At Posh Paws Dog Grooming & Spa, we have a policy of not accepting dogs for grooming when they have been sedated or tranquillised. This includes dogs that have been medicated for the purposes of grooming, or up to 72 hours prior to our arrival for other reasons.
We understand that it can be distressing to see your dog anxious, drooling, fearful and distressed when it comes to grooming, vet visits, car rides, thunderstorms and separation from you. However, sedation should only be used as a last resort, and in consultation with a specialist veterinary behaviourist. If your dog has been prescribed sedatives by a specialist vet, please contact us prior to your appointment so we can consult with your specialist and discuss any side-effects.
Tranquillisers such as Acepromazine (also known as ACE or ACP) are commonly prescribed by well-meaning family vets with potentially devastating consequences. Acepromazine in particular has been shown to have little to no effect in mitigating your pet’s anxiety, but rather renders them unable to move and/or show outward signs of distress. This can result in your dog’s anxiety becoming worse over time, and possible ‘breakthrough’ or ‘paradoxical’ events, where the drug stops working or has the opposite effect, and your pet (and groomer) can suffer serious injuries. It can also make your dog more prone to seizures, heart episodes and drowsiness.
Please don’t ask us to groom your dog on Acepromazine, even if it is just a ‘small dose’ or ‘quarter of a tablet’. It makes it difficult for your dog to stand and be responsive to us, we are unable to get clear indicators of your dog’s anxiety levels, and we are not trained to monitor or respond to seizures, heart episodes or overdose. We love our clients, and knowing that they are alert and unable to move is traumatising for both us and your dog.
So what can we do instead?
Many of our clients have experienced success using management. This includes planning events up to week before your grooming appointment as dogs may need that much time to calm down after a stressful event. Some things you can do before we arrive include avoiding vet visits or unfamiliar people, avoiding other dogs, having quiet time with your dog, going for a walk taking a regular route, giving your dog a puzzle or activity to keep their mind occupied and having the same routine leading up to the appointment. Once we arrive, we can employ numerous other tactics, like having owners stay with dogs or remain out of sight, playing calming music, taking regular breaks, using treat rewards and using a pheromone diffuser (DAP). We even have one canine client that calms down for his bath after we’ve watched a couple of YouTube videos together!
Behaviour modification involves a bit more work and aims to improve your dog’s perception of fear-inducing events. You’ll be required to do some homework for this one, as the key to success here is a regular, consistent effort and small increments. For example, if your dog stresses out when it comes to brushing, you may start by giving your dog a treat when they see the brush. As your dog’s fear subsides (which may take weeks or months), you can move the brush closer and closer, until you are able to brush them with little to no stress. You may not get your dog to love brushing, but you’ll certainly help them to be less anxious about it. We can talk you through some simple protocols, but for more complex counter-conditioning and desensitisation, we will recommend you to an appropriately qualified trainer or remedial groomer.
Some aggressive behaviour during grooming can actually be caused by pain and we’ve found some clients improve with anti-inflammatories or analgesics. Other clients have experienced overall lifestyle improvements with daily medications for anxiety. We are happy to groom your dog if they are on a stable dose of these medications. Just let us know, and we’ll schedule your appointment to avoid the period where your dog is getting used to, or ramping up the dosage. We recommend that you see a specialist vet for these medications like Kalmpets or Animal Sense.
As a last resort, some pets may need to be groomed under anaesthesia. This is only in extreme circumstances, as the costs and risks can be prohibitive. Posh Paws Dog Grooming & Spa has many canine clients that have been refused service at other salons due to fearful and aggressive behaviour, and we have yet to see a situation that justifies grooming under anaesthesia.
We are always happy to answer questions about your dog’s anxiety and behaviour when it comes to grooming, and will fill you in on your dog’s progress at the end of every groom as part of our standard service.