Given that I am writing and participating daily on numerous groomers' forums and in individual email, it seems a good idea to gather these bits and pieces together in one place. Beginning today, I am going to take time each Sunday morning to review posts I have shared that might have some educational value to a larger audience - that would be YOU. Pardon me if I pontificate and do not recap the entire thread. I will include a "Picture of the Week", from any photos I have shared on Facebook or Groompics-TNT. Here are some recent ramblings:
A groomer wrote: I went to a seminar with (name deleted) and she mention this bacteria that grows on pre mixed shampoo for too long, the next day at the [bathing system vendor] booth, I asked the lady about this, since they mix the shampoo at 5 gallons at a time and she told me that only occurs on plastic bottles and the cosmo system is stainless steel, what can you tell me about this, is this correct?
Most shampoos are formulated and manufactured with just the exact amount of preservatives needed to protect the concentrated product. Preservatives are necessary to protect the product from bacteria and fungi. They are nasty chemicals, so they are not used any more than just enough. Nasty but necessary. When we dilute the product, we also dilute the preservative, often leaving the mixed product with inadequate protection against microbial invasion. All water-based products are subject to contamination. Plastic bottles are particularly susceptible, and bottles that are opened often are at highest risk (water + air exposure). Around the grooves of lids is an area that will collect bacteria, but the bacteria also can live inside the water of unprotected solutions.
Stainless steel is more resistive to bacterial contamination than is plastic, but it is NOT invulnerable. The bacteria is less likely to adhere to the stainless steel surface than to plastic, but contamination can still occur. As Mary Oquendo (The Queen of Clean) says: If stainless steel were somehow impervious to microbes, surgeons would not need to sterilize their instruments.
Furnuculosis is a very serious form of deep bacterial skin infection that occurs when the hair follicles themselves become infected. It can be deadly. Fortunately it is extremely rare. Most furnuculosis (also known as canine acne), occurs between the toes (interdigital furnuculosis) or around the anus. Infected pimples on the chin can also be furnuculosis. Rarely are these conditions associated with grooming products. But there are other superficial bacterial infections (superficial pyoderma) that can occur on pets from contaminated products or tools. Superficial pyoderma, which includes bacterial folliculitis is usually more treatable than furnuculosis, unless it is from a MRSA strain.
Bacterial skin infections can occur if diluted shampoos or conditioners become contaminated. It is wise to discard unused diluted products. How long a diluted product is safe depends on a number of factors, including the water used to dilute (distilled water is best, tap water contains microbes), temperature of the workplace (the warmer the environment, the more the microbes proliferate), the container (bacteria attach to plastic better than to stainless steel), and the air exposure (a bottle that is often opened is more exposed to contaminants). Another important factor is the product formula and the preservatives used. Traditional preservative agents such as parabens can withstand dilution better than the newer "natural" preservatives or "preservative-free" products. Finally, the amount of dilution makes a difference in the shelf-life of a mixed product. Highly diluted products, say 50:1, have practically no preservative action.
One more factor: Pets arrive dirty, carrying their own supply of bacteria and microbes. Dirt harbors germs. The action of pre-grooming dirty pets increases the possibility of cross contamination or the transference of germs from one dog, to our tools, and onto another. Also, broken skin or skin that is roughed up during close clipping, aggressive brushing, or hand stripping is more prone to infection. Bacterial infections are much more likely to occur when roughed up skin meets with contaminated products. Working on clean dogs is much less likely to lead to accidental infections from grooming.
Discarding unused diluted products (especially those diluted with tap water), cleaning and sanitizing tools, and working on clean dogs are all ways in which the professional groomer can protect the pets in our care from accidental post-grooming skin infections.
PS. On the whole, conditioners are less likely to become contaminated when diluted than are shampoos. This is due to their cationic chemistry. However, home-made leave-in mixtures made by highly diluting conditioners with tap water have the potential to go bad, especially if they have more botanical extracts or protein ingredients. Also, spray nozzles have been found to be especially friendly to invasion by microbials. We should probably add cleaning spray nozzles to our sanitizing protocols.