11 Most Common Dog Grooming Injuries [From Cuts to Hematomas]

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

During my time as a vet tech, I’ve seen my fair share of owners bringing their dogs in for all kinds of treatment.

In some of these visits, I’ve been told that they came straight from the groomers – not exactly what you expect after dropping a decent amount of cash to get your dog spruced up.

Unfortunately, it happens, and I want to share a list of the most common dog grooming injuries that you might encounter.

Cuts and nicks are the most common ones, and there are others such as razor burns, eye irritation, or even something as serious as a hematoma. While there is no 100% foolproof way to prevent them, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood.

In this post, you will learn about the most frequent injuries that dogs sustain during grooming, how to prevent them, and get answers to a few other commonly asked questions.

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List of the Most Common Dog Grooming Injuries

List of the Most Common Dog Grooming Injuries

I have compiled a list of the most common injuries I have seen below and you will find additional information about each of them.

There are also some behaviors that you might observe after bringing your dog home, which you can read about more in these articles:

1. Cuts and nicks

These are the most common injuries that dogs can sustain during grooming. 

Unfortunately, even the most skilled groomer can accidentally nick a dog’s skin with clippers or scissors, especially if the dog is moving around or wiggling. 

These injuries can range from minor to severe and can be quite painful and stressful for your furry friend.

I always emphasize the need to choose a groomer who is experienced and skilled in handling dogs and using grooming tools safely. 

Not only that, they should be able to stay calm and soothe your dog during the grooming process, as their movements can make it difficult to avoid cuts and nicks altogether. 

If your dog does get one, make sure to clean the wound and apply first aid to prevent infection and promote healing.

2. Burns from brushing or tools

Burns from hot grooming tools are a painful and all too common injury that dogs can sustain during grooming. 

Imagine if you went to the salon and the hairstylist accidentally burned your scalp with a hot tool. 

Ouch, right? Well, the same goes for our furry friends. 

Dogs occasionally will have sensitive skin, which you can’t always tell by simply looking at them.

Sensitive skin might become burned when a groomer repeatedly brushes the same area, regardless of whether there are tangles or matting.

Razor burn occurs when an area is shaved very closely to delicate skin, much like brush burn. This can be the result of matting or cleaning up a dog’s sensitive areas, or it could be from a dull or hot razor shaving through thick matted hair.

Pet owners and groomers frequently don’t become aware of these burns until their dog has licked, scratched, and occasionally torn apart the skin due to the irritation.

3. Eye injuries

Eye injuries are a scary thing to happen during grooming.

As much as we love getting our dogs groomed, there are potential risks that come with the process, and they can happen in the blink of an eye (pun intended).

I can’t imagine if someone poked me in the eye with a sharp tool while getting my hair cut.

The same goes for our furry friends. 

An eye injury can be caused by various factors, such as accidental poking with scissors or brushes, shampoo getting into the eyes, or even hair or debris flying into the eyes during trimming or blow-drying.

These injuries can range from minor irritation and redness to more serious issues such as corneal ulcers or even blindness. 

In some cases, immediate medical attention may be necessary to prevent long-term damage or even save the affected eye. 

4. Ear injuries

Some of the most common ear injuries that dogs can experience during grooming include cuts, burns, and bruises.

Cuts can occur when a groomer uses scissors or clippers too close to the dog’s ears, causing them to nick the skin. 

Burns can happen when a groomer uses hot tools or chemicals too close to the ears. 

And bruises can occur when a groomer is too rough while cleaning or brushing the ears.

These injuries can be very painful for our furry friends and can lead to further complications if not treated promptly. Some signs of an ear injury include redness, swelling, discharge, or a foul odor coming from the ear.

5. Skin irritation

Skin irritation can result from the use of harsh chemicals by groomers, such as shampoos and conditioners that have overpowering scents or other irritants. 

Similarly, over-grooming can irritate your dog’s skin by depleting it of its natural oils, leaving it dry and prone to irritation. 

Furthermore, if your dog was not dried properly after a bath, it might result in moisture getting trapped in its fur and irritating its skin.

When this happens, it makes your dog want to scratch itself more than usual to relieve the itch, further exacerbating the issue.

6. Nail injuries

I think I probably encounter such injuries second most at the clinic.

These injuries can happen in a number of ways, for example accidentally cutting off the quick or using improper techniques to trim the nails.

Not sure what a dog’s quick is? It’s basically the blood vessel that runs through the nail, and if it’s cut or clipped during grooming, it can cause bleeding and a lot of pain for our dogs. 

In addition to accidental injury, some dogs may also have pre-existing conditions, such as brittle or split nails, that make them more prone to nail injuries during grooming.

If for some reason your dog sustains a nail injury during grooming, it’s important to act quickly to minimize bleeding and prevent infection. 

Applying pressure to the nail with a clean cloth or tissue can help stop the bleeding, and you can also use styptic powder or a pencil to help clot the blood and prevent further bleeding.

But of course, an experienced groomer would know all that too.

Learn more about home remedies for dog red paws

7. Yeast infections

Yeast is a type of fungus that can grow in warm, moist environments, such as the inside of your dog’s ears, and why does your dog get it?

Well, if your groomer doesn’t do a good job of drying out your dog completely, leaving behind pockets of wet spots, you know what’s going to happen.

This is especially common in dogs with floppy ears or those with a lot of hair around the ears, as it can be difficult to completely dry the area. 

If your dog develops a yeast infection, it may show signs of discomfort, such as shaking its head or scratching at its ears. 

You may also notice a foul odor coming from their ears and a discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Eeeewww

8. Stress-related injuries

This kind of injury can happen during grooming if your dog is fearful or anxious, which makes them react defensively or aggressively when being touched. 

Some of the common stress-related injuries that dogs can experience during grooming include bites, scratches, and even broken teeth.

The thing is, this is very much preventable, and as you know your dog’s temperament the best, you should prep it well before heading to a groomer’s.

No way will I book a session if I know that my dog is jumpy or takes a long time to trust others.

9. Sanitary matting

Haven’t heard of this term before? 

Well, sanitary matting is when fecal matter or urine is trapped in the dog’s fur, causing it to become matted and tangled.

Your groomer definitely has to get rid of it, and in the process, he or she might pull on a dog’s skin and cause irritation. 

Not just that, but the fecal matter and urine trapped in the matting can lead to infections and other health problems if left untreated.

In severe cases, the mats may need to be shaved off, and your dog may require medication to treat any skin infections or other complications.

10. Anal gland irritation

The anal glands are tiny sacs next to a dog’s anus that secretes a pungent fluid used for marking territory and communicating with one another. 

As you might imagine, dogs WILL experience discomfort and pain when these glands become affected or inflamed.

During a grooming session, the anal glands can be accidentally squeezed or otherwise irritated, or in some cases, your groomer is the one expressing the anal glands. 

A poor job would lead to incomplete expression and leave your dog very uncomfortable.

Signs of anal gland irritation include excessive licking or biting at the area, scooting their bottom across the floor, and a foul odor coming from their anal area.

11. Hematomas

Hematomas occur when blood vessels under the skin are ruptured, causing blood to pool in a specific area. 

In the case of dog grooming, hematomas often occur in the ears. An ear hematoma is a fluid-filled pocket of the pinna which is a part of the ear.

Usually, it looks like there’s a bunch of blood in there, and it sometimes is, but it’s usually just a bunch of fluid collection.

It can be quite a serious condition and I’ve seen some dog owners trying to drain the fluid themselves.

DON’T.

Get professional help for that, otherwise, you risk more problems down the road.

Signs of a hematoma include swelling, redness, and tenderness around the affected area. 

Your dog may also be more sensitive to touch or show signs of discomfort when you touch the area.

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Doggy says, consider reading this too: Best dog collar to prevent matting

How Common Are Dog Grooming Injuries?

There isn’t any study being conducted that talks about the rate of dog grooming injuries, or none that I can find at least.

Without this information, the best we can do is based on our own experience (we have 5 dog owners on our team and many friends who are dog owners too), and the consensus is that it happens quite rarely.

Nicks and small scrapes are commonplace, so I wouldn’t categorize them as something too serious.

What I’m talking about here is a situation where you need or likely need a vet to take a closer look.

A check online would probably get you similar results, although Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of cruelty investigations for PETA, did point out that such incidents happen quite a fair bit in big box stores.

The bottom line here is, to find a reputable groomer, spend some time chatting with them, and if possible, watch a session in progress.

I’ll have more tips in the section below.

How Do You Ensure Your Dog Does Not Get Injured During the Grooming Process?

How Do You Ensure Your Dog Does Not Get Injured During the Grooming Process?

First and foremost, I personally recommend that you stay for the duration of the grooming session. 

This way, you can see with your own eyes how they perform their job (without interfering of course) and step in if you find anything amiss.

Most groomers will allow you to sit in (they do have a few simple guidelines like not distracting your dog), and if yours doesn’t, that’s the first alarm bell.

Anyways, here are a few extra steps you can take to ensure a safe session for your dog.

Choose a professional groomer with experience

You should look for a groomer who has experience working with dogs and has a good reputation for providing quality care. I always find one that is certified, and always check online reviews and ask for recommendations from other dog owners to find a groomer you can trust. I would also advise you to stick to the same person as much as possible.

Communicate clearly with the groomer

Before the process begins, make sure to communicate any special needs or concerns you have for your dog. This means letting them know of any allergies, medical conditions, or specific areas that are more sensitive or prone to injury.

Stay calm and relaxed

Your dog can pick up on your emotions, so please stay calm and relaxed during the grooming process. If you are anxious or stressed, your dog may start behaving similarly too, which can increase the risk of injury.

Take breaks if needed

If your dog becomes agitated or restless during the grooming process, ask the groomer for a short break and allow them to calm down. This can help prevent accidental injuries and make the grooming process more comfortable for your furry friend.

Prep your dog

If your dog has never been to a professional groomer before or if you know that it can get stressed pretty easily, you should do some groundwork before sending them in. That means getting the proper vaccinations first, getting them used to being handled and touching their sensitive areas, and regularly grooming them on your own (brushing, showering, etc).

What to Do if the Groomer Hurt Your Dog?

We’re not talking about tiny scratches here like a scrape on its nose, but rather something that requires a veterinarian to step in (or worse, an emergency visit). 

In the unfortunate event that this happened, here’s what you should do:

Seek immediate veterinary care

If your dog suffered a serious injury, seek immediate veterinary care. This will ensure that your dog receives the necessary treatment and that their injuries are properly recorded.

Document the injury

Take photos of the injury and keep a record of any medical bills or expenses related to your dog’s care. Mark down the exact date, time, and location of where it happened.

File a complaint

After taking care of your dog, if the groomer is not responsive or if you believe they acted negligently, consider filing a complaint with the relevant regulatory agency or professional organization. This can help prevent the same thing from happening to other pets in the future.

Consider legal action

If the injury was severe or resulted in significant medical expenses, you may want to consider legal action. Contact an attorney who specializes in pet law to discuss your options. Here’s a link to the American Bar Association.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What dogs should not be groomed?

Without the advice and supervision of a veterinarian or qualified animal behaviorist, dogs with specific medical illnesses or behavioral disorders, such as extreme anxiety or aggression, should not be groomed.

What do groomers do with difficult dogs?

Groomers may use a variety of techniques to handle difficult dogs, including positive reinforcement training, desensitization, and sedation under the guidance of a veterinarian. In some cases, they may refuse to groom a dog that poses a significant risk to themselves or the animal.

Is it normal for dogs to bite groomers?

It is not “normal” for dogs to bite groomers, but it can happen. A dog may bite out of fear, anxiety, pain, or aggression. That is why groomers should take precautions to prevent bites, such as using muzzles, training techniques, and asking for veterinary assistance when needed. 

Is it normal for dogs to cry during grooming?

It is not uncommon for dogs to whine or cry during grooming, especially if they are anxious, uncomfortable, or in pain. As such, groomers are trained to be aware of a dog’s body language and take steps to alleviate any discomfort or stress. That said, excessive crying or vocalization may indicate a more serious issue that requires veterinary attention.

Can grooming cause trauma?

Yes, grooming can cause trauma to dogs, especially if the process is stressful, painful, or they were mishandled. Trauma can result in physical injuries, as well as emotional and behavioral problems. 

Who pays for the veterinary bill?

The responsibility for paying the veterinary bill incurred due to grooming injuries depends on the circumstances. If the groomer was negligent or acted improperly, they may be held liable for the costs. However, if the injury was an accident or caused by the dog’s behavior, the owner may be responsible for the bill.

In Conclusion: Common Dog Grooming Injuries

Dog grooming injuries can be common and potentially serious.

As dog owners, it is our responsibility to take the necessary steps to ensure our pets are safe during grooming sessions, so I really hope that the tips above will help you out.

By working together with your groomer, you can definitely provide your dog with an enjoyable experience that will leave them clean and beautiful!

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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