Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Pet Expert: Should Pet Grooming Be Considered An Essential Service?

There’s a heavy debate happening in the pet industry right now regarding the importance of pet grooming services. During Ontario’s lock-down restrictions, pet services across the board are either operating under constraints, or have completely shut down.

Last week, the Ministry of Health confirmed that dog walkers are permitted to work during the province’s lock-down restrictions, which includes an emergency stay-at-home order.

Under the Reopening Ontario Act, “Pet walkers are permitted to operate under O. Reg. 82/20 – for services that are necessary for the immediate health and welfare of the animal only, or provided through curb side pick up and drop-off of the animal”.

Unfortunately, pet grooming is not considered an essential service in the eyes of the government, and has been shut down entirely until restrictions are lifted. Considering human hairdressers are also shut down, this may make sense to some, however pet grooming encompasses so much more than a simple bath and trim for the sake of vanity.

In a pet grooming setting, it is very simple to adhere to preventative measures as groomers and clients have very limited in-person interaction.

Note that under current guidelines, pet grooming is still available through veterinary clinics, but for emergency purposes only. Sadly, as a result a great number of dogs which are unable to be properly groomed for several months due to lock-down restrictions are at risk of developing emergency grooming situations.

Members of the Ontario Dog Groomers Association (ODGA) argue that pet grooming should be essential for a number of reasons, not only for hygienic purposes, but also for the safety and well-being of our pets. A petition on is calling upon the Ontario Government to make “Dog Grooming an Essential Service for the Health and Welfare of Animals”, and has already collected the 15,000 signatures they needed. Other petitions have popped up online as well.

What can happen to pets that go too long between grooms?

Matting, and Skin and Coat Problems

For many pets, especially dogs with long, thick coats, matting can become a problem very quickly. As mats grow, they continue to pull on the skin and cause discomfort. Over time, matting can lead to skin irritations, hot spots, and infections. Not only can excessive matting be extremely painful, it can also have a very negative effect on a dog’s health and overall quality of life.

Matting around the bum area can also make it increasingly difficult for dogs to effectively and cleanly go to the bathroom, which can lead to behavioural problems, infections, and can contribute to harmful pathogens being spread around the home.

Regular brushing can help to prevent matting, however some coat types are very difficult to manage, and require help from a skilled professional. This is especially true for those who are unable to adequately maintain a consistent at-home grooming regimen, like the elderly, or those suffering from health and mobility issues.

Ear Hair Growth

Plenty of dog breeds, mostly those with longer ears, tend to grow long hair inside their ears. Since the inner ear is such a delicate part of the body, this hair should be properly trimmed by a qualified groomer. Failure to keep this area tidy can lead to a thick buildup of hair in the ear, which can lead to ear infections. It is possible to trim this area yourself, however many dogs do not sit still, accidents do happen, and dogs wind up at the veterinarian for stitches. It is advised to leave this type of sensitive work to experienced professionals.

Nail Overgrowth

Regular nail trimming is essential for a dog’s well-being. Overgrown nails can cause pain and make walking difficult, especially on smooth surfaces like hardwood floors. This may increase the likelihood of a dog’s legs slipping from underneath them and causing injury; that’s how ligaments get torn. If nails grow too long, they can actually curve back into the paw, which can be exceptionally painful for animals.

While many pet owners regularly trim their pet’s nails, the vast majority do not feel comfortable doing it on their own. Some dogs have very dark nails, making it difficult to tell how short they can be safely cut. Cutting a pet’s nails too short may hit the quick (a blood vessel) and can result in excessive bleeding and pain. Again, this is something that is best performed by a skilled professional.

Anal Gland Expressing

Anal glands that have been previously manually expressed by a vet or groomer tend to lose the ability to naturally express on their own. As a result, these glands need to be regularly expressed, or emptied, by a professional. Failure to do so can result in anal gland infections, leading to a rupture, which is excruciating and often requires surgery.

Detecting Illness and Other Problems

Oftentimes, groomers are the first line of defence for detecting skin and coat problems, growths, infections, and more. This is because they are up close and personal with pets in a way that their owners often are not. A skilled groomer is trained to perform an overall body check while grooming your pet. They often find things like small ticks that may have gone unnoticed, too.

Essential Bathing

Most pet owners are able to bathe their pets at home, barring mobility issues or physical disabilities. However, a dog that has been skunked, rolled in a dead animal, or come into contact with any other odour-rich substance often requires special bathing techniques and shampoos to fully rid them of the odour.

While it is quite possible for some pet owners to handle their pet’s unique grooming needs at home, this is not the reality for others. The welfare of our animals relies on grooming for much more than just vanity. It is time the government recognizes pet grooming as an essential service that can be carried out in a safe and responsible manner.

Join the wait-list for Meaford Pet Grooming by emailing

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit

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