Blogs Preventions Skin Care

Emergency Scenarios & Pet First Aid

Emergency situations can be scary, but they don’t have to be. The more prepared you are for emergencies, the less scary and stressful those situations tend to be. Let’s break down some common first aid scenarios including bleeding, heat stroke, poisoning, seizures and insect bites/stings along with what you can do before you can seek veterinarian help.

pet first aid kit to prepare for pet emergency scenarios


It’s important to remember that any animal can and will bite when in pain. It is recommended to muzzle your pet before attempting to stop bleeding or tending to any injury. If you do not have a muzzle, gently wrapping a belt, t-shirt, towel, etc. around the muzzle can help. Ensure your pet can still open its mouth to breathe.

When trying to stop bleeding, use the “rule of threes” – try each step three times. After the third attempt, it is time to move on to the next step in bleeding control.

Step 1:

Apply sterile gauze to the wound from your first aid kit and apply pressure. Hold pressure for three to five seconds and apply up to three times. If bleeding has subsided, lightly wrap with a gauze roll and transport to your vet. If bleeding persists, move on to step two.

Step 2:

If the area is still bleeding try holding pressure above the wound where the major artery is. This takes a significant amount of pressure and will be painful for the dog. If your dog has a bleeding injury near the knee or foot or rear leg, you would tightly squeeze its leg by its femoral artery. This can be found in the tuck up area, at the top of your pet’s legs where it meets the belly. 

Hold pressure for approximately ten seconds and slowly release up to three times. If bleeding has subsided, wrap the wound with a gauze roll and knot it on top of the wound. You can wrap with vet wrap for extra support. The knot on top of the wound will add additional pressure to help keep pressure on the area. 

If bleeding does not subside after three attempts, move onto step three.

use gauze to apply pressure to pet wound to stop bleeding

Step 3:

If you have tried the above steps and the bleeding has still not subsided, you will have to use a tourniquet. When dogs lose more than 30% of their blood, it can be fatal; it is important to get the bleeding to stop as quickly as possible. If you have reached step three, you will have to make the choice between life and limb. If your pet requires a tourniquet, it is extremely unlikely that the vet would be able to save the limb. 

On that note, I personally have met several three-legged fur babies that are happy as can be! I know I would much rather save my pet than its leg if I had to make the choice. 

To make the tourniquet, use anything long enough to tie around the leg. You will need to be as high on the leg as possible. Tie the belt, rope, leash, etc. around the uppermost part of the leg as tight as possible. Call the closest vet and transport immediately. Time is extremely important.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke in dogs is defined as an internal body temperature of 103℉ and above. Extreme stress can also cause a pet to go into heatstroke. 

Dogs cool themselves by panting. Brachycephalic breeds (such as Saint Bernards, Bulldogs, Pekinese, Shih Tzus and many others) are even more susceptible to heat stroke due to having more complications with breathing. 

Heat Stroke Causes

Heat stroke is most often caused by leaving pets in a hot, confined space with little ventilation. High humidity and lack of water add to complications. It is of utmost importance to ensure pets have access to fresh, cool water at all times. 

heat stroke in dogs - causes include hot cars, low ventilation, high humidity, lack of water, anxiety

Signs of Heat Stroke

Uncontrollable panting, rapid heart rate, foaming at the mouth, lethargy, agitation, vomiting and loss of consciousness are all potential signs of heat stroke. If the pet’s tongue and gums are bright red, they could be in the beginning stages of heat stroke. If their tongue and gums turn gray or blue, it could mean the heat stroke has progressed into dangerous territory. 

Capillary refill is checked by gently pressing on the gums and letting off pressure. If the color takes more than two seconds to come back, that is also a sign of heat stroke. 

What to Do in Case of Heat Stroke

Step 1: 

Keep the pet confined and restrained. Muzzle if it is thrashing or acting out. If muzzled, you must keep the pet cool as it will not be able to pant enough to keep itself cool. 

Step 2:

Bathe or hose the pet off with cool water. Cold water will potentially send your pet into shock, so be sure it is just cooler than room temperature. You can also place the pet in a cool, ventilated area and wrap it in a cool, wet towel. 

Step 3:

Use a digital thermometer to monitor your pet’s temperature. A dog’s normal temperature should be between 100.4℉ and 102.5℉. Be prepared to call the vet and transport immediately. 

wrap your dog in a cool wet towel to help bring their temperature down after heat stroke


Poisons can be any liquid, solid or gas that can cause harm or death when ingested, inhaled, absorbed or injected into a pet. Dogs are three to four times more likely to be poisoned than cats due to their playful and curious nature. 

Poisoning Causes

Careless handling or storing of potentially toxic chemicals is the most common occurrence of poisoning in both cats and dogs. Dogs and cats lick their paws, which makes them susceptible to poisoning, especially if they walk through insecticides, cleaning agents or petroleum based products. 

The best approach is to avoid using toxic chemicals in or around your home. If you must, ensure they are stored properly and out of reach of curious pets and children. 

keep pets away from cleaning agents to avoid poisoning your pet

Common Plants Poisonous To Pets

(Either the root, seed, stem or leaves are poisonous)


Apple Seeds

Avocado Seed





Cherry Pits

Crown of Thorns

Daffodil Bulbs



Elephant Ear

English Ivy


Fox Glove


Hyacinth Bulbs


Iris Bulbs

Jasmine Berries

Jimson Weed



Mistletoe Berries





Poison Ivy



Sago Palm

Stinging Nettle


Tulip Bulbs




pet first aid - plants that are poisonous to dogs

Common Household Products Poisonous To Pets






Boric Acid

Brake Fluid

Carburetor Cleaner

Cleaning Fluid







Furniture Polish


Hair Colorings






Mineral Spirits


Nail Polish

Nail Polish Remover


Permanent Solution

Photo Developer

Rat Poison

Rubbing Alcohol

Shoe Polish


Sleeping Pills

Snail & Slug Bait


Suntan Lotion


Toilet Bowl Cleaners


Windshield Washer Fluid

Wood Preservatives

Common Household Products Poisonous To Pets

Signs of Poisoning

Vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, breathing difficulties, excitability, loss of consciousness and seizures are all potential signs of poisoning. Initially your pet may seem fine, but they can deteriorate extremely fast. Loss of consciousness and breathing can happen quickly. 

What to Do if Your Dog is Exposed to Poison

Stay calm. If poisoning is suspected, the most important thing to do is some investigation. The more information you know about what your pet got into and how much they potentially ingested, the better. 

Treatment for poisoning requires quick first aid and prompt veterinarian care. Medical care from a veterinarian is vital, because the amount of poison ingested is typically unknown.

Step 1:

Determine the substance of the poisoning. Take all of the packaging if possible. 

Step 2:

Determine the time the pet was exposed to the substance.

Step 3:

If the pet vomited or has had diarrhea, collect a sample for the vet.

Step 4:

Contact your veterinarian and/or Animal Poison Control. Vomiting should only be induced at the recommendation of poison control or your vet. If the substance is petroleum based, a strong alkali or acid, do not induce vomiting. 

Animal Poison Control | (888) 426-4435 | ASPCA. There is a small fee on a per-case basis. The call center takes all major credit cards. 

Step 5:

If the suspected substance is toxic or corrosive on the surface of the pet’s body, you should immediately begin to flush it with copious amounts of water. Some chemicals react to water, so dry brush chemicals off prior to irrigation. 

contact animal poison control and your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has been exposed to poison


Seizures are defined as involuntary contractions of muscles caused by abnormal cerebral stimulation or dysfunction.

Causes of Pet Seizures

Seizures can be caused by epilepsy, poisoning or head trauma. There are many toxic chemicals that can cause seizures in dogs and cats. Head trauma in dogs usually consists of a pet falling (typically out of a car) or being hit by a car. Epilepsy is extremely rare in cats.

Signs of a Seizing Pet

Possible symptoms include falling, chomping jaws, stiffening of the body, paddling motion of the legs, and jerky or uncontrollable movements lasting more than two minutes. Before and after a seizure, pets can have a low level of consciousness. It is not uncommon for a pet to seem to not know where they are or who their owners are for some time prior to and after a seizure. The pet may empty its bowels after a seizure as well.

Seizures can be caused by epilepsy, poisoning or head trauma

What to Do if Your Pet Has a Seizure

Stay calm! Reduce external stimuli such as lights, sounds and people. Do NOT restrain the pet or place anything in its mouth. If the pet is in an unsafe location, very carefully attempt to move it to a clear area on the floor. If possible pull any object that may harm the pet out of the way. 

Step 1:

Place a rolled blanket or towel under the head for protection.

Step 2:

When the seizure has stopped, monitor your pet’s breathing. If there is no history of seizures, transport to a vet or emergency animal hospital. If the pet has a history of seizures, make note of this seizure and continue to monitor. 

Step 3:

Keep your pet in a cool, comfortable, dark place.

Step 4:

Clean up any messes and make note of the duration and frequency of seizures. If the seizure lasted longer than “normal” for your pet, call your vet immediately. 

Note: Keeping records of seizure length, frequency and surroundings is vital in maintaining the health of an epileptic dog.

Insect Bites and Stings

Ants, bees, hornets, wasps, spiders and snakes can bite or sting pets, especially extra curious pets that tend to put their noses in or around overgrown brush. 

First aid tips for your dog - insect bites, stings, allergic reactions

Bite and Sting Causes

There are several biting or stinging insects that live in holes or colonies, therefore increasing the chances of multiple bites or stings. Unless you see your pet being bit or stung or notice a severe allergic reaction, you will likely not be immediately aware of why your pet is having problems. 

Signs of Insect Bites and Stings

Pain, redness and localized swelling at the bite or sting is common. Your pet may paw, lick or scratch at the site of the sting or bite. Bites and stings are not typically life threatening unless your pet has a severe allergic reaction. 

What to Do if Your Pet is Bit or Stung

Treat your pet’s symptoms as they present themselves and do what you can to make your pet comfortable. Apply an antihistamine lotion or calamine cream to the affected areas. Benadryl may be administered at the recommendation of your veterinarian. 

Step 1:

Immobilize and confine your pet for observation and reduce its level of activity. If muzzled, be prepared to loosen or remove it. 

Step 2:

Identify insects if possible and remove the stinger if present. 

How to remove a stinger: Grabbing a stinger with tweezers or your finger could inject more poison into your pet. It is best to use the hard edge of a credit card or key. Place the card or key under the stinger to lift it up then flick it out.

In the Grooming Salon

Grooming salons can be a stressful environment for pets. While emergencies are luckily rare, it is extremely important for us to be prepared as professional dog groomers.

At Smoochie Pooch, we pride ourselves on having all members of our team as prepared as possible by having the Pet Tech CPR & First Aid certification for pet professionals. Though rare, heat stroke and seizures are the most common occurrences seen in a salon; in the event of an emergency, we are ready to help the pets in our care. 


Elli Bultemeier, PTI, NCMG

Smoochie Pooch Professional Dog Groomers and Pet Stylists after completing special pet first aid training and certifications
Blogs Preventions Skin Care

Hair Loss From Scratching, Licking or Chewing

Nearly all pet owners have seen their dog scratch, lick or chew a limb or other body part, and it’s completely natural. Your pet is seeking temporary relief from an issue they’re experiencing. When dogs constantly gnaw themselves, remove chunks of hair or chew themselves raw, however, they’re experiencing more than just a typical itch. 

There are a number of possible explanations behind your dog’s excessive chewing behavior. Finding the root cause quickly is important so you can provide relief for your pet and prevent other problems that may occur from a continuation of these behaviors. If left untreated, excessive chewing can not only cause hair loss or breakage but can also damage the skin underneath as well. 

This blog breaks down some of the reasons a dog might engage in destructive chewing behaviors along with what to try in order to remedy the situation.

dogs with hair loss - lichenification, hot spots, scratching, dry skin

Dry, Itchy Skin

One reason may be due to dry, itchy skin. If a dog itches, they will try everything they can to scratch it and find some temporary relief, and may break or tear their hair in the process. 

While dry, flaky skin is a common symptom of allergies, bites or skin diseases (more on this below), it’s most often not due to something serious. Like humans, many pets naturally get dry skin during cold, dry months over the winter and need a little extra conditioning to moisturize their sensitive skin cells. 

Changing Your Pet’s Diet

One possible solution may involve changing what you feed your pet and ensuring your pet is eating high quality food. Fish-based diets are also a good option, as they are often recommended for itchy dogs due to their high levels of protein and fish oil. This benefits both their skin and coat (along with heart health benefits). 

The American Kennel Club also suggests feeding your dog plain, sugar-free yogurt (1 tsp/week for small dogs, 2 tsp/week for large dogs) to help soothe your dog’s irritated skin.

Smoochie Pooch recommends feeding your pet a nutritious diet

Specialty Dog Baths

Specialty baths are another avenue to try. At home, an oatmeal bath may naturally provide some relief. To do this, draw a warm bath with ground oats sprinkled in. Let your pet soak for 10-15 minutes.

We’ve also witnessed dramatic benefits from the Mineral Red Hydration service Smoochie Pooch provides for both dogs and cats. This treatment removes and lifts toxins, cleanses the skin and coat, and hydrates your sensitive pet by adding back oils, minerals, collagens and other nutrients utilizing Iv San Bernard’s specialty therapy products. Customers have raved that their pets ceased to scratch or chew their skin after this treatment with impressive testimonials. 

Smoochie Pooch Dog Groomer - Dog bath - mineral red for dry itchy dog skin

Topical Skin Care

Another natural and holistic approach involves coconut oil. It’s a popular supplement for humans and is often recommended by veterinarians for applying topically to dog skin. Choose unrefined (virgin) coconut oil and allow it to absorb for a few minutes before rinsing off your dog. If your pet still feels oily or greasy, follow with a light shampoo and rinse.

You can also create an oatmeal paste consisting of a half cup of oatmeal and a half cup of warm water to spread on your pet’s pinpointed sensitive skin areas. Cover the paste with a warm towel for 10 minutes before gently wiping off. Repeat up to three times a day.

coconut oil and oatmeal paste can help dry, itchy skin in dogs

Hot Spots

Hot spots, also known as pyotraumatic dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis, are often triggered by scratching, licking or chewing the affected area and can result in skin inflammation and secondary bacterial infections. This can quickly turn into a self-perpetuating cycle of itching and scratching, so it’s important to quickly identify the underlying cause(s).

An underlying skin condition is generally to blame, though other possible causes include flea bite allergies, ear infections, yeast infections, seasonal allergies, improper grooming, anal gland impaction, or a slew of other problems. 

Your first line of defense against hot spots involves preventative measures like proper hygiene and routine grooming. If you suspect your pet has hot spots, your veterinarian can recommend helpful options like clipping hair around the area to prevent matting, bathing with medicated dog shampoo, and other treatments. 

Smoochie Pooch also offers free skin therapy consultations to review what we can and cannot do for your pet’s individual skin concerns and issues, including hot spots.

Boredom & Anxiety

Bored and anxious dogs can quickly become excessively destructive. When left to their own devices, they can be a handful; not only are they capable of destroying your home or possessions, but they may start chewing on themselves, wreaking havoc on their skin and coat. 

The best way to curb boredom is to keep your pet stimulated. Physical exercise, mental stimulation, training and socialization are great places to start. Since most breeds have some sort of working heritage (think herding and hunting), giving your pet a job or hobby is also a great idea. 

Try challenging toys, edible chews and stuffed Kongs. Hire a pet sitter or dog walker to entertain your pet while you’re away. Try fun indoor games with your dog on rainy days.

how to entertain your pet to keep your dog from chewing

Flea Bite Allergy

Even the most diligent pet owners will likely encounter fleas at some point or another. Some dogs are extremely sensitive to fleas, and a single flea bite can lead to a downward spiral of licking and chewing, causing inflammation of the skin.

Flea and tick preventatives are great, though they do not actually prevent dogs from getting bit. Fleas need to not only bite the dog but also consume their blood for the preventative to work, as systemic flea preventatives work through a dog’s bloodstream.

If you suspect a flea bite allergy, avoid walking through areas that may be densely populated with dogs such as dog parks. Give Benadryl to your dog if a suspected bite has occurred, but only as recommended by your veterinarian.

Poor Grooming Regimen

Though important for a variety of reasons, one motivation to maintain a regular dog grooming regimen is to ensure your pet’s skin and coat are well taken care of. Matting can cause underlying skin problems for pets with long hair. If there are any tangles or matting, those matts can pull and tug at the skin causing extra discomfort.

Along with grooming your pet, your local pet groomer can also help you identify a variety of problems before they become severe. Many times, if there are any skin issues present, it can be hard to detect under all of your dog’s hair. Groomers use high-powered dryers that help separate the hair, allowing us to easily examine skin on the entire body. 


Allergies play a big role in the health of the skin. It can be difficult to diagnose what is causing allergies, so help from your veterinarian may be necessary. Depending on the severity of the allergies, your dog may need medical intervention. Whatever the cause may be, skin will be greatly affected. 

Medication can help, but usually a topical treatment in conjunction with medication is best. Most groomers offer some type of medicated bath treatment or a soothing treatment for allergies. At Smoochie Pooch, we recommend our three-step Mineral Red Hydration treatment for both cats and dogs with allergies.

dog allergies and dog allergic reactions can lead to excessive chewing in dogs


Solving excessive scratching in dogs varies depending on the cause. Solutions range from home remedies to specially formulated dog baths to steroid prescriptions from your veterinarian. 

The best advice we can give you is to stay on top of your pet’s health by feeding them a proper diet and maintaining a proper grooming routine – and that involves brushing in between visits to the groomer! See this article for how often we recommend professional grooming based on your breed.

We also recommend checking your pet’s skin condition from time to time so you’re better able to treat issues before they become severe. As mentioned earlier, your local dog groomer can help catch and sometimes diagnose a variety of skin issues during regular grooming visits.

Finally, consulting your vet is always a great option, depending on the severity of your dog’s condition. They may prescribe medication or specialized care to help resolve particular ailments, so make sure to contact them when you notice something’s wrong.

Blogs Pet Nutrition

How to Select the Right Food for Your Pet

Understanding What’s In Your Pet’s Food

Finding the right nutritious meal for your dog or cat is difficult. Whether you have a new kitten or puppy, or you’re looking to make a change in your cat or dog’s diet, the goal is the same – you love your pet and want to make an informed decision about what you feed them.

Deciding what is best for your pet can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for. This article provides insight into what you should look for on the packaging, what may be misleading, and what you should try to avoid. We’ll also discuss the benefits of wet food versus dry food and ethical considerations regarding how cat food and dog food is made.

dog eating dry food out of owner's hand

Cat and Dog Food Marketing

Walking down the food aisle can be overwhelming! Hundreds of options are readily available from a variety of pet food companies, each with large marketing teams designing vibrant packaging adorned with enticing words, keywords and phrases to lure you in. 

Be skeptical of phrases like “natural” and “wholesome” printed in bold, colorful fonts on large bags. Corn syrup is a “natural” ingredient, though it is one you may want to avoid. The Food and Drug Administration requires all food sold in the United States to be wholesome, so don’t be swayed by the enticing text.

Reading Pet Food Packaging Labels

The FDA requires pet food products to contain:

  • An appropriate product name
  • The species of pet(s) for which the product is intended
  • A quantity statement for the amount of food in the package or container
  • A guaranteed analysis
  • A list of all ingredients in the product
  • A statement of nutritional adequacy, if required
  • Feeding directions, if required
  • Name and address of the manufacturer or distributor

The most important advice we can offer is reading and understanding the ingredient panels on packaging. 

Purina cat food ingredient list - pet food ingredient label

Dry vs Liquid Ingredients

Like human food, The FDA requires all ingredients in pet food to be listed in order of predominance by their weight on product packaging. Dry products are usually expressed in terms of weight or count, while fluid measurements are used for liquids.

Confusingly, the heaviest ingredients aren’t always the most nutritional. An ingredient like “beef” may include water weight, ranking it higher on the list, while a dry ingredient like “chicken meal” may be further down the list. In this case, the chicken more than likely contains more nutrition than the beef, even though the beef is listed first as the heavier ingredient.

What is Meat Meal?

Ingredients containing “meal” are the result of a cooking process that combines, grinds and dries a combination of meat, skin and bones of an animal. The meal has had the water weight extracted, which means it is a heavier ingredient and more nutrient-dense. 

It is important that the meat source be identifiable like “chicken”, “turkey”, “lamb” or “rabbit”, for example. Some companies are purposely vague or misleading with the ingredients in the meals by labeling them “poultry”. A poultry meal may consist of any carcass that has feathers; this could be pigeons or other birds and not necessarily chicken or turkey.

meat meal in pet food - dog food and cat food - made out of animal meat, skin and bones

Identify Meat By-Products

You should also identify any meat by-products. By-products are parts of the animal that are not fit for consumption, such as beaks, feet or intestines. Regardless of whether the by-product is labeled vaguely like “meat” or more specifically like “chicken”, the fact remains: by-products lack nutritional value and are poor fillers in dog food.

Fillers Lacking Nutritional Value

Avoid foods with an abundance of filler ingredients. These lack nutritional value and can be used to fill holes in the ingredients panel. Corn, wheat, peanut hulls and soy are common fillers. You may not be able to avoid fillers completely, as they are often added in order to bind the kibble during the cooking process.

dog food filler - corn, wheat, peanut hulls, soy

Natural and Chemical Preservatives

BHA/BHT are chemical preservatives that are used to preserve fats in human and pet food. While they are legal in the US, they are banned in a number of other countries due to their links to cancers and child hyperactivity. 

A more natural preservative would be Vitamin C or K. They’re less effective, resulting in a shorter shelf-life (shorter expiration date). Just like human food, natural preservatives are much safer alternatives to chemical preservatives in dog and cat food.

Artificial Colors

Artificial colors (Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) are also unnecessary ingredients in dog foods and cat foods. Artificial colors are used solely for appearance and provide nothing to meals other than make them visually appealing to the owners. Think about it – when was the last time your pet refused a meal because the colors weren’t appealing to them? These artificial colors are linked to hyperacidity and allergic reactions. 

artificial coloring in cat food and dog food

Flavor Enhancers

Rendered fat is an ingredient used to enhance the flavor of the food, but it is one of the poor quality ingredients that come from questionable sources. Rendered fat can grow mold and other harmful bacteria, such as salmonella. It may also contain high levels of toxic heavy metals. Ingredients like propylene glycol, “added flavors”, corn syrup and caramel should also be avoided when possible. 

beware of flavor enhancers like rendered fat in dog food and cat food

“The Salt Divide”

Ingredients that weigh less are further down the ingredient panel. We recommend investigating the ingredients listed before salt, as salt only makes up 1% or less of the ingredient weight. This is known as the “salt divide”. Anything listed after salt makes up a very small percent of the pet food. 

Vitamins and Mineral Supplements

The last items listed are usually vitamins and minerals added to supplement what your dog or cat should be getting from the other ingredients. Your pet’s food should include important components to balance their dietary needs. 

Vitamin B3 aids in the function of digestive enzymes. 

Vitamin B1 is thiamine which helps the brain and other organs to properly function due to the metabolization of carbs, converting them into energy. 

Vitamins B4 and B7 help with liver function and improve the skin and coat. 

Vitamin A improves vision, immunity and bone growth. 

Dry Versus Wet Food

Both wet food and dry food have their own benefits and drawbacks. Wet dog food is generally canned, while dry dog food is often in kibble form.

Dry Food Benefits:

  • Generally less expensive with longer shelf-life
  • Easier to integrate with dog food puzzles, wobbly food dispensers or slow-eating bowls
  • Can be left out longer – great for pets who prefer to graze and eat food throughout the day
  • Chewing dry kibbles helps prevent tartar buildup

Wet Food Benefits:

  • More hydrating – higher moisture content, great for pets with urinary or kidney disease.
  • More aromatic and flavorful – great for enticing a sick dog or cat with poor appetite. 
  • Keeps pets feeling full longer – great for pets who have intense appetites or need to lose weight.
  • Easier to chew – great for pets with dental issues
cats being fed wet food - benefits of wet pet food versus dry pet food

Sustainable and Ethical Pet Food Considerations

In addition to considering a product’s nutritional value, you may choose to purchase products from companies based on their ethics. Does the packaging indicate the animals utilized to make the food were humanely raised and sourced? Much of the meat in cat and dog food is factory farmed and not free-range, so this may be something to investigate if you’re concerned about ethical food options.

Is the company utilizing sustainable practices? Dog food brands considered vegan and organic are generally considered more sustainable than those creating meat-based food, for example. Fishing is often extremely unsustainable; “MSC certified” is a good indicator that the dog food company is avoiding environmental damage to marine ecosystems when sourcing fish.

Unfortunately, sustainable and ethical practices often come with a price tag. It’s generally more efficient and profitable for companies to utilize less sustainable methods, and they generally result in less expensive products with longer shelf-lives. If ethics are important to you when selecting food for your dog or cat, you may want to perform some research about different brands and their practices.

free range chicken - the ethical options when selecting dog food and cat food companies

Making Informed Decisions for Your Pet

When selecting the right food for your four-legged friend, it is important to be as informed and educated as possible. Much like human food, your pet’s food should contain significant nutritional value and fulfill their bodily needs. Smoochie Pooch recommends consulting your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s diet and calorie requirements if you’re questioning whether or not their needs are being fulfilled. 

dog grooming near me - dog food - cat food - nutritional food for pets

Enjoy this blog by Smoochie Pooch Dog Grooming? Read more informational articles written by Smoochie Pooch Professional Dog Groomers.

Blogs Preventions

What to Store in Your Pet’s First Aid Kit

Building The Perfect First Aid Kit

Let’s face it – emergencies happen. It’s important to prepare for a variety of scenarios your pet could unexpectedly face so you have peace of mind and can swiftly and efficiently care for your pet with the proper response. Having knowledge of basic pet first aid and human first aid greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll be less panicked in emergencies and can make your pet feel more comfortable during a stressful event. With the right knowledge and tools, you can potentially save their life.

learn pet first aid and cpr to be prepared for emergency situations

Emergency Contacts for Your Pets

To best prepare for an emergency, make sure you have contact numbers for the following: your veterinarian, emergency vets in your area, poison control, and local animal rescues and shelters in your area.


If your pet is ever injured or not acting itself, your first step would be to call your veterinarian. Your vet can guide you with steps for proper care over the phone and can be ready in the event you need to transport your pet to the clinic for care. Having numbers for a 24/7 pet emergency hospital or clinic is also important in case of an emergency after hours.

Poison Control

It is important to keep poison control numbers written down and saved in your phone, since dogs and cats get into things they shouldn’t. Pets have been known to get into poisonous household cleaning products, eat toxic human food or ingest poisonous plants.

It’s a good idea to do some research and find out what plants are toxic to your pet. Many pet owners have toxic house plants in their homes and don’t even know it. Some examples are aloe vera, pothos and poinsettias. Pets also run into dangerous plants outdoors. Lilies are extremely toxic to cats, for example. If they walk through the pollen and lick their paws, it can be detrimental.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is available 24/7 as a resource for any animal poison-related emergency. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. 

Know the number for poison control in case you ever suspect your pet has been exposed to poison or toxins

Local Animal Shelters and Rescues

Having contact information for local animal shelters and rescues can help you greatly if your pet ever gets out. Even the most diligent pet owners are familiar with this scenario – their dog or cat gets excited to see the outside world, and we lose sight of them. Local shelters can help you track down your pet if they get calls about a loose pet or if someone picks up your pet and takes it to the shelter. They can also help if you find someone else’s pet. You can call and let them know what you found in case someone else is looking.


There are plenty of things that can happen around home, but there are even more hazards when traveling with a pet. It is important to remember your pet’s needs when traveling. A seatbelt tether or kennel is always recommended. A loose dog in the car can be a serious hazard; not only can pets be distracting for drivers, but you and your pet can be severely injured – or worse – in the event of a car accident.

It is a great idea to always travel with a first aid kit in the car as well. Adding clean water and food for traveling is a great idea. Dogs need access to water much more frequently than we do. If hiking, avoid letting your dog drink from puddles or streams as they could be contaminated.

Be prepared for hazards when traveling with your dog or cat

First Aid Kit Essentials

Below is a list of items we recommend storing in a first aid kit. Place the supplies inside an easily transportable tote or container and make sure to bring it with you whenever your travel. It’s important to pack your kit in an easy-to-access location so you may grab it quickly in emergencies. Use the checklist below for easy assembly.

First aid essentials - what to keep in your pet first aid kit

Rubbing Alcohol: Can be used as a disinfectant. After performing first aid, use on anything reusable if stool, urine, blood, dirt or other contaminant is present.

Alcohol Wipes: Can be used lightly on the skin around wound to reduce chance of infection. Can also be used to disinfect.

Antibiotic ointment: Used for small cuts or nicks on the skin to help prevent infection and speed up healing.

Band-aids: Keep on hand for human use.

Bandage Scissors: Effective for cutting gauze rolls and tape as needed.

Disposable gloves: Gloves should be worn anytime blood, feces or urine are present.

Gauze pads: Can be used for cleaning or covering bleeding wounds. Apply and then wrap with gauze roll for more protection. 

Gauze Roll: Use to secure gauze pads in place. Can rip or tear easily, so if in an area where pet may scratch it off or bother it, you may need vet wrap on top of it to secure it.

Hydrogen Peroxide: Needed to induce vomiting in pets if they eat something toxic. Use only per recommendation of your vet or poison control facility.

Hydrogren peroxide also kills bacteria and lessens the chance of infection. Can be used on the skin and over a small scratch or cut to greatly reduce chances of infection. It does not hurt when applied like alcohol does. 

Instant Ice packs: Can be used to help with inflammation and also to cool pet quickly if suspecting heat injury such as heat stroke. 

Saline Eye Wash: Flush eyes if suspected injury. As long as it is only saline, no harm can be done by flushing the eyes. If you suspect dirt or debris in the eyes, flush them before an injury occurs. 

Syringe: Needed for use with hydrogen peroxide if the vet or poison control advises to induce vomiting in your pet. This would happen if your pet came into contact with a toxin of some sort.

Tape: Helps to secure any bandaging.

Thermometer: Knowing your pet’s temperature is imperative if suspecting a heat or cold injury. 

Tweezers: Can be used to remove splinters or thorns from paw pads and noses. They may also be necessary to remove stingers. 

Tylenol: Only used for human consumption. It is extremely harmful for pets. May be needed if injury occurs. 

Vet Wrap or self-adhering bandage: Use when wrapping a bleeding injury. Pull a significant amount off the roll and then wrap around injury to ensure it does not get wrapped too tightly. Tape can be added as an extra layer of stability but is not necessary at this point. 

Wound Wash: This is typically just a saline solution. It will clean out any major debris from an injury without disinfecting it. If there is a large wound, this is best to ensure you are not damaging any good tissue. 

**Note: The Tylenol and Band-aids in the first aid kit are for human use. Everything else in the kit can be used on humans, so while you are building a kit suitable for pets, it can also help you if you find yourself in an emergency situation.

Other Items to Consider


Adding Benadryl to your kit is a great idea. Contact your vet to get the correct dosage for your pet and write it on the package. In a case where your pet is bit or scratched by something venomous, the Benadryl could help them greatly.


Any pet that is in pain or may be moved into pain can and will bite. It is purely a reaction and not their fault. Be prepared for this reaction by keeping a muzzle in your kit that fits your pet.

It's a good idea to keep a muzzle on hand for emergencies


Even the most cautious pet owners could eventually find themselves in an emergency situation where they need to utilize a first aid kit. Having a kit packed and accessible can make a world of difference and keep us calm when dangerous situations arise.

Any first aid given should be followed by veterinarian care. Always remember to call your vet if you need to perform first aid on your pet.

Looking for more info on pet first aid? Stay tuned for our blog next week on treating specific ailments your pet may face. And make sure to read our recent blog on hiking and first aid tips for your pet if you haven’t already! You may also wish to check out helpful resources from the American Kennel Club.

If you have any questions regarding the first aid kit content for pets in this article, contact your local Smoochie Pooch dog groomer for clarification and guidance! Our pet stylists are certified in pet first aid and CPR and would be happy to answer your questions!

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How Often Should I Groom My Dog?

How Often Should I Groom My Dog?

One of the most common questions we hear in the grooming salon is: “How often should I get my dog groomed?”

Every dog should have their nails trimmed about every 4 weeks.

Professional grooming appointments should be scheduled every 4-8 weeks, depending on the breed. Dogs with short coats, long coats and double-coats all have different needs, which affects how frequently we recommend they come in for grooming (more on that below).

Consistent professional grooming is equally important for all dogs, and your groomer is essential in keeping an eye on the health of your pet. Your pets typically see a veterinarian only once or twice a year, whereas your groomer should see your pet at least six times a year. Groomers check every aspect of your pet, and if you are consistent with the same groomer, they can help catch any new lumps and bumps or other potential health issues early on and help get you on the right path to resolve any concerns.

Grooming Dogs with Short Hair

Examples of Short-Haired Breeds:
  • Pug
  • Pit Bull
  • Lab
  • Chihuahua
  • Beagle
  • Boston Terrier
  • Whippet 
Smoochie Pooch Dog Groomer - how often should I get my dog groomed - short hair dogs

Short-coated dogs can go longer in between grooming appointments than double- or long-coated breeds, though consistency is still key. Typically, 6-8 weeks is a good frequency for dogs with short coats, though they can be groomed every week. If your pet begins to stink, it’s usually a good sign it’s time to make an appointment! 

Short-coated dogs have a disadvantage that other dogs do not have. All dogs have natural oils and minerals on their skin that are produced by their endocrine system. Because their hair is short, it is easy for them to rub those oils off on carpet, furniture and any other environmental surfaces they come in contact with. This layer of oils and minerals acts as a barrier on their skin to keep toxins out. If it is all removed, your pet may develop skin issues and become more prone to environmental allergy issues. 

Professional groomers should be using products that assist with repairing that protective coating. If your pet is shedding excessively, ask your groomer if there are particular products or a deshedding treatment that could help. Pets that are consistently groomed should not shed excessively. If they do, this could be an indication of an internal issue, such as nutrition.

It’s important to note that all dogs shed – yes, even short-haired dogs and shaved dogs.

Grooming Dogs with Double Coats

Examples of Double-Coated Breeds:
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Corgi
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Border Collie
  • Collie
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Newfoundland
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
Smoochie Pooch Dog Groomer - how often should I get my dog groomed - dogs with double coats

Double-coated dogs should be groomed a minimum of every 4-6 weeks. These dogs are known as the “shedding dogs”, and that shedding can be kept at a minimum with a consistent grooming routine. You can maximize results by brushing at home in between grooming appointments. 

Many wrongfully assume double-coated dogs have tough skin. In reality, they have a thick coat as the first line of defense and very sensitive skin. These dogs, if not groomed regularly, can develop major skin problems. Matting of the coat contributes further to these skin issues. While we have products and treatments that can help treat these skin issues, it is much easier to maintain healthy skin and coat than to fix damaged skin and coat.

Double-coated breeds have a dense, soft undercoat and a longer, more coarse outer coat or guard hairs. The dense undercoat helps protect the dogs from parasites and keeps it warm in the winter but also keeps it cool in the summer by trapping cool air and circulating it. The outer coat protects from sun damage, wind, weather, dirt and debris. 

Dogs “blow” their undercoat in the warmer seasons. It’s especially important to professionally groom your pet during this time to ensure the undercoat is released instead of caught by the guard hairs, creating matting. If your dog develops mats, take them to a groomer to have them removed. Don’t try to cut mats out yourself, as they are often very close to the skin and you may accidentally injure your dog.

You may be tempted to shave your double-coated dog to prevent shedding or help keep them cool in the summer. Believe it or not, shaving actually puts these dogs at a higher risk for heatstroke! What remains of the undercoat after a seasonal coat blow helps to hold cool air close to the skin, and the double layers protect against sunburn.

Grooming Dogs with Long Coats

Examples of Long-Coated Dogs:
  • Shih Tzu
  • Maltese
  • Havanese
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Doodle
  • Poodle
  • Cocker Spaniel
Smoochie Pooch Dog Groomer - how often should I get my dog groomed - long haired dogs

There are many breeds that could fit into this category, but for our purposes, we will discuss breeds such as Maltese, Shih Tzu’s, Poodles and Doodles as a few examples. Long-coated dogs have much more demanding needs when it comes to grooming. Unlike the previous coat types we discussed, these dogs can be shaved, or given an all-over haircut. 

This category can consist of single, silky coats, wire coats, and curly coats, and the grooming frequency required depends on your haircut preferences. If you like your pet’s hair short, you may be able to go 4-6 weeks in between professional grooming appointments. If you like your pet’s hair long and fluffy, you may need to see a dog groomer every 2-4 weeks. This is because longer coats require more frequent bathing to prevent matting (as well as consistent brushing between grooming appointments).

The long coat types grow continuously and need to be trimmed periodically to maintain good health of the skin and coat. Matting or tangling of the coat can have multiple causes. Your pet’s coat may mat due to a coat change (puppies lose their soft, fluffy puppy coat and it gets caught in the new adult coat), pets wearing items (clothes, harnesses or collars), petting your dog consistently in the same location, and rolling around on the floor, furniture or outside. 

Most matting is caused first by static electricity tangling the hair, and the problem intensifies when your pet isn’t brushed. We recommend investing in a nice wire slicker brush and metal comb to help stay on top of matting. Remember: if you notice mats in your pet, take them to a professional pet groomer to get it resolved. Mats can be intertwined around the skin, and pulling them away from the skin can be nearly impossible. It is very likely that you will unintentionally cut your dog if you try to cut out a mat. It is much safer to let a professional groomer remove any mats your pet may have.

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Pet First Aid: Hiking Situations

Insect Bites, Stings & Allergic Reactions

These can be caused by ants, bees, hornets, wasps and spiders. Dogs are
inquisitive and get into colonies or holes where these insects live. The
biggest danger is a severe allergic reaction. Unless you observe the pet
being stung or bitten, you may not be immediately aware of what is
going on. 

Your first sign may be incessant licking and scratching. Upon further investigation you may find localized swelling, redness and pain at the injury site. The best action to take includes immobilizing your pet and reducing their activity to keep them from spreading the toxin further. Treat symptoms as they present and keep the pet comfortable and under control.

It’s always a sound plan to consult with your vet on what the proper dosage of antihistamine would be for your pet so you know what to do if you ever need to administer it. “Benadryl” (diphenhydramine) can be found in gel caps in the blister packaging (the generic version of this is fine too).

We recommend you label the packaging with the dosage your vet suggests for your pet. Attach a safety pin to the packaging and make sure to carry it in your pet first aid kit. To administer, use the safety pin to poke a hole in the gel cap and squeeze the proper dosage into your pet’s mouth.

First aid tips for your dog - insect bites, stings, allergic reactions

Poisons, Toxins & Parasites

Dogs are inquisitive in nature and will follow their nose wherever it takes them. Some dogs will eat anything once (and sometimes twice)! It’s important not to leave your dog unattended, as certain plants can be lethal if ingested. Exposure to or ingestion of contaminated water, poisonous plants, mushrooms, infected animals and parasites can be dangerous for your dog. View this article for a list of 16 common poisonous plants for dogs. You may very well have some in your yard!

The signs of poisoning can vary but usually include the following: diarrhea, vomiting, stomach upset, excessive salivation, breathing difficulties, excitability, loss of consciousness and seizures.

It’s important to act quickly if you suspect your dog has been exposed to anything poisonous, as they can deteriorate quickly – no breathing and no heartbeat. You will need to identify the following: suspected substance, time exposed and sample of the vomitus or stool, if available. Contact the nearest veterinarian or emergency center for any pre-hospital care and transport your pet immediately.

pet first aid - plants that are poisonous to dogs


Snakebites are very dirty wounds. Whether the bite is venomous or non-venomous, the pet needs wound care and antibiotic treatment. Signs include 1-2 puncture wounds, severe pain, swelling and bruising. If the snake is venomous, your immediate actions for survival include restraint, muzzling (only if no breathing difficulties), treat for shock and transportation to the nearest animal hospital that has antivenin. 

If you live in a snake-infested area, then you may want to have a conversation with your vet on treatment for snakebite with antivenin. Prevention is key. Keep dogs on a leash or at a minimum under visual control when out on the trail. You may also want to research snake avoidance training.

First aid tips for hiking with your dog - snake bites

Exposure To Extreme Temperatures

Heatstroke can be occur when pets are over exerted, stressed, in confined spaces with little or no ventilation or water (think car) or in warm weather with high humidity. Dogs cool themselves by panting, passing cooler air over their gums and tongue. Short-nosed breeds (i.e. Pekinese, Boxers, Pugs) are more susceptible to overheating as their “radiator” (mouth and gums) are too small for their body size. 

Signs of heatstroke include uncontrollable panting, foaming at the mouth, rapid heart rate, vomiting, lethargy, a bright red tongue and a capillary refill longer than 2 seconds. Click here to learn how to check your dog or cat’s capillary refill. Actions for survival: restraining and muzzling, bathing or hosing down with cool water, treating for shock, monitoring the temperature and contacting/transporting to the nearest pet emergency hospital.

pet first aid - what to do when your dog is exposed to extreme heat in a car

Frostnip is a first degree (superficial) cold injury that does not cause tissue damage. Frostbite is a third degree (deep) cold injury causing localized tissue damage. Areas most commonly affected are the ears, paws, scrotum and tail. Cold injuries are caused by extreme and/or prolonged exposure to low temperatures. 

Signs include swollen, red, painful, hard and/or pale skin. In later stages, the pet may lose skin and hair in the affected area. Prevention is best; make sure you monitor the pet and do the Snout-to-Tail Assessment after each hike to make sure there aren’t any ice crystals, snow etc. in the pads, paws and genitals. 

Actions for survival: Frost nip parts should be warmed slowly with wet warm towels. Do not squeeze or rub the affected area as this will be extremely painful for the pet. Frostbite requires immediate attention by a veterinarian or emergency animal hospital to prevent further pain, ward off infection and to assess possible permanent tissue damage. Keep body parts frozen during transport.

dogs and extreme cold

Extremity Injuries

Limb injuries can include anything like abrasions on the paws, compound fractures, scratches, and scrapes on the legs and paws. Most of these injuries are preventable with proper care and handling of your dog. 

The most common are injuries from over exertion such as strains, sprains, muscle and tendon tears, swelling, etc. Signs may include limping, favoring one limb over another, obvious pain or limited range and use of movement of extremity. 

First aid objectives for cuts, lacerations or abrasions is simple wound care and bleeding protocols. For sprains, strains, fractures or other skeletal injuries you need to immobilize, reduce activity and make arrangements to transport to the nearest animal hospital or veterinarian.

dogs - extremity injuries first aid tips

Wounds & Trauma

Includes bites, cuts, lacerations, punctures, falls or blunt force trauma. First aid actions include muzzling, restraint, controlling bleeding and treating for shock. Depending on the severity of the injury, the pet may need veterinary care, including stitches and medication to treat possible infection. X-rays could be warranted if any sudden blunt trauma was involved. 

Bleeding injuries can be life threatening and require immediate attention. Actions for survival include: restraint and muzzle, elevation if it does not aggravate any injuries, direct pressure, constricting hand/band, bandaging and transporting to the nearest animal hospital or veterinarian.

dog bites, wounds, trauma - pet first aid tips

Have questions regarding what to do in first aid situations for your pet? Contact your local Smoochie Pooch dog groomer or veterinarian for more information. 

Article information provided by Pet Tech Productions

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Brushing Your Pet: Best Practices and Brushes

Brushing a Corgi at home

There are so many types of brushes on the market, so how do you know what the best kind is for your pet? FURminator has been advertised as a deshedding tool for cats and dogs to the point where people think that’s all there is for deshedding and that it’s the best option. But marketing can be deceiving. We’re here to break down the different types of brushes and what makes certain ones right for specific pets.

The truth about Furminators is that there are much better tools. While they do get a lot of the undercoat out, they can severely damage the topcoat in the process, causing your pet’s coat to become dull in color and texture.

The Necessities

You thought I was going to talk about brushes! I will get there, but first we need to talk about clean hair versus dirty hair. 

Brushing dirty hair or greasy hair, even with the best hair brushes, is very difficult and can also be damaging while clean, dry hair is much easier to brush. Unfortunately, using dry shampoo probably won’t work if your pet is super dirty but it may help with greasy hair. 

That is not to say that you need to bathe your dog every time you brush it, but it is good to be aware of how dirty your pet is, especially if having issues brushing. Think about washing your hair – it is much easier to brush when it is clean.


Make brushing easier and less damaging by ensuring your dog is clean before brushing

Another great tip is mixing a little bit of conditioner (about ½ tsp) with water in a spray bottle. Mist your pet with the spray bottle in the area you want to brush. This will help the brush glide gently through the hair and help prevent any unnecessary breakage.

Start Brushing Your Dog Early

It is of utmost importance to start brushing your pet at home as early as you can – yes, even when your dog is a puppy!

Introduce grooming by brushing just a minute or two a day. Young puppies shouldn’t have tangles, and it’s the perfect age to begin brushing because it will ensure they enjoy the experience rather than fear it. Remember: it’s never too early to start brushing! 

Begin brushing puppies early and bring them in for dog grooming when they're 8 weeks old

Types of Brushes

There are several different types of hair brushes available to pet parents and pet professionals. Determining which brush is best for you is easiest to do if you break down different coat and hair types.

Short, Smooth Coats

Breeds like Boston Terriers, Pugs, Boxers and Pit Bulls don’t need a ton of brushing done at home. If you are experiencing trouble with shedding and want a good way to brush them, a curry brush will be the best tool for the job. 

There are several different brands and kinds of curry brushes, but they are rubber and have knobs on them to help break up the hair and release dead undercoat. They are even great to use on cats! 

When brushing, brush the way the hair naturally lays. You can brush anywhere on your pet with these types of brushes: the belly, muzzle, legs, etc. They are 100% safe to use and they are very easy to clean. You can even put them in the dishwasher!

Pro Groomer Tip: Use a boar bristle brush after you brush your dog with the curry brush.  This will bring the natural oils from the hair follicles to the surface and create a beautiful sheen on the coat.

Curry brushes are great for boxers and other dogs with short coats

Thick, Double-Coated Breeds

Breeds such as Huskies, Newfoundlands and Saint Bernards that have a thick, double coat need more than just an occasional bath and brush out. These breeds require lots of extra brushing, especially during shedding season – typically the beginning of spring and fall. There are many different kinds of brushes that can be used on these breeds, but some are better left for you professional pet stylist to use. 

The first thing to try would be a slicker brush. Slicker brushes have wire pins and are usually a rectangular in shape. The wire pins are very thin in diameter which allows them to break up the coat as it gets closely packed together. 

After breaking up all the packed undercoat with the slicker brush, you can take an undercoat rake or a metal comb through the hair to get to the skin and ensure no matting is taking place. Undercoat rakes are helpful because they are stronger than combs. This makes it easier to rake through thick hair. Again, make sure the hair is clean!

Slicker brushes, undercoat rakes and metal combs are great for brushing dogs with thick coats or double coats

Long- and Curly-Coated Dogs

These make up the majority of breeds we see in the grooming salon as they need the most grooming. Similar to the double-coated breeds, the best tools to use for long- and curly-coated dogs are slicker brushes and a metal combs. The process remains the same whether your dog has straight hair or curly hair.

For a dog with a long coat, you want to brush with a slicker brush first and then run a metal comb through your pet to make sure it is tangle free. Check to make sure your slicker brush is appropriate for your pet by checking how long the pins are and how firm they are.  For reference, a slicker brush is similar to a detangling brush made for humans. 

For a thick, curly-coated dog you may want a brush with longer, firmer pins whereas a small, thin-coated dog like a Maltese may be better off with shorter, flexible pins.

Dogs with long coats or curly coats most often benefit from slicker brushes and metal combs

Wire-Coated Dogs

Wire-coated dogs are amazing because you can get away with not brushing them much at all because these breeds rarely get tangles. However, the more you can brush them at home, the less shedding you will notice and the better off the coat will look.

A great tool to use in addition to a metal comb is an Andis undercoat rake. The most important thing to note is that these are not intended for dematting, and you could harm your pet if they’re used in this manner. Consult your local pet groomer to learn how to properly use this tool.

Hand Stripping for Wire-Coated Dogs

With wire or rough coats, the best form of grooming is hand stripping – the natural process of removing dead coat. If you’d like to preserve the texture and color of your pet’s coat, hand stripping is the best way to accomplish this. 

To hand strip, your groomer uses a stripping knife or stone to assist with pulling the dead coat from the hair follicles. Because the hair is dead, this does not hurt your dog at all and can actually feel good. After the hairs are naturally pulled from the hair follicles, they are stimulated to grow new, coarse hair that is rich in color and texture. Check with your local grooming salon to see if hand stripping services are available near you.


Looking for dog grooming brushes online? Pet Edge is a great resource and carries a wide variety of professional grooming tools you can use at home on your pet.

No matter which coat type your pet has, it is important to start brushing early and often! If you’re unsure which brush is right for your pet or have any other questions, reach out to your Smoochie Pooch dog groomer and they’ll be glad to help!

Elli Bultemeier NCMG, PTI, CPAe

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Assessing Your Pet to Find Their Health Baseline

Learning Your Pet’s “Normal”

The Pet Tech program has developed a system to help you assess your pet in order for you to be aware of what your pet’s “normal” is. If you know what your pet’s regular vitals and behaviors are, it makes it much easier to distinguish when they are behaving abnormally.

Snout to Tail Assessment

The Snout to Tail Assessment is something you can do at home to learn your pet’s baseline health. It should ideally be done once a week, but if you only do it once a month or even every couple of months that would be ok. The Snout to Tail Assessment is exactly what it sounds like: you track your pet’s health from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail (and everything in between).

To start the assessment, it helps to imagine your hands being covered in paint. By the end of the assessment your pet should be “covered” in that color paint.

1. Nose

Start with your pet’s nose. It should not be overly dry or cracked in any way.

2. Mouth

If your pet will let you look in its mouth, examine their teeth and gums. Teeth should not have tartar build up on them and gums should be bubble gum pink. Some dogs will have black gums – and that’s okay. There should be no foul odors coming from the mouth.

3. Muzzle & Head

Feel your pet’s muzzle and the top of the head. Feel for any lumps or bumps and any signs of skin problems.

4. Ears

Check your pet’s ears. You should not detect any smell coming from the ears. Check for a build-up of dirt or wax. They should not feel hot to the touch or appear swollen.

5. Back & Spine

Run your hands over the back of your dog and apply gentle pressure down the spine. If there are any issues with the spine of your pet, they will buckle in pain while doing this.

6. Sides

Run your hands down the sides of your pet. You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs. You should not, however, be able to see them visibly or have the ability to put more than one finger between each rib.

7. Tail

Feel all the way down the tail and ensure it isn’t broken. Check for sores on the tail.

8. Legs & Paws

Check each leg and paw. Check for easy range of motion in each leg. Ensure there is no inflammation or redness on the paw pads. Make sure your pet’s nails are at a healthy length. 

9. Breathing Rate

To check breathing rate, put your hand on your pet’s chest and count their breathes for 15 seconds. This will allow you to multiply by 4 at the end of the 15 seconds to figure out how many breathes they perform per minute. Dogs should breathe 10-30 breaths per minute and cats should breathe 20-30 breaths per minute.

10. Heart Rate

To check the pulse, find the femoral artery. It is located in the bend of the leg between the dog’s belly and leg. It is best to use your two middle fingers to avoid feeling your own pulse. The process is similar to that of counting breathe rate; count how many beats their heart performs in 15 seconds and then multiple that number by 4 to reach their heart rate (beats per minute).

11. Temperature

Take your pet’s temperature with a plastic digital thermometer. It will have to be done rectally. You can use coconut oil as a lubricant. Dogs and cats should have a temperature of 100.4 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Identifying Problems & Staying Proactive

Now that you have a great baseline on your pet, you can identify when problems arise more easily. Things like bleeding are easy to identify. Problems such as heat stroke and seizures, however, may not be as easily identified. 

The best thing you can do for your pet’s health is make sure you are prepared in an emergency situation. None of us ever want to have to do first aid or CPR on our pet, but being prepared can put you at ease and also help your pet to be calm when situations arise.

If you complete the above assessment and find issues or concerns with your pet, please contact your veterinarian. It’s always best to play it safe when it comes to the health of your four-legged friends!

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Shedding: Causes and How to Reduce Excessive Shedding

“My dog is shedding like crazy!”

This is something we hear every day! We love our pets, but our vacuum does not share the same sentiment. Let’s break down some causes and some great ways to reduce it.

All Pets Shed

Shedding happens in all pets. That’s right, all pets! We shed too. Think about it – when was the last time you cleaned out your hair brush? Not all pets loose hair at the same rate, and it varies depending on many factors. 

The most obvious factor is breed. There are some breeds that are considered non-shedding breeds, such as a Poodle, and there are breeds that are considered shedding breeds, such as Golden Retrievers.

While minimal, even “non-shedding” breeds shed.

Mixed breed dog sitting

The Shedding Process

This occurs when the hair follicle releases the dead hair, which is anything we can see, to allow the new growth to appear. Hair grows in three stages, and more importantly it is asynchronous. So while one hair follicle may be in the transition stage, the one next to it may be in the regeneration stage. 

If the growth cycles were to all sync, all hair could be lost at the same time, causing baldness. There are some diseases that cause that, but it is extremely rare. This process is actually pretty incredible if you think about it. 

Think about a Golden Retriever for example: the hair on its muzzle, face and front of its legs is very short, while the rest of its body hair is long and feathered. It’s fascinating that our pets’ bodies are programmed this way.

Hair length on Golden Retrievers varies depending on the location - some hair is very short, while other hair is long and feathered.

Shedding occurs in the final step of the growth cycle when the dead hair is separated from the hair shaft in order to be replaced by new growth. A dog’s hair follicle will hold one guard hair and seven to twenty-seven secondary hairs. The secondary hairs are what you typically see making hair balls on your floor. It is both natural and healthy for pets to loose these dead hairs.

Why Is My Dog Shedding So Much?

If you think your dog is shedding too much, you may be right. Nutrition can play a big role in shedding. Pets with a well-balanced diet are simply more healthy in general. If you provide your dog with the proper nutrition internally, you can see those results in a beautiful, shiny coat.

While diet plays a role, an improper grooming routine is typically the cause of excessive shedding. This is why we recommend keeping your pets on a regular grooming schedule with certified groomers. 

Other Causes for Excessive Shedding

Some diseases cause hair loss. Thyroid diseases, Cushing’s disease, Addison disease, and Diabetes can all contribute to hair loss. Different types of Alopecia can also occur causing complete hair loss. Our groomers evaluate each pet for skin and coat issues at the beginning of each appointment; bringing your pet in regularly can help catch issues more quickly and get your pet the relief they need before issues get out of hand.

Shedding Relief or “Deshed” Treatment

At Smoochie Pooch we also offer a Deshed Treatment for dogs (and cats at participating locations). This package includes a different bathing process to loosen packed, dead undercoat, followed by an in-depth drying routine and extra brushing to ensure all of the excess hair is managed. While it is impossible to stop shedding completely, these packages can reduce shedding by over 50% percent. 

Beware of any product or process that promises it will completely take away shedding. As we learned earlier, shedding is a naturally occurring process that does not (and should not) stop. Routine baths also greatly reduce excessive shedding.

Before and after Deshed Treatment at Smoochie Pooch

What You Can Do to Reduce Shedding

  • Add a skin and coat supplement to your pet’s diet. Ultra Oil is a great choice. With sardine, anchovy and hempseed oil omega 3, 6 and 9, it reduces excessive shedding along with other great benefits like relieving joint pain, dryness, hot spots, allergic breakouts and other issues. Ask your local Smoochie Pooch if they have Ultra Oil supplements in stock!
  • Schedule your dog for routine grooming appointments. We recommend every 4-6 weeks. 
  • Schedule a Deshed Treatment. Smoochie Pooch offers Deshed Treatments which can reduce shedding by over 50%.
  • Beware of deshedding blades and many of the tools commonly advertised for brush shedding dogs. They act as a razor and cut hairs instead of pulling them out naturally.
  • Bathe your pet before brushing. Clean hair is much easier to brush than dirty hair.
  • If you feel your pet has an excessive amount of shedding or is losing patches of hair, consult your veterinarian

Have more questions about shedding? Talk to one of our professional groomers today.

Chihuahua sleeping in the sun after grooming near me