Did I Do That? Exploring Grooming-Inflicted Issues

All Things Paw

By Michelle Knowles

There have been an abundance of stories in the newsfeeds and blogs about grooming–related injuries and health issues that seem to appear after a pet goes home after a grooming session.

It is so easy to say that the dog had the issue before coming into our salon, or a myriad of other excuses we may have to remove blame from ourselves in order to avoid liability. 

Most of us are good at taking responsibility when we have nicked an ear, or a pet may have jumped off our table. I have seen small dogs clear a half door in one bound in an effort to find an escape route. Pets become startled when the sudden sound of the vacuum or HV dryer is turned on, and the ultimate…when the pet licks the scissors when almost done, invariably the whitest dog with the pickiest owner. But what about the damage we may be causing that doesn’t show up right away? Depletion of the skin and hair, using an antibacterial shampoo for a fungal infection and vice versa, or perhaps our sanitation practices are not as sanitary as we might think they are, causing underlying skin issues, infection, depletion and other types of maladies to occur. 

Depletion of skin and coat can occur for a number of reasons. Some of them could be related to the way we groom and the products and techniques we use on a daily basis. While Canine Atopic Dermatitis can have many underlying causes, there are many ways that it can be exacerbated in the salon. Shampooing without replacing the oils that were washed away by bathing isn’t that bad once or twice, but over a prolonged period of time, it can cause an imbalance in the skin as it can never fully recover the sebaceous mantle that helps protect the skin and keeps the flora and fauna in balance. 

Using an antibacterial shampoo for a fungal infection or an antifungal for a bacterial infection can cause either one to overgrow and begin to tip the scales of ill health. I see many dogs that have a seborrheic condition or a dry and thickened scale on the skin that can be caused by a severe lack of oils and minerals over a period of time. The pet ends up with a diagnosis of “chronic allergy” and gets issued a “medicated” shampoo that is applied weekly with no change in the health of the skin.

Clipping too closely can also be very detrimental to pets with wiry guard hairs if the follicle is not cleaned or stripped out beforehand. The infamous Schnauzer bumps are a good example of this. “He is just a pet so just shave his pattern,” is not necessarily the best thing for this kind of pet. While the #10 pattern may look sleek for a while, the skin grows and recovers much faster than the guard hairs can grow, resulting in a trapped hair under the toughened skin. All wiry guard haired dogs should be carded and lightly stripped out before any clipping to avoid this condition.

One of the biggest culprits of skin disease can be found in our sanitation practices. Improper use of tools like de-shedding rakes, slickers and strippers, and even scratching the skin with our nails during the bathing process can all leave scrapes and abrasions. This may leave the skin vulnerable to bacteria, yeast and other toxins that can wreak havoc on the skin, and other systems of the body if left unchecked. Clipping a dirty coat can make micro scrapes in the skin and introduce bacteria and dirt in the fresh and vulnerable skin underneath. Compounded by not sanitizing the blades, they are then used again on multiple pets that can indeed introduce the toxins into every skin that they touch. 

When shampoo is used on these pets that has been premixed and sitting in a dirty bottle, another layer of dirt and funk are then introduced into the surfaces of the already damaged skin. When this becomes a cycle, the pets that we groom on a regular basis can go many months without showing any sign of ill health and then “suddenly” there is an issue with infection. 

 While all skin issues that present themselves should be seen by a veterinarian to make sure there is no underlying condition that needs to be addressed, there are also many techniques that we may be using that are responsible for making those conditions worse. It is always a good time to evaluate your grooming techniques, sanitation and habits to make sure they are effective and do no harm to the pets in your care. ✂️