By Kathy Hosler
You are what you eat. We all know that phrase, and it’s just as true for pets as it is for people. Every day in our salons, we see pets that obviously need help in the dietary department—the obese, the ones with skin issues and poor coats. And how about the pets with periodontal problems? So much plaque and tartar on their teeth that their breath can knock you over from the next room—eww! Groomers are not veterinarians, and we certainly can’t diagnose medical conditions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t assist our clients when they are looking for good nutrition and supplements for their pets.
You may have never given it a lot of thought, but the food, treats, and supplements that your clients’ pets eat directly affect you as a groomer. You have to deal with the pets that have itchy, flaky skin or non-stop shedding hair. You know what a struggle it is to work on the pets that weigh twice as much as they should. All that extra weight puts a strain on their joints and makes it difficult for many of them to stand while you are trying to groom them.
Pet parents want to care for their pets properly, but we see over-loved pets waddle into our salons every day. Their owners will tell you all about the 20 different kinds of tempting treats they have at home and then complain that their pet doesn’t want to eat his food. Many owners have no idea how important it is to know what ingredients are in the products they feed their pets. Some of them never even look at the labels on the treats and pet food that they buy. When it comes to the subject of improving pets’ health through nutrition, today’s groomers are more involved than ever. Many salons now carry high-quality pet food, treats, and supplements.
All-natural food and treats, particularly those made with human-grade quality ingredients, are important to Brad Kriser, founder and CEO of Kriser’s. “USA-made products are very important,” Mr. Kriser says. “In America, we have a lot more control to make sure the quality is there. We have more stringent guidelines and standards than a lot of foreign countries. And USA-made supports U.S. companies; that’s important, too.”
Groomers can make a huge difference in the overall health of the pets they groom, and they should take this challenge seriously. Groomers are “hands on” to the pet; they look in the ears, notice skin issues, and see the teeth. They know the pet and what its problems are.
Groomers are such a trusted source to pet parents. By educating the pet parent about proper nutrition, groomers have a huge opportunity to help the pets that they love in a positive way. First, the groomers must educate themselves. One great source is by attending industry trade shows like the Global Pet Expo, Super Zoo, and Groom Expo. They all offer seminars that are packed with up-to-date information. You will find lots of resources at these shows. You can talk to different manufacturers, and you can network with other attendees. You can also find a wealth of information online.
It’s all about educating the pet parent, too. Sometimes you can see the issues their pet is having—dry skin, hot spots, teeth covered with tartar. It gives you an opportunity to open up a conversation with the pet’s owner. By simply asking the owner what he feeds his pet, you can introduce them to the role that proper nutrition plays in their pet’s overall health. If the pet owner tells you that they are feeding what you know is a low-quality food, tactfully educate them about the different alternatives that are available.
Things have changed so much over the years that there are now many very healthy kinds of pet foods. All-natural, grain-free, and raw diets (that are available fresh, frozen, and dehydrated) are just a few of the great options that abound today.
“When speaking with an owner, you can never, ever act as a veterinarian and diagnose a condition you suspect their pet has,” says Mr. Kriser. “We have ideas and suggestions as how nutrition can help create a healthier pet and reduce allergic symptoms. If they are feeding things with corn, wheat, and soy—those are common allergens that can create issues.
“You can always recommend that the owners go to their veterinarian and have allergy tests done on their pet,” Brad continues. “Once they get the results, you can help them get the right food, treats, and supplements for their pet.”
Another huge area pet owners need to be made aware of is the importance of dental care for their pets. Many owners are unwilling or unaware that they should be caring for their pet’s dental needs. Proper oral care—teeth brushing, enzymatic supplements or sprays, water additives, gels—all can aid the owner with at-home care.
Even if you offer teeth brushing at your salon, having a display of oral care products and brochures will show the owners just how easy it is to add dental care to their pets’ daily routine.
Supplements are another segment that has become increasingly important in our pet’s nutritional lives. “There’s no way that a pet can get all its needs just from the food it eats,” shares Mr. Kriser. “They need supplements like omega 3, probiotics and enzymes, glucosamine supplements, and multi-vitamins. With supplements, you are providing preventative care—not reactive care.”
The groomer’s role in pet nutrition has never been greater than it is today. Educate yourself, your staff, and your clients to make life better for the pets that you love and care for.