Dryer "Seizures"

Dryer "Seizures"

Imagine yourself drying a dog you have groomed regularly for many years. Let's call him Gizmo. He is in his senior years now, perfectly comfortable and familiar with the grooming process. On this day, as you work the high-velocity dryer over the coat, Gizmo suddenly begins barking in a high-pitched tone. He is obviously in distress. He urinates on the table, and when you look at his face, there is no recognition of you or awareness of his surroundings. He barks and struggles for what seems like a long time, but in reality, is only a moment or two. Of course, you quickly stop the dryer and attempt to calm Gizmo down. Nothing like this has ever happened during previous grooming sessions. 

What Gizmo (and you!) just experienced is commonly called a "dryer seizure." It is a spell of confusion, perhaps loss of bodily functions, and what looks like panic that, although rare, does happen with some frequency, usually in older pets. A stroll through various internet search engines will show you videos and link you to multiple sites to learn more. Some call this a "reflex seizure," brought on by a specific stimulus, in this case, a dryer. 

If you experience this with a pet you are grooming, your first step should be to turn the dryer off and reduce any loud sounds in the environment (such as other dryers, vacuum cleaners, and even radios.) If possible, switch the lights off, too. If the dog can be safely moved, place it in a padded crate where it cannot hurt itself. If it is a large dog, moving it might endanger you or the pet; try wrapping a thick towel over its head, pressing it gently but firmly over the ears, and shielding the eyes from light and other stimuli until the dog calms down. Depending on how the dog recovers, the groom may need to be completed on another day. Good notes should be taken so the drying method can be adapted to the dog's sensitivities in the future. 

Some groomers believe that it is not simply the sound and sensation of high-velocity dryers that trigger these spells but also the blowing of cool air on the damp pet that contributes to them. If you are grooming an older dog and are concerned about the dryer causing it distress or grooming a dog with a history of being triggered by the dryer, try the following steps. 

  • Spend extra time towel-drying the pet after the bath to remove as much moisture as possible from the coat.
  • Consider pre-clipping the dog so drying will take less time.
  • If the dog can safely walk around the grooming space, let it air dry a bit and shake water out of its coat while moving about.
  • Place the pet in a cage with a dry towel and let it rest briefly under a cage dryer or fan (under supervision) before table drying.
  • Insert cotton into the pet's ear canals, and place a Happy Hoodie over the head to help block dryer sounds.
  • Use a stand dryer or a hand-held human-type dryer to finish removing moisture from the coat instead of a high-velocity dryer.
  • If you attempt to use a high-velocity dryer, let it run for a few minutes before drying the pet so the motor can warm the air. Avoid blowing cold air onto the skin.
  • Work from the rear of the dog towards the head, carefully monitoring for any signs of stress. Stop drying immediately if the dog begins to vocalize or behave unusually.
  • DO NOT USE a condensing cone or nozzle. If your dryer has an adjustable air speed, start on low and gradually increase the airspeed as you monitor the dog's reactions.
  • Inform the owner of the episode. 

Dryer reactions in dogs are frightening. Knowing what to look for and how to respond if a dog should react badly during drying is an important skill. Hopefully, neither you nor the "Gizmo's"you care for will ever have to experience one.


Daryl Conner, MPS Meritus, CMCG has been devoted to making dogs and cats more comfortable and beautiful for 40 years.  You can find her happily working at FairWinds Grooming Studio with her daughter or typing away at her latest grooming-related article. Daryl was awarded both a Cardinal Crystal Award and Barkleigh Honors Award for journalism.  She shares her meadow-hugged antique Maine farmhouse with her practically perfect husband and a lot of animals.