Canine curiosities your groomer knows

 

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by Betsy Lane, MA

Professional dog groomers get to know more dogs well than almost anyone, other than a veterinarian. This week, we spoke with Nicole Morris, Regional Salon Quality and Education Manager for PetSmart’s Great Lakes Region, and asked her what she’s learned that might surprise us. As usual, Nicole didn’t disappoint!  

Every pet professional picks up specialized bits of information on the job. For example, a pro musher will quickly learn that not all “Northern breeds” are created equal (not by a long shot). Vets learn that sometimes the fastest way to get a simple but stressful procedure done is to give the patient brief breaks. And dog walkers learn every client-dog’s preferences, from how they like to get leashed up to which fire hydrants provide the most fascinating scents.

Over the course of a career a groomer’s hands will cover every inch of thousands of dogs, from miniatures to giants, puppies to seniors, and super-relaxed to super-stressed. Because of this, experienced groomers have an inside scoop about dogs that other pet pros don’t usually have. Here are three of Nicole’s favorite fascinating facts:

Terriers pose one of the biggest challenges as far as temperaments for grooming. The terrier personality is “fight or flight” and when they don’t like having their nails trimmed, for example, they will try to get away from the groomer—and if that’s not an option, they may try to fight. Reading the behavior of a terrier and changing your technique/approach are crucial for both the terrier and groomer to keep everyone safe.

Many people bring their pups in for a groom because the dogs “smell.” One common culprit of a smelly pet is dirty ears! Pets ears should be cleaned regularly, especially if they have dropped ears, like spaniels and hounds. Look inside your pet’s ears regularly for redness, dirt, or discharge.

Did you know poodles shed? Instead of dropping the hairs onto your floor, they often fall back into the dog’s coat and, if not brushed out, can cause tangles and mats to form.

Because of their extensive contact with so many dogs, good groomers—those who pay close attention to the dogs in their care, understand canine body language, and know the unique characteristics of each breed or type of dog—have insights like these that are as fascinating as they are useful.

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https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

Halloween safety tips

 

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

Halloween is just around the corner. I was never a fan, but I’ve developed a new love for the holiday since moving to Colorado. My husband takes our kids out trick-or-treating and I stay home to pass out candy.

During our first Halloween in Colorado, we were dog sitting my parent’s dog, Dolly. When we lived in Chicago, we had a condo and didn’t get trick-or-treaters, so I never had to worry about how our dog, Bailey, would react to visitors. Still, I know that Halloween is a stressful day for dogs and I was prepared for having a dog on this hectic holiday.

Dolly isn’t crate trained, so I had some gates set up away from our entryway so she couldn’t get out. I set up a nice little spot for her to relax and hang out. Well, my plans didn’t go very well. Dolly was very stressed and barked the entire time. Shortly after trick-or-treating began, I knew I would have to change up my plan. I quickly set up a safe zone for her upstairs where she wouldn’t hear the doorbell and feel stressed by all the visitors. She was already pretty worked up, so it took her some time to calm down.

Halloween is a lot of fun for humans, but not so fun for our four-legged friends.

It’s scary seeing everyone dressed up in weird costumes, some with extra-scary masks. So below are some tips to help your dog survive all those ghouls and goblins!

Keep your dog at home. I know, I know. You have the perfect costume planned for your dog and you want to show it off. Instead, take some photos of them to show off to all of your friends and save your dog the stress. Dogs don’t enjoy being out on such a busy day with “funny looking” people.

Give your dog a safe place to be at home. This is when a crate comes in very handy. Set the crate in a place that is out of the way, give your dog a treat-filled Kong and let them relax. They don’t need to participate in all (or any) of the events of the night; they’ll be much happier on their own.

If you don’t have a crate, set up a spot in a room such as a bathroom or laundry room. Put their bed in there, give them a Kong and put a baby gate up.

Keep your dog away from the door. It is important to keep your dog away from the door, both for their comfort and for the safety of the trick-or-treaters. Not everyone enjoys coming to someone’s door just to be greeted with an over-enthusiastic dog. It can be quite frightening for kids. I don’t care how friendly your dog is, it isn’t fair to little trick-or-treaters to feel uncomfortable on their special night.

Noise sensitive dogs should be far away from the commotion. If you have a noise sensitive dog that reacts to the doorbell, it’s best to put them in a room far away from the commotion. If you have a crate, put their crate in a bedroom, turn on some white noise or relaxing music to drown out the noise and give them something yummy to chew on.

Remember, Halloween is supposed to be a fun night for all, but safety is key. This year, I’ll be handing out candy again while my husband takes our kids around the neighborhood. (I admit – I love seeing all the kids in their adorable costumes.) It should be a fun night!

How do you enjoy Halloween with your dog?

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

The grooming process … or, “Why does a trip to the grooming salon take so long, anyway?!”

Dog groomer shaving West Highland Terrier

By Betsy Lane, MA

If you’ve been following our blog over the past few months, you’ve probably learned a lot about dog groomers, tools, salons and shops, and so on.  In this week’s post, we unpack the grooming process itself, to answer that perennial question: Why does grooming a dog take so darn long?

Even pet parents who have been taking their dogs to grooming salons for years sometimes wonder why the process takes so long. In this week’s post, Nicole Morris, PetSmart’s Salon Quality and Education Manager for the Great Lakes Region, shed some light on the matter.

“At our grooming salons,” Nicole says, “two to four dogs arrive within the first hour of the groomer’s day. The groomer spends 5 to 15 minutes talking with the pet parents about the dog’s health, behavior, goals, and so on.” This checking-in chat is important, so plan for it when you make your appointment!

Once the dog is checked in, work proceeds in five logically ordered steps:

Prep work – The groomers take care of the basics first: coat (shaving and/or brushing out), nails, teeth, and ears. Always brush your dog’s coat before the bath, to avoid tangles and knots!

Bathing – The bath itself can be quick or more intense, depending on the dog’s coat and any treatments such as conditioners or de-shedding. In any case, an extremely thorough rinse finishes things up.

Drying – The drying process is essential; coats need to be completely dry in order to stretch to full length and make an even cut possible. The dryers make many dogs nervous, so at times the groomer will towel dry the dog, or turn a fan down to low and let the dog air dry. Many dogs still benefit from a break after the drying process. Drying times can be less than 15 minutes for a Yorkie, but closer to 45 for a Goldendoodle.

Clipping and tidying up – Finally, we’re to what feels like the “haircut”! This is when the groomer trims and tends to every last detail, from nose to toes to the tip of the tail.

Bows and bandanas – Your dog is looking and feeling great, so why not top all that goodness off with something fun? Team bandana or rhinestone bow, anyone?

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https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon.

Welcome home, Sassy!

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On the left: Sassy (with Denise Theobald) during the Hurricane Harvey intake. On the right: Sassy prepares to chow down on her Gotcha Day cake.

Little Sassy was a Hurricane Harvey refugee flown up to Chicago by Wings of Rescue in early September. My husband Drew and I volunteered for the emergency intake at The Anti-Cruelty Society in our various capacities, and as the evening wound down one of the last dogs to be processed was a skinny white terrier mix with crazy hair.

We had been looking for a small dog for some time, and after a half dozen or so meet and greets through local rescues we were planning to take a bit of a breather before starting the process up again. We really didn’t plan to foster a dog (and in any case we thought all of the Hurricane Harvey dogs had already been set up with foster families). But suddenly, there was Sassy, with her kennel cough, pneumonia, hookworms, and heart worms – about the only thing she didn’t have was a foster family. 

It must have been fate. After weeks of medication and TLC, we made it official on Friday – welcome to the family, Sassy!

 

Jamie Sig Trans - First Only

 

 

What makes a great groomer great?

Groomer with a dog

by Betsy Lane, MA

Many—perhaps even most—dog groomers don’t start out thinking grooming will be their career. Successful groomers enter the field from all sorts of backgrounds. Many come to this work out of a deep love and commitment to animal welfare. Others get curious about the career when they bring their own dogs to be groomed. The paths to grooming are so diverse, it begs the questions: What do these professionals have in common, personality-wise? What attributes make a great groomer? And, could this describe you?

Nicole Morris, PetSmart’s Salon Quality and Education manager for the Great Lakes Region, provided her insights. A former professional dog groomer herself, Nicole knows this work inside and out, and has seen countless new groomers succeed. Here’s what she thinks they have in common:

Groomers need to be compassionate.

“The #1 quality all great groomers share is compassion.” Groomers need to be able to work well with pet parents from all walks of life, and with all different types of dogs. Some (parents and pets!) will be nervous or anxious. Some will bring in a dog with a health issue they might not even have noticed. Whatever the case, the groomer “has to be able to walk them through it,” Nicole says. And they need to do it with compassion and professionalism.

Groomers need to be patient.

Many pet parents are nervous, especially the first time they visit a salon (or a new groomer). “Especially for the Millennial generation, many of whom don’t have kids, the dog is their kid. Dropping the dog off at the salon is like dropping your kid off on the first day of preschool. [The pet parents] want to know the entire process,” Nicole says–and the groomer needs to be able to explain the process quickly but thoroughly, helping the pet parents relax.

Groomers need to be extroverted (in some ways).

When new clients arrive for appointments, the groomer needs to jump right in, engage the clients, and ask questions about some unusual topics, like poop, fleas, hair mats, and so on. As a groomer, “you have to be a little bit of an investigator,” Nicole says. Groomers also need to be extroverted enough to be good team players; they “need to be willing to ask for help—or to jump in and offer it proactively to another groomer who might be struggling.”

Groomers need to be detail-oriented.

Finally, great groomers are extremely detail oriented. They see the details, and feel motivated—compelled, even—to ensure every detail is just right.

Does this sound like you? If so, why not consider a career (or a new career) in dog grooming? PetSmart’s Grooming Academy is just one option, and it’s a great place to start exploring!

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https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon.

Fun activities for fall weather

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By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the weather, the colors, the holidays, and the food. I could go on and on about all the things I love, but one of the things I love most is being outside, taking longs walks in the crisp, cool air. When my Westie, Bailey, was alive, this was also her favorite time of year. She loved to bounce in the fallen leaves, chase the squirrels, and smell to her heart’s content.

Fall is a great time to get out with your dog. Here in Colorado, the Aspen trees in the mountains are breathtakingly beautiful, so hiking is ideal. But there are many things to do with your dog that gets you outside to enjoy the fresh air.

Find it

Find it is one of my favorite activities to do anywhere. But you can make it a little more fun by hiding your dog’s favorite toy in a pile of leaves. Practice the following.

  • Without your dog seeing, place your dog’s favorite toy next to a pile of leaves.
  • Release your dog and say, “Find it.”
  • Once your dog finds their toy, say “good” and play a short game of fetch.
  • Once your dog is getting to be very good at finding their toy, you can start hiding the toy within the leaves.

Hikes in the great outdoors

Like I said, Colorado is lovely this time of year (but when isn’t it lovely?) and the crisp mountain air is just perfect for some hiking. But even if you don’t live in Colorado, there are some great trails just about anywhere you live. Make sure to bring lots of water for both you and your dog. Just because the temperature is cooler, doesn’t mean that your dog can’t get dehydrated. And also be on the lookout for wildlife. Many wild animals are out more during the cooler months.

Outdoor agility

Agility is a great sport any time of year, but it can be especially fun on a cool, fall day. You don’t have to have expensive agility equipment to have fun. DIY jumps and weave poles work just fine.

Working walks

I believe all walks should be working walks, but let’s be honest, not everyone has the time to take their dog for a long walk. But when the kids are back at school and the cooler weather is just inviting you to be outside, take the opportunity to spend a little more time on your walks and tiring your dog out. Working walks are simple – you go for a walk, but work in some training at every corner. I like to practice the following on my walks:

  • “Sit” and “stay” at every corner. Release when you cross the street.
  • “Touch” on the side of the sidewalk when you see another person/dog coming towards you.
  • “Watch me” before you release your dog to go sniff their favorite tree.
  • “Come” when your dog gets out in front of you.
  • Loose leash walking/not allowing your dog to pull you down the street.

No matter what you do with your dog, just make sure to have fun and stay safe!

What are your favorite activities you like to do with your dog during fall?

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Trainingis a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

Setting your dog up for success at the salon

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I get treats for going to the salon?! What are we waiting for – let’s go!

by Betsy Lane, MA

Most of us would love a day of pampering at a spa. Many dogs… not so much. A trip to the grooming salon involves many unfamiliar experiences and a certain amount of sensory overload from the sights, sounds, and smells of the salon. These “firsts” can be challenging for a dog—and we haven’t even talked about the grooming itself yet!

Many “firsts” are difficult for dogs, so it’s worth our time and effort to be sure they go well. As they say, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” We want to ensure our dogs get a stress-free start at the grooming salon, so they won’t be stressed by routine procedures like being bathed, brushed, clipped, or having their nails trimmed and ears cleaned.

The two most effective ways to help our dogs accept being groomed are (1) start slow and (2) offer lots of rewards.

Food is usually your best bet here. Choose something soft, smelly, and small, so you can give out a bunch of little pieces without filling your dog’s belly. Diced hot dogs, cheese, chicken, filet mignon, salmon—you name it. Discover what your dog absolutely LOVES, put a bunch of that in a baggie, tuck it in your pocket, and head out the door.

Your first trip to the salon will just be a social visit—much like stopping to chat with a friend you run into on the street. “We always encourage social visits to build positive associations,” says Alyssa Serafin, PetSmart Salon Leader. “Just come in, say hi, get a treat, and leave.” These baby steps help your dog become familiar with the salon environment, from the ambient noises, lights, and smells to the sometimes shiny, slippery floors.

Remember those treats in your pocket? Be generous with them! Watch for every brave, curious, relaxed, or happy thing your dog does and reward the heck out of it. Your dog walks past the sliding glass doors? Yay! Treat! Happily approaches a customer pushing a shopping cart? Yay! Treat! Acts curious and friendly towards the salon staff? Yay! Triple treats!

This technique (which has decades of scientific research supporting it) is called “positive reinforcement,” and it’s how we get more of the behaviors we want. As Alyssa says, “Start slow and make it easy for the dogs, and they’ll do better in the long run.”

Sure, you might make a few trips to the salon before any real grooming happens, but that’s a small investment of time that can pay off in a dog who’s reasonably happy being groomed for the rest of his or her clean, healthy, gorgeous life.

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https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

 

Renewal isn’t always about new

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Hey Jamie… What’s with that weird pic of strangers, an array of sweets, and a Golden Retriever? 

Good question. 

It was a few snapshots I took last week at Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year and season of reflection and renewal) dinner. I meant to get a few better ones, but by the time we drank a couple glasses of wine, and consumed waaaaay too much brisket and kugel, I was too tired. But here’s the thing… see that cute dog? That’s Charlie Bear, my cousin’s 1.5 year old Golden. She’s a beauty, and has her family wrapped around her four not-so-little paws. So much so that walking her has become a bit of a nightmare for them. My cousin Kiki shared that she’d tried everything from the Gentle Leader to a prong collar and nothing worked. Sitting on her counter, I saw a brand new fuchsia colored Sensation Harness just screaming to be opened and fit on Charlie.

Slightly buzzed, brisket-engorged dog trainer be damned. 

Fifteen minutes later I had Charlie Bear walking nicely next to me on her new harness. 

Moral(s) of the story? 

  1. Once a dog trainer, always a dog trainer. 
  2. Renewal isn’t always about new. 

Happy Autumn. Celebrate the turn of seasons and do something this week that makes you feel renewed. It will feel amazing. I promise. 

Jamie Sig Trans - First Only

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And speaking of new beginnings – a huge welcome to all of the new friends we made at the Pet Sitters International Conference in New Orleans last week! (And a big shout out to our Education Director, Lynda Lobo, who wrangled that event single-handedly.)

High fives to our contest winners as well:

How to get what you want from your dog groomer

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by Betsy Lane, MA

When you get a haircut, you want to walk out looking and feeling great—and you want the same things when your dog goes to the groomer! In this post, we’ll look at how to get the look you want at the grooming salon and what to do if you’re not satisfied.

A successful trip to the grooming salon leaves you, your dog, and the groomer all feeling great—but, just like with human haircuts, things don’t always turn out the way you thought they would.

How can you maximize the chances of your dog being runway-ready after a trip to the salon, and what should you do if things veer off course?

That’s what we asked PetSmart Grooming Salon Leader Renee Fuentes and her team of professional dog groomers. Lucky for us, they shared five terrific tips for successful trips to the salon.

  1. When deciding on length, groomers can start by taking off half the length of the coat, then check to see if you’d like a bit more taken off. “We can always take off more, but we can’t put it back on,” they note.
  2. If your dog’s coat is badly matted, shaving the coat might be the only choice. In this case, the groomer should be willing and able to show you what to do at home to keep your dog looking and feeling terrific between salon visits. And remember, “You can stop in the salon between grooms for brush-outs or baths, which will help the skin and coat grow back and avoid the need for shaves.”
  3. If the salon’s shave chart—which shows different blade lengths (3, 4, 5, 7, etc.)—confuses you, a groomer “can do a little pre-shave in an inconspicuous area to show what the 4 would look like compared to the 5, and you can see the difference in how much of the coat comes off.” Feel free to request this, if it’s not offered.
  4. Remember to tell the groomer if you like short ears, long tail, and so on. “Pictures always help, too, as does hearing about the pup’s lifestyle and health.”
  5. When you check out, the groomer should ask how you like the cut. If there are things you’d like to discuss, it’s often best to take your dog outside to go potty, and then come back in for any adjustments. Renee adds, “I’ll add a note about their preferences to their file, so it’s perfect next time. PetSmart Grooming Salons have a Look Great Guarantee, as well.”

Here’s to every dog looking and feeling great after every trip to the grooming salon!

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https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

How to help your dog’s allergies

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By Mary Beth Miller

Humans aren’t the only ones who suffer from itchy, scratchy allergies.

Just like us, our dogs develop allergy symptoms when their immune system begins red flagging every particle of pollen, dust. or mold. Although harmless in the environment, a small allergen can become a big problem if it is ingested, inhaled, or comes into contact with the skin.

If your dog is a seasonal or chronic allergy sufferer, it is of the utmost importance that you learn everything you can on how to help your dog’s allergies.

Keep an eye out for allergy symptoms

Dogs with allergies are pretty hard to ignore. The constant itching, scratching, and chewing are enough to make everyone in the house crazy. However, there are other allergy symptoms a dog can develop that you may not immediately pick up on.

In an attempt to rid the body of these “dangerous” substances, dogs can develop a variety of respiratory, digestive, and skin-related symptoms.

  •       Constant licking
  •       Swollen paws
  •       Hot spots
  •       Snoring (the result of an swollen throat)
  •       Diarrhea
  •       Vomiting
  •       Sneezing
  •       Itchy ears
  •       Ear infections
  •       Itchy back
  •       Itchy tail
  •       Watery eyes
  •       Scabbed, moist, red, and itchy skin
Identify the allergens

Canine allergies mirror that of human allergies, but you might not think of these common allergens as affecting your dog:

  •       Food substances (soy, wheat, corn, pork, chicken, beef)
  •       Plastic or rubber materials
  •       Flea and mite shampoos
  •       Fabric
  •       Cleaning products
  •       Perfumes
  •       Topical flea/tick preventatives
  •       Prescription drugs
  •       Cigarette smoke
  •       Feathers
  •       Dander
  •       Mold
  •       Weed, grass, or tree pollen
  •       Fleas
  •       Dust mites
Keep allergens out of your home & off your dog

Wherever a dog roams, environmental allergens are present. The pollen from the grass and flowers are carried in on your pet’s fur and paws. Not only does your dog bring these eye watering substances in your home, but you could be carrying them inside the home, too.  And don’t forget about fleas! Adult fleas and their eggs can easily be carried in on the bottom of your shoes or hitch a ride with your dog.

Here is a list of easy and effective tips to reduce environmental and pest allergies:

1. To prevent tracking in allergens, wipe your dog’s paws with a damp washcloth before entering the house; leave your own shoes outside or in a mudroom or garage.  

2. Give your dog a weekly bath and brush him daily to remove pollen from the fur.

3. Vacuum, dust. and sweep the home regularly to pick up any stragglers that you might have missed.

4. Wash your dog’s bedding and plush toys regularly with a gentle, hypoallergenic detergent.   

Pinpoint your dog’s allergies

If your dog is suffering from an allergy you just can’t put your finger on, you may want to consider an intradermal skin test. Performed by a veterinary dermatologist, an intradermal skin test or allergy test will help pinpoint the cause(s) of all that itchiness. 

The process of a skin test involves shaving a small patch of hair on the dog’s body to visibly see the skin’s reaction to various allergens after they are injected under the skin.

If your dog is indeed allergic to a substance, the injection site will swell, redden, and become itchy. The test is highly effective (if pricey) and allows the vet to isolate an allergen, planning a course of action.

If having a skin allergy test performed on your dog is a bit out of your price range, there are other at home tests you can do.

Monitoring your dog’s symptoms inside and outside the home is also an effective way to pinpoint an allergy, it will just take more time. If your dog tends to have more allergies inside the home than out, you may want to focus on dust mites, mold, or fleas as the culprits.

Don’t forget about food allergies! Food products such as soy, wheat, corn, pork, dairy, chicken, or beef are all common ingredients in dog food and treats. If you notice your dog has itchy skin combined with hair loss, vomiting, and diarrhea, you may want to take a look at that bowl of kibble. Talk to your veterinarian about a safe way to conduct a food allergy experiment with your dog.

Maintain flea treatments

It only takes one flea to turn your dog into an itchy mess. Flea allergy dermatitis, an overreaction to flea saliva, is very common in dogs, especially sighthounds. Hair loss on the back and tail base are sure signs your dog is allergic to fleas.

The best way to prevent flea allergies is to keep the tiny pests off Fido. Talk with your veterinarian to select the best flea preventative that works for you and your dog.

Allergies are everywhere and we aren’t the only ones who suffer from itchy, watery eyes, and dry, scratchy skin. A large number of our dogs seem to be cursed with overactive immune systems, too. Your dog’s allergies cannot be cured, but you can make allergy season more bearable for everyone!

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mary-beth-miller-pawedinMary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals. MaryBeth has three dogs, a Siberian husky named Rocky and two rescue dogs named Sambita and Nina.