By Daryl Conner
Experts agree, you can’t achieve an excellent groom unless the dog is beautifully cleaned and correctly dried. The drying process is an important aspect of our job, but it can also present some very real dangers to the pet. It is too frequent that reports of drying–related injuries or deaths are disclosed. Here are some steps to take to make sure that the pets in your care stay safe while being dried:
1 Use your dryers in the way that they were intended to be used. Different types of dryers are designed for specific purposes. For instance, stand dryers are made to produce hotter air (sometimes 130 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) than heated cage dryers do because they are designed to be used on a pet which is being worked on in the open air. A stand dryer’s temperature is monitored when it is being used as intended because the groomer’s hands and arms are exposed to the air flow while they are brushing and fluffing the dog. The nozzle directing the warm air is constantly being moved as the groomer works and the heated air is also dissipating into the open room. However, many groomers use stand dryers pointed into closed cages to dry pets. This is a dangerous practice. A dog’s normal body temperature is 100.5–102.5F. If air heated to 130F or more is being directed at a pet in an enclosed cage, that pet can quickly become overheated, or suffer burns to their skin.
2 Minimize the time that a pet is being machine dried by using absorbent towels to remove as much water as possible from the coat before drying.
3 Use specially made sprays that help dogs dry quicker. They work by disrupting the molecular bond of water on hair so that moisture is quickly pushed off the hair shafts.
4 If you use cage dryers, consider using styles that do not have a heating element. The air will be warmed a few degrees by the heat of the motor but will remain close to room temperature. If heated dryers are used, they should only be operating when there are trained personnel in the room to monitor the pet. Make sure you and any employees know the signs of heat stress. Heated cage dryers should not be used on enclosed cages, or cages draped with towels to block air flow. They should be used only on cages that are open to the air to ensure the pet does not become overheated. Heated cage dryers should only be used if they are properly maintained and if the timer is functional. Placing individual thermometers in cages where heated dryers are used is an excellent safety feature. You will be able to tell at a glance if the pet’s environment is too warm.
5 Understand how pets regulate their body temperature. Dogs and cats do not cool their bodies as humans do, by perspiring, but rather by panting to bring cool air through their moist mouths and airways. They produce extra saliva when they are too warm, and this helps cool the breath when the saliva evaporates as the dog inhales and exhales. This makes it clear that, if the air the dog is breathing in is too warm and moist—as it can be in a drying cage, the dog can easily become overheated.
6 A wonderful alternative for those who choose to cage dry pets is opting to use fans instead of dryers. The fans provide constant movement of room temperature air over the animal, opening the coat and increasing the rate at which water evaporates. As long as the air in the grooming environment is warm enough to prevent chilling, this can be an excellent option.
7 Cool drinking water should be available to dogs which are being cage dried.
8 Heated cage dryers should never be used on muzzled pets or short–nosed (brachycephalic) breeds such as Pugs, Shih Tzu’s, Persian cats, etc. Extreme care should be used when using heated cage dryers on pets that are very young, elderly or suffering from breathing difficulties.
9 High velocity dryers are a gift to groomers, but they offer some safety concerns. This type of dryer works by moving large volumes of air through the animal’s fur to physically push the water off and away from the hair shafts. Both the sounds from the motor and the noise created when the air meets the pet and surfaces around it are loud. Protect the animal’s sensitive ears with cotton, Happy Hoodies, or both. The pressure from high volume air can irritate skin that is already sensitive or compromised and can injure pets if it is blown into the eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, anus or genital area.
10 Some elderly dogs have adverse reactions to high velocity dryers. Once a dog has a bad reaction to a high velocity dryer, they should not be exposed to them in the future, as it will most likely happen again.
Making the dogs we groom look their best is always a priority, but keeping them safe while we do so is of the greatest importance. Becoming educated about the tools and methods that are best to use can go a long way towards reducing grooming accidents.