Sedated dog getting a bath.

Most pets that our groomers see don’t mind being professionally groomed and sail right through their bath, brushing and haircut with flying colors. Some pets, however, aren’t so willing and the process of being bathed, having their body brushed or even touched by a groomer will trigger aggressive behavior that could harm themselves or the groomer, making the grooming impossible to attempt safely.  

While aggressive reactive behaviors are usually due to fear, anxiety, or both, and certainly understandable, they present a problem when a pet needs a grooming service that cannot be done at home by the owner. In these situations, and because we are a medical facility, we are able to assist the groomer by fully sedating the pet so the grooming service can be done safely. 

What Does a Sedated Groom Involve?

Fully sedating a pet for a grooming service is a medical procedure performed in our medical department under the direct supervision of our veterinarian and surgery technicians. It involves the same anesthetic protocols we use for sedating a pet for a spay or neuter, a mass removal or other surgical procedure. The pet will be fully unconscious and monitored by the medical team while being groomed by the groomer. Once the groomer is finished, the pet will be monitored while the effects of the sedation wear off and the owner will be contacted when the pet is ready to go home.  

What Grooming Is Included? 

A fully sedated, unconscious pet cannot be safely bathed or fully brushed because it will be lying on its side, so the groom will not include a bath, a full brush out, or a breed-specific haircut.  What can be done is a complete shave down, a nail trim and an ear cleaning. For certain dog breeds, a haircut or clipping that won’t be as perfect as it would if the pet was standing may also be possible. We recommend discussing your pet’s specific needs with our groomer for more details on what can be provided during a sedated groom.      

Planning is Key

The first step in planning for a sedated groom is for the pet to be evaluated by our veterinarian to determine the extent of the anxiety issue, that sedation will be needed, and to establish a sedation protocol based on the pet’s current health status. The sedation consultation will be scheduled as a regular exam appointment and costs the same as a regular exam. The consultation is important because full sedation is a medical procedure, and the veterinarian must determine that it is safe for the pet to be given an anesthetic. At the end of the consult, a written estimate for the cost of the sedation procedure and grooming will be provided for your approval. Blood work may be required in some circumstances. 

Scheduling the Grooming

Once you approve the sedated groom estimate, the grooming appointment can be scheduled in coordination with the medical department. Our receptionist will assist you in selecting the nearest available date on both the grooming and surgery schedules.

Preparing Your Pet   

The night before your pet’s sedated groom, your pet will need to be fasted overnight and up to the time of its procedure. This means no food or treats after 8:00pm the night before and allowing only water. In the morning, do not feed your pet – allow only water. Fasting your pet is required for your pet to undergo sedation.  

On the Grooming Day 

When you arrive for check-in, our technician will review your pet’s sedation procedure and the estimate with you, and you will be asked to read and sign both the estimate and an anesthesia consent form. Once this has been done, your pet will be brought into the medical department where it will stay until the sedation groom is completed and your pet is fully recovered. We will call you when your pet is ready to go home.  

Understanding the Costs

A sedated groom can cost several hundred dollars, as it encompasses three separate services:  (1) The initial sedation consultation with the veterinarian, (2) the sedation procedure provided by the medical team, and (3) the fee for the grooming services provided by the groomer. Depending on the size of the pet, the nature of its haircoat and the amount of time needed to complete the grooming, the total cost can be quite a surprise. It is best to discuss your pet’s needs with both the veterinarian and the groomer ahead of time, so you can make the best decision for your pet’s needs, and for yours.

Avoiding a Sedated Groom  

Now that you have a better understanding of what is involved in a sedated groom, you may be asking how you can help your pet better deal with stressful situations so you can avoid the need for sedation altogether. Here are some ideas and recommendations.

  • Start Early – We can’t stress enough how important it is to expose your pet to a variety of new situations and experiences when very young. This includes being bathed and brushed. It also includes having its head, body, feet, and ears touched and handled on a daily basis (gently, of course!) by you, family members and your pet-friendly friends. Get out and take your pet to new places, including the veterinarian. Most of all, expose your pet to professional grooming as early in its life as possible. If adopted at a later age, pace new experiences in accordance with how well your pet responds. Take your time and continue to work on it, as reacting calmly when handled by others is a valuable behavior skill that will benefit your pet all throughout its life.  
  • Socialize Your Pet – Learning to get along with unfamiliar people and pets is an another important social skill that will reap many benefits for both you and your pet. Being comfortable and confident around others makes for a happier, well-adjusted pet and allows you to take your pet to new places and experiences without the worry of inappropriate reactive behaviors. Since not all pets are naturally social, developing this skill may require some time and effort. Group play in a supervised environment with other pets of similar size and age is a great way to nurture appropriate interactions and confidence. If your pet is leash trained, regular outdoor group walks to public places is another good option. 
  • Seek Professional Help – When home de-sensitization techniques aren’t enough, getting a helping hand from a professional behavior specialist can make a big difference. This will most likely involve more than one training session and things to work on at home, but will also provide the benefit of a professional evaluation and customized training geared specifically for your pet’s behavioral needs. Our pet behavior specialist offers both private sessions and small group classes that help pets learn socialization skills.  
  • Life Skills Matter – Just as we change as we age, so do our pets. Aging for senior pets can bring a gradual loss of the senses – such as hearing, sight, and physical strength – which can cause heightened fear or anxiety when the pet is in an unfamiliar setting or around unfamiliar people. Maintaining your pet’s socialization skills is key to helping it deal with both old and new experiences – regardless of your pet’s limitations. Daily interaction and activity with your pet is key to keeping it socially engaged in our human world. 
  • Daily Home Brushing is Key – For pets that have haircoats longer than 1/2-inch, daily brushing is an essential part of avoiding a professional grooming or at least minimizing the need for it. Thorough home brushing helps prevent tangles and matting, and also rids your pet’s haircoat of dirt and debris. Over time, this will help prevent the need for a professional brushing or, at worst, a complete shaving due to heavy matting that cannot be brushed through. Home brushing will also help your pet become used to and comfortable with being brushed and handled, while promoting a healthier haircoat and skin.   

We hope this information has helped you better understand what is involved in a sedated grooming procedure at our facility and why we take it so seriously. If you need additional information about a sedated groom or grooming in general, please do not hesitate to contact us.