By Jonathan David
Let’s explore some of the most common skin issues we see and some of the products at our disposal to help treat these skin problems.
As professional pet stylists, we encounter all types of canine skin conditions. We see healthy, well–maintained skin, red and itchy allergic skin or inflamed, scaly skin due to bacterial or fungal infections—and sometimes we even see skin issues deriving from poor hygiene or grooming neglect by the owners. In short, we see the good, the bad and the ugly, and we’re often tasked with the duty of treating these various skin issues and educating the owners about how to avoid them in the future.
Fortunately, as professional pet stylists, we have an amazing industry with dedicated companies that manufacture products, treatments and tools to tackle these tenacious skin issues. But why are there so many products and how do I choose which one to use?
With so many different triggers for skin issues, there are many different products and treatments to handle them. Let’s explore some of the most common skin issues we see and some of the products at our disposal to help treat these skin problems.
In south Florida, where my business is located, one of the most problematic skin issues we see and treat are related to allergies. While many pets can have skin reactions related to food allergies, that’s a path that needs to be walked with the assistance of a veterinarian. But as groomers, sometimes we see reactions from inhaled allergies which present in the form of itching, red eyes, ear infections or even gastrointestinal issues. Sometimes we see allergies that present in the form of contact dermatitis issues; these are topical skin reactions from walking or rolling in grass, contact with shrubbery or from pollen that has settled on the ground. And sometimes we see skin issues that result from an allergic reaction to bug bites like fleas, mosquitos and flies.
The allergies themselves can cause general itchiness and skin irritation causing pets to scratch, chew, scoot and roll around to satisfy their itch. But sometimes the scratching, chewing or rolling around can cause small breaks in the skin that give way for bacterial or fungal infections to take a hold and flourish into skin infections.
In warmer climates, the approach to treating allergies can sometimes be more difficult than colder climates. The reason for this is that in colder climates, the seasons of airborne allergens such as pollen are shorter than in warmer climates, so allergy–related skin issues are often less problematic or frequent, mainly seen in the spring and summer as opposed to those seen year round in the warmer climates. In the cooler climates, oak and pine pollen can be especially problematic for pets in the spring and summer. And in warmer climates, various grasses, palm trees and flowering plants can cause year– round havoc for canine allergies.
Sometimes allergens can be unavoidable as pets may be allergic to common household items like carpet fibers, certain fabrics—I even had a Maltese client that was allergic to human skin cells! Sometimes treatment is about maintenance of symptoms to give your furry clients a better quality of life. In severe cases, veterinary advice is recommended and prescription shampoos may be necessary. But for less severe cases, there are many products available to groomers to help treat, soothe and heal skin issues related to mild allergies.
There are many itch–relief, hypo–allergenic or oatmeal shampoos available and they can soothe itchy skin, but it’s important to understand your clients’ allergies, and, if possible, identify the root of the itch so you don’t add to the problem. For example, I have a dog with an allergy to grains; they cause her to itch, and she gets chronic ear infections. Avoiding all grains has remedied most of her allergies and itch relief shampoos and conditioners help soothe her skin. But because grains are the root of her allergy, I have to avoid oatmeal shampoos. Oats are a grain, so using oatmeal shampoos would be slathering the allergen right on her skin—a major trigger for a reaction. Asking a few questions to the client about the allergy history, or, better yet, if they’ve done allergy testing and retaining a copy of the results can be very informative in choosing the right treatment.
If your client has developed a mild bacterial or fungal infection, frequent bathing with an anti–fungal or anti–bacterial medicated shampoo can provide relief from symptoms and allow the skin time to heal without being constantly assaulted by scratching or chewing.
It’s very important to read labels and follow application instructions, such as contact time with the skin and frequency of use, as well as using appropriate water temperatures. Many medicated shampoos require 10–15 minutes of contact time with the skin in order to penetrate and be effective—be sure to check for recommended contact time. Hotter water can irritate and exasperate skin issues, especially if there is any inflammation. Luke warm water is best for bathing, and once all the product is rinsed out, a cool water rinse can help relieve red, itchy and inflamed skin.
Bug bites can cause serious skin reactions ranging from mild itching to severe reactions like hives, sores or even hair loss. Again, when in doubt, I always recommend veterinary advice, but for mild cases, there are specialty shampoos formulated to relieve the reactions from bug bites. And, in some cases, topical sprays and creams applied to affected areas after the bath can aid in more relief and faster healing time.
Sometimes my clients come in with prescription products that the vet has instructed us to use for bathing or be applied topically after grooming. We also sell over–the–counter products for more mild cases. I have a section in my store that we call the “Hygiene Center”, where we sell shampoos, conditioners, ear cleansers and medicated flushes, topical sprays, CBD products and supplements. My clients love the convenience, selection and advice, and when something is easily treatable, we save them a trip to the vet!
Another great treatment that we’ve been using for about a year now with outstanding results is a micro bubble system. There are different micro bubble systems available with different methods of use. Some micro bubble systems are used as the bath by submerging the pet’s body in water with a micro bubble recirculating system that creates millions of micro bubbles which penetrate deep into the hair follicles and skin to remove dirt, oil, bacteria and allergens. This type of system relies on the micro bubbles to do the cleaning without the use of soaps, cleaning products or pressure.
The other type of micro bubble system is applied directly through a specialty shower head with a CO2 tablet placed inside that reacts to the water by dissolving and releasing millions of micro bubbles, forced through the extremely tiny holes in the shower head with the water pressure. This method is used as a rinse before shampoo is applied to allow specialty shampoos to be more effective, or as a rinse after the shampoo is applied. The micro bubbles in this system work in a similar fashion to the other system but in conjunction with regular or specialty shampoos.
The premise is that the micro bubbles are able to penetrate deeper into the skin and hair follicle than they would with bathing with shampoos alone, therefore resulting in a deeper clean, more thorough removal of yeast, bacteria, allergens and oily sebum, and a cleaner, softer coat. We have noticed a marked improvement in our clients’ skin and the feedback from clients concur that the treatments help provide itch relief for their pets.
My final thought is that, with so many products and ways to provide comfort and relief from common skin issues we see in our clients, I urge groomers to research the products available and give them a try—you just might find exactly what you were looking for! ✂️