By Dr. Cliff Faver
As we return to work within our new routine, we need to reflect on what we have just experienced.
COVID–19 is not the last bad virus we will see, so hopefully we all learned a valuable lesson. After all, if not a virus, the threat could be a fungus or a drug–resistant bacterium.
As a groomer, you are exposed to germs just as contagious and potentially as fatal as COVID–19 on a regular basis. Let this be a time to reflect on the lessons we have learned from the pandemic and apply them daily.
One aspect is noticeably clear, and that is the need to incorporate proper hygiene to avoid being affected. These types of contagious organisms should not be feared, but respected.
Often lapses in sanitation occur when we let our guard down and become too complacent. The greatest fear as things get back to “normal” is that this complacency could cause a resurge, and we start all over again. We must not take this for granted and immediately take action to implement an efficient and regular sanitation plan.
We were advised to stay home and contact our physician if we felt sick. If you observe a skin lesion on a dog and have no clue what it is, why would you want to take the chance of exposure to the unknown? If you ran into a person at the grocery store that was coughing, did you simply brush it off as a cold or did you get a little nervous and keep your distance, fearing it might be COVID–19?
In the case of the dog, what if it is MRSA/MRSP, a drug–resistant pseudomonas infection (bad bacteria common in dog ears), or a severe contagious fungus? Under the right condition, some of those could be fatal—not only to you, but also your child or an immunocompromised family member.
We were also informed that our greatest chance of contracting COVID–19 was by encountering a sick person or exposure to the virus from droplets left on surfaces. The most common means of self–contamination is through the eyes, nose and mouth—most often from our hands.
We were encouraged (and mandated, in some areas) to wear masks and gloves and to wash our hands frequently. This idea, although a great one, was far from effective due to the poor execution. People often wear the mask below their nose, use masks that are not personally protective or use their hands to constantly adjust the mask. This negates any benefit that these individuals might gain from using the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) correctly.
The lesson we should take away is that we need to take precautions in case there is a potential for some other type of contagious situation. Gloves, masks, eye protection and even a gown (changed between pets for the next pet’s protection) should be strictly utilized. It is also vital to get the correct PPE and to use it appropriately. Just going through the motions without correct equipment and knowledge is often just a wasted effort.
Do you feel that you washed your hands as much or even more often than you would have when bathing dogs at work? We were encouraged to wash our hands frequently and use hand sanitizer (if we could find any) regularly. This is one of the best ways to avoid infection. The solution to pollution is dilution! It is important to add that a good hydrating lotion should be applied after washing hands, because if washed often, you strip off the natural oils from your hand. This dryness will cause extreme irritation, leaving you more susceptible to infections that can attack your skin like many of the bacteria and fungi previously discussed. Note: In the case of COVID–19, it does not penetrate the skin. It enters through your respiratory system.
Another major concern was exposure to contaminated surfaces because the virus could live for a period of time away from the human, traveling via droplets from a cough or sneeze. The same thing applies to most of the infections we have coming through the grooming salons. The secret to avoiding contamination is to take the same action as all the businesses that stayed open executed—clean, clean, clean! And when you get tired of cleaning, clean some more! This is a great practice to have in all our salons, not only for appearance to the public coming in, but also for building confidence in our clients that we understand the importance of sanitation and cleanliness.
Clients are going to look at our sanitation practices with a more critical eye having just been inundated with all the pandemic information. Expect people to be more critical, whether they speak out or not. They want their pets to be safe.
Many have said that this crisis is going to change things forever. I don’t believe that. I believe, as a society, it will, until we get complacent and then it will happen again. I do hope, as a grooming community, we adopt some of these commonsense–type procedures as a part of our daily routine.
No one is going to put it on the nightly news when a dog with a contagious disease walks into your salon, nor will they put restrictions on what you do if one does walk in (as of now). So, it is up to each one of us to do our best for the health and wellbeing of ourselves, our staff, our families, our customers and our furry clients.
Take the time to educate yourself on correct cleaning/disinfecting procedures, educate staff with a reasonable stadsndard of sanitation, set up protocols and, most importantly, follow the plan!
Knowledge is power, so do not let the lessons we have learned from the pandemic go to waste. ✂️
Dr. Cliff Faver graduated with a BS in Biology/BA in Chemistry before getting a Veterinary degree in 1987. He is the past owner of Animal Health Services in Cave Creek, Arizona and now the US distributor for Iv San Bernard products, teaches the ISB Pet Aesthetician Certification program, and speaks internationally on hair and skin. His passion is to merge groomers and veterinarians to aid in helping and healing pets. He is also a member of AVMA, AAHA, AZVMA, Board member with Burbank Kennel Club, and has served on Novartis Lead Committee, Hill’s International Global Veterinary Board, and a Veterinary Management Group.