Pantops Pet Salon
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Pantops Pet Salon & Spa
Charlottesville's Professional Dog Grooming

It's what we do -- it's all we do.

(434) 293-2424
Fax: (434) 293-8231
504 Pantops Center
Charlottesville, VA 22911

Archive for September, 2007

Quality of Life – When is it “Time”?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

When I first went into business in 1975, Dave Orebaugh, DVM was opening up his practice where Charlottesville Animal Hospital is today. I asked him if he would take me under his wing and treat the dogs in my care as a priority. Outside this business relationship, we became good friends. Knowing that in the boarding and grooming business I would be dealing with the geriatric days of a dog’s life, I wanted to know what his answer was for putting a dog “to sleep.” He said, ‘when they no longer have quality of life, it is time.’ That made sense and I use it as a guideline to this day. No dog of mine would suffer chronic pain or be so incontinent that they would suffer urine stains and constantly dribble. If my dog has been the perfect companion I think he deserves to go with the fondest of memories–suffering from senility or severe arthritis is not part of the deal. Of course, all avenues of medical intervention should be exercised first.

This quality of life and comfort guideline comes into play in my decisions as a groomer as well. I will not put a dog through undue pain in order to groom him. Boarding and grooming lead to stress, discomfort, and anxiety with our older pets so we approach grooming the geriatric with a lot of caution. The onset of arthritis—especially in the back legs can make grooming in the normal fashion (or at all) quite painful. Lifting feet to scissor and clip pads can be too much for a dog to bear. Blindness and senility also lead to stress and fear and the accompanying reactions (biting, jerking, etc) make the process dangerous for both dog and groomer.

While we may not feel it is necessarily time to put your dog to sleep, we certainly don’t want the discomfort of grooming to lead to a heart attack or seizure (both of which I have seen). We will let you know when we are no longer comfortable putting your dog through the grooming process. But then comes the question, “if you’re not going to groom her, what should I do?” The only reasonable solution is to groom your dog every day—spend 15-20 minutes combing, brushing and spot washing with dry shampoo. Frequent, personalized grooming in short sessions will keep your dog comfortable. Keep this in mind as your dog gets older, before we need to say anything. Putting off grooming until your dog matts up just makes the process even more uncomfortable for her.

I know this is a touchy subject and each person faces it in their own way. It takes courage to determine when the quality of life isn’t there anymore and my threshold may not be yours. I respect that. However, our decision to no longer groom an elderly dog is non-negotiable.

Dogs — We Made them that Way

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 by Mike Cronk

I just watched a fascinating program on National Geographic Explorer called “The Science of Dogs.” It covered the evolution of the dog—a “must see” for dog lovers. I can’t do the program justice here, but I will relay some of the highlights.

Dogs originated from the wolf about 15,000 years ago. Archeologists speculate that early hunters were interested in having animals around as company and wolves responded the best.

Studies show that dogs still have 99.8% wolf DNA—that leaves only .2% for all their varied behavior, sizes and shapes! This .2% of genes has a remarkable amount of plasticity unique in the animal kingdom. Cow genes only allow for slight variations—you won’t see a cow the size of a mouse nor one the size of an elephant.  Plasticity means that dog genes are much more flexible thus we are able to breed dogs from one end of the spectrum to another-compare a Newfoundland and a Chihuahua, for example!

The first time a dog was bred for a purpose was 5,000 years ago in Egypt. Today’s Saluki was originally bred to be a sleek, swift hunter. Over the next 4,000+ years, man guided the breeding of a few select mongrels that exhibited qualities he felt would be useful for hunting, herding, and guarding.  The TV program called this selective breeding “eugenics” which means the forced direction of evolution, something that has been heavily debated in regards to human genetics.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, the upper-middle class began to fancy their dogs just as they did their gardens and architecture. The “companion dog” became a status symbol for the well to-do and breeding reflected the dog’s new purpose. Over the past 100 years, 320 of the 400 recognized breeds were created (80%).

Because small dogs can be bred as often as twice a year, a new breed can be developed in less than 20-30 years. Aggressive manipulation of the breeding process to design and shape the perfect pet led to more sizes, shapes, and colors than any other species of animal. That’s what dog shows are all about– a public measuring of the success of breeders. Hunting dogs have their trials, scent dogs theirs, and earth dogs too.  Research has also been conducted to explain a dog’s affection for us—which has been heightened through selective breeding. Dogs look to man for guidance and imitate our behaviors. We have become a team and man serves as pack leader. 

Unfortunately, careless breeding in small gene pools has caused a sharp increase in genetic diseases such as cancer, blindness, hip dysplasia and epilepsy. Most dog books will list the health problems that have a higher incidence in certain breeds like hip dysplasia in German Shepherds and blindness in Dalmatians. There is an ongoing effort by professional breeders to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” The best breeders are knowledgeable about the genetic defects that have come up in the breed so they keep thorough health records and refuse to breed any dog with defects.

As we continue to selectively breed dogs to our standards I do not see comparing them to wolves anymore than we compare man to monkeys!  The underlying biology may be similar but the behavior and physical appearance are very different.

National Geographic often repeats its programs—look for this one under the explorer series.