to ingest. Probably not.

Several companies make sun protection products for animals, Epi-Pet, Doggies and Nutri-Vet are names you may see at your local pet store. Whichever product you choose, note that Octyl Salicylate products should not be used on cats because if ingested it breaks down into a substance that's toxic to them. Check your pet store for these products and others and keep some on hand when your pet is exposed to intense sun. With pets as with people, you need to use a significant amount (one tablespoon for every body part) and re-apply every 4 - 6 hours to be effective.

At Aussie Pet Mobile Cape Cod, we use a sun guard product on every light-coated dog we clip during the summer months but the protection is temporary so owners need to be aware of sun risks and be prepared to continue treatment as needed.

Happy summer!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Fur Side: De-Shedding Your Pet

One of my customers made me laugh by telling me she was imagining that we had a machine that we could put a dog into with just its head sticking out that would just suck out all the extra hair, kind of like what you might expect to find in an "I Love Lucy" episode. That would be nice, but de-shedding is just hard work, tools and technique, no machine at all.

I invited my customer into the grooming cabin to watch how de-shedding is done. First we clip nails, clean ears and eyes just as we do at the beginning of any groom. On big dogs we would use our high velocity drier to blow away dead hair and debris (small dogs are often wary of the noise of the drier and honestly, it's so powerful it could blow a very small dog right off the table!)

Then we use a de-shedding shampoo and a rubber curry tool in the bath to give a vigorous massage that releases and washes away dead hair. Following the rinse we massage in a de-shedding solution for at least five minutes, concentrating on the dog's heaviest coat areas, around the neck and hindquarters. Typically after a de-shedding bath the tub is coated with a layer of hair and the drain basket is totally full. After a thorough rinse and leave-in conditioner, we dry with the high velocity drier, again blasting out more hair. Whew! That was a lot of work and now the grooming cabin is filling up with hair that we'll conveniently suck into our shop vac, and you won't have in your house, but the real work starts now.

We use a de-shedding tool, or what's often called a carding tool, to remove excess undercoat. Furminator makes a line of these products for consumer use but many brands have been made and used in the grooming business long before Furminator captured the consumer market. We carefully draw the ultra-fine teeth of the de-shedding tool through the clean dry coat until it's captured all the excess hair, which can take a half an hour of more of dedicated work. These tools can irritate skin so it takes experience to know how much pressure to apply and how much repeated combing can be tolerated without redness or soreness developing. I often collect the hair gathered with the tool into a bucket to make it easier to clean the cabin and I can see how much hair is removed by the de-shedding process even after a professional bath and brush. For a medium or large dog, I can expect to gather 2 to 3 gallons of downy, "dust bunny-like" balls of undercoat just using the de-shedding tools. See Clover's picture at the head of this article.

We de-shed cats too, although most of our customers prefer a lion cut to reduce the amount of hair in their homes and their cats' tummies. Either way, having your dog or cat professionally de-shed can reduce the amount of hair in your home by 60 - 80% if done regularly. With a light coated dog, we might recommend you try de-shedding in spring and just professional baths the rest of the year to keep the "fur side" under control.

On their web site, Furminator says that shedding is the number one complaint of pet owners. I don't doubt it!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Should You Vacation with Your Pet?

With the big Fourth of July holiday at hand, vacationers are on the move and many are wondering and worrying about what to do with their pets.

There are many pet-friendly establishments on the Cape and numerous web sites encourage you to travel with your dog or cat by providing advice, travel products and destination info. But… Just after the movie Pet Detective came out, we read a newspaper article about a real world pet detective whose hobby is to help people recover their lost pets. This expert's advice about vacationing with your pet is absolutely clear: Don't! He reported that taking your pet out of its regular habitat is just asking for trouble. Pets can be disoriented and seek to find their way home. Your usual safeguards may not be in place (that hole in the fence you didn't notice or that door that doesn't close tightly). Pets are far more likely to get lost while on vacation, he says, and are harder to find in unfamiliar territory. Cats in particular have a hard time away from home.

Qualified pet sitters are available if you decide to leave Fido/Fifi at home, such as the good people at Red Rover.

If you decide to take the plunge, make sure you have an ID on your pet's collar that has your cell phone number on it or a local contact. Some pet friendly establishments offer temporary tags that identify your pet as an approved guest and also give local phone number. Microchipping is best but a temporary tag can be made in minutes for a few dollars at many large pet stores in and customized for your situation.

If your dog isn't crate trained, well before the vacation would be a good time to make his/her crate feel like a secure den. Many lodgings allow pets but some stipulate that the pet not be left alone in the room unless they're crated. A crate can also serve as an air-cooled alternative to being locked in the car or a hotel room if you can find a safe and reassuring place to set it up.

When you get back from your grand adventure, contact us for bath, haircut, aloe deep conditioning treatment, or flea and tick treatment as conditions dictate.

Have a great summer!