Pets Dangers: Dog owners unknowingly putting their pets' lives at risk

Dozer (Photo provided by Vidal Megginson)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- A cell phone scrap book is all that Vidal Megginson has left of his dog, Dozer.

In August, Megginson’s girlfriend dropped his seven-year old English Bull Dog off at the PetSmart in Lynchburg to be groomed, but Dozer never came home.

"She dropped him off around 3:53 as far as the receipt she signed," Megginson said. "Probably around 4:02 they were calling her saying he had collapsed and something had happened."

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Megginson said he rushed to the animal emergency clinic where PetSmart took his dog.

"Preliminary findings is that he had a heart attack," Megginson explained. "Nobody expects to drop their pet off for grooming and something happens."

But maybe you should.

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Emergency animal veterinarian Jay Harper treats animals hurt at a groomer.

"There's just a lot of things that could potentially set off a dog," Harper said.

In extreme cases, the very environment they’re in can put them at risk.

"Usually there are lots of other dogs, it's hot, it's noisy. Lots of clippers and scissors. The big blow dryers they use are loud," Harper explained.

All of that can trigger a health issue in your dog, according to veterinarian Barbara Stevens.

"We call it a spa day but it's not really an enjoyable spa day for them," Stevens said.

Stevens offers grooming services at her veterinary practice in Forest and said if your dog has a history of health problems, or is easily excitable, you may want to consider a groomer who has a vet in the same building.

"In that situation, we can be on top of it before it goes beyond the point of no return," Stevens said.

Stevens groomers use cool air dryers to reduce issues, she said they also try to reduce stress on the dogs by isolating them, servicing quickly, or medicating if need be.

Even with all of those precautions, the very breed of dog you have may put him at high risk.

Stevens calls them 'challenged breeds.'

"The short-nosed dogs are at highest risk -- they call it brachycephalic syndrome," Stevens explained. "All of the dogs that have short noses have narrow airways. Like the bull dogs and the French bulldogs and Boston bull terriers."

Since Dozer was an English Bull dog, he falls into the challenged breed category according to Stevens.

"So, at room temperature, comfortable room temperature, not being active," Stevens said. "They may still have trouble breathing."

Megginson maintains Dozer had a clean bill of health -- even on the day he was dropped off to be groomed.

PetSmart walked us through recent changes they’ve made for the safety of dogs – including a figure 8 harness to relieve pressure on the airway and an express service to reduce stress on challenged breeds.

They also released this statement:

Dozer’s sudden death is upsetting to all of us at PetSmart and our hearts go out to his pet parents. Dozer collapsed only minutes after arriving at our salon and before any grooming services commenced. Our associates immediately brought him to our emergency vet but sadly he passed away.

While you do not need a license to be a groomer in the state of Virginia, PetSmart said their groomers undergo 800 hours of training to be certified, including 200 different kinds of dogs they are tested on. The company also requires annual safety certification for groomers.

Megginson is sharing his story to make you aware that there are potential dangers at the groomers

"There's nothing else we can do for him at this point but make it so other people don't have to go through what I went through," Megginson said.

PetSmart, along with the veterinarians, stress that it’s very important to take an honest assessment of your animal. Does he get agitated easily? Is there a past history of heart or respiratory problems? If the answer is yes, you need to be transparent as possible when dropping your animal off for grooming.

?READ: 11 Things to Ask Potential Groomers Before You Hand Them Your Dog

Your pet’s life may depend on it.

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