How to Make Sure Your Dog Is Safe at the Groomers · The Wildest

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Nicola Peltz’s Dog Dies After Grooming Visit—Here’s How to Keep Your Pup Safe at the Groomers

Celebrity dog groomer Jess Rona shares some tips all pet parents should know.

by Sean Zucker
June 25, 2024
Nicola Peltz Beckham and her chihuahua dog, Nana, who passed away.
Photo Courtesy of @ nicolaannepeltzbeckham

Last week, Nicola Peltz Beckham and Brooklyn Beckham announced on Instagram that their Chihuahua, Nala, had sadly and unexpectedly passed away. The sudden tragedy followed a routine grooming session, which called attention to a few larger issues in the industry and its lack of regulation. 

Per Nicola Peltz Beckham’s post, Nala was in good health prior to the appointment. However, immediately afterward, she began hyperventilating and struggled to breathe, which led the Beckhams to rush her to a vet, where she passed. While they’ve chosen not to name the specific establishment, the couple hopes by sharing their story others will be more protective of who they let groom their animals.  

“Dear Nala, we miss you so much. You were unexpectedly taken from way us too soon and hope others don’t experience a loss after something as simple as a grooming,” Brooklyn wrote on Instagram. “I’m sharing this in hopes that it might prevent this from happening to other dogs. Her life was taken away from her way too soon,” Nicola added. 

A history of heartbreak

While there is still a sizable amount of mystery surrounding the tragic event and what ultimately led to it, the Beckhams are far from the first pet parents to face such circumstances. There were almost 50 other documented cases where families had claimed their dog died immediately following a grooming session between 2008 and 2018.

In 2018, New Jersey attempted to become the first state to require licensing to practice pet grooming. This was after three unrelated reports of dogs dying following pet salon visits over a five-month span. The legislation was dubbed “ Bijou’s Law” after a Shih Tzu named Bijou who, similar to the story of Nala, was reportedly in fine health before unexpectedly dying after visiting a groomer in Paramus.

The legislation was introduced by Kip Bateman, a New Jersey state senator at the time, believing that pet salons should be subject to the same professional oversight as human ones, by making proper training necessary. He also did not mince words while proposing the law, declaring in a statement: “People take their dog to the groomers with the reasonable expectation that their pets will be treated properly and returned to them clean and healthy and not in a box.” Ultimately, Bijou’s Law never made it to a vote in the Senate and is currently pending after being reintroduced in 2021.

But it’s not just concerned pet parents and government officials who want tighter restrictions and more accountability for those in the industry. Many groomers themselves welcome increased guidelines and pet protections. As our Expert Collective member Jess Rona of Jess Rona Grooming in Los Angeles explains, “Most groomers want regulations because groomers like those give all of us a bad name. Also, no one at all wants that to happen to a dog. Groomers are dog lovers.” 

Tips for making sure your dog is safe at the groomers

Thankfully, Rona confirms that these types of situations are rare and that pet parents should feel confident bringing their pup to 99 percent of groomers. She explains that the people behind these tragedies likely don’t have ill intentions, but probably have little business being in the industry with their current experience.

“These are just people who are untrained, and that’s really the bottom line,” Rona says. “It doesn’t mean they’re bad or they’re not dog lovers. It just means they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Still, there are precautions pet parents can take and things to look for when vetting a potential groomer to minimize any risk. First, Rona recommends avoiding any salon that cage dries their animals, which entails putting them in a cage or kennel before a large blower shoots hot air inside. Even dogs who might be more timid or less inviting to touch should still be dried without confinement.

“You want to look for shops that do 100 percent hand-drying,” she says. “A good groomer understands there are techniques to doing it in a way that the dog can be OK with.”

Rona notes that a quality groomer will be able to read the signs of a dog that is distressed. Similarly, you should discuss any behavioral issues, anxieties, or specific needs with the groomer before dropping your dog off for the first time. If your groomer has you fill out an intake form — like Rona does at her company — that necessary accommodations can be made, take it as a great sign.

Finally, trust your gut. When vetting a potential groomer for your dog, don’t be afraid to walk away if something feels off. “If the place is dirty, seems yucky or weird, or if the people are rude. You want to just see what the vibe is,” Rona says. Beyond that, always check online reviews.

Obviously, Yelp is rarely the most positive corner of the Internet but if there are multiple warnings of mistreatment, negligence, or overall incompetence, it’s best to keep looking. Not to mention, if the rates seem too good to be true, they probably are. As Rona puts it, “Good groomers charge well for their work because they know their value.” 

Breeds most at risk

One of the few through-lines among these often-mysterious post-grooming deaths are the breeds. Dogs like French Bulldogs or English Bulldogs, who are known to face respiratory struggles, especially in hot or stressful environments, tend to be most at risk.

Rona agrees that those with Frenchies should be extra cautious, pointing to their unfortunate genetic history. “Those dogs have trouble breathing just because of the way they’re bred and that’s a whole other situation,” she says. Rona adds that really any pup with a small smushed face or short nose will likely have heightened risk. In addition to Frenchies, this includes Chihuahuas, Pugs, Brussels Griffons, and Shih Tzus. 

For any breed, though, Rona recommends looking for a reliable groomer that makes both you and your pup feel comfortable as early as possible. This will allow your pet to grow with them and associate minimal stress with their regular visits. Her advice is to try and drop in biweekly or even weekly for little things like a bath for the first few months so that your dog feels comfortable about the grooming experience. “Find someone that you can build a relationship with when the dog is very young so the dog can start to get used to the process and get used to the people,” she says.

Advice worth remembering

Rona’s final counsel? She encourages potential groomers to take courses to properly train and learn every crucial aspect of how to successfully care for their canine clients; she even offers such resources. The American Kennel Club also offers grooming classes on safety.

For LA-based pet parents, Jess Rona Grooming is taking new clients for the first time in nearly half a decade so it’s an ideal time to start building that perfect groomer-pet relationship.


Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.

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