What Can Go Wrong at the Dog Groomer and What to Do

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Many dogs visit the dog groomer and show behavior changes when coming home. It is important for a dog owner to know what is normal, what is not, and what to do.

There are many things that can go wrong following a trip to the dog groomer, accidents do happen and dogs are sometimes hurt.  If your pet is acting odd, or shows signs of injury after going to the dog groomer, be aware that you may need to do some checks.

Normal Dog Behavior After being Clipped

It is normal for a dog to feel odd or silly after getting their hair shaved. Many dogs run around, feeling lighter, others act traumatized and hide. Some dogs are itchy for a day or two, particularly if their fur had been badly matted. These mats pull in the dogs skin and cause the dog pain and discomfort, so when removed the dog is happy to itch. Some head shaking might occur, but if excessive this is a concern (see below).

As dogs get groomed more regularly their owner will become familiar with the dogs normal behavior and will then know if something went wrong.

shih tzu puppy haircut

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Abnormal Dog Behavior After being Clipped

If a dog acts like it is sleepy, acts aggressive, or appears to be in pain there could be cause for alarm. There are many things that can go wrong at a dog groomers and if the groomer is not honest or ethical, they may not be so quick to tell you about about what happened.

Sleepy Dog

Although a dog might sleep when you get it home, it should not be sleepy when you pick it up at the groomer. This behavior may indicated that your dog was drugged or otherwise sedated at the groomer. In many places this is actually illegal and should never be done without your permission as well as that of a veterinarian. A dog could have a reaction to the sedative (or be overdosed by the groomer) and there have been cases where this has caused death. Sedation without the owners knowledge is more common in cats, but is a risk concern in dogs as well. If you suspect your dog was sedated without your knowledge and permission take the dog immediately to a veterinarian for a blood test.

A sleepy dog can also be a warning that the dog was too warm for too long. In some grooming salons dogs are put into driers, if left in the drier too long they can overheat, or die. Offer the dog some water to rehydrate it, and possibly visit a veterinarian if it does not perk up.

Aggressive Dog or in Pain

If the dog was handled roughly at the groomer, and was possibly hurt, it may react negatively to its owner. Some of the problems that can happen, in addition to being treated roughly, are that the dog was nicked by the clippers. This often happens to female dogs who have had puppies (even if a long time ago) their nipples stick out a big more can can be cut. The groomer should notify the owner if this happens, and should pay any vet bills if veterinarian attention is needed.

Another painful problem is that the clippers were not kept lubricated and cool. Hot clippers can burn a dogs skin, this may be seen on the skin which would be pink in color where the dog is white. Often a rash will form.  Again a dog with a clipper burn should go to the veterinarian for immediate attention.

If the dog is shaking its head more than usual or appears to have a pain in its ears it could be that water got into the dogs ear canal. This can be a problem in addition to being uncomfortable, water in the dogs ear can lead to infections.  Dog groomers should try not to get water inside a dogs ears, but it can happen if the dog is not behaved.

A dog might be itchy after visting the dog groomer if they picked up fleas, or if the groomer used a perfume on the dog that it is allergic to.

Another problem is if the groomer cut the dogs toe nails too short.  All dog groomers should have something to stop the bleeding if they cut into the quick and should inform the owner. 

Some groomers clean out a dogs anal glands. They should never do this without informing you. If a dogs anal glands are cleaned manually they always need to be cleaned manually. Most large dogs do not require their anal glands to be cleaned. If a dog is scooting its rump, this can indicate the dog needs its glands cleaned. If the anal glands are not cleaned properly the groomer may have injured the dog. The dog may have blood on its rectum, or may appear to be in pain while defecating.

What to Do if there was a Problem

If you suspect the groomer did something wrong call them, and get a veterinarian to back up your opinion. They should be responsible for any medical bills. Be aware that accidents do happen, dogs squirm, and if you neglected the dog to the point their hair was matted this does not make the groomers job any easier. An occasional nick can be overlooked when the situation is one of these owner error (leaving a dog too long), but sedating a dog, or leaving it in the drier too long, and so forth, are unforgivable.

cockapoo haircut

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Puppies of the breeds that require regular grooming should visit the groomer when they are 12 weeks of age, and every 6 – 10 weeks thereafter. They should be brushed regularly (daily) to prevent mats from forming. Most dogs behave better at the groomer if their owner is not around. Find a good groomer by asking other dog owners for references.

Dogs should not be left all day at the groomer.  Most hair cuts take no more than two hours, a dog should be at the groomer no longer than four hours.

Unvaccinated dogs should never go to the groomer.

Related Links

Why is my Dog Itching?

Facts on Dog Food and Allergies

The Dogs that are Most Likely to Bite

How to Open a Dog Grooming Business


Barbara Sonja Biller
Posted on Jun 27, 2010
Posted on Jun 26, 2010