Drying Tips

Chloe's Story

This is Chloe’s story as reported to me. It is sad and I have to warn you, it is disturbing in so many ways it may make you totally rethink the way you operate your drying facility. It has me asking questions that I cannot answer about dryers in general. 
 
To begin with, on Sunday, January 31, 2010 I was checking my email when I saw a subject that made me do a double take. It read “Chloe, horribly burned at groomers”. Let’s just say that got my attention FAST. I opened it and was horrified at what I saw and read. Over the remainder of the afternoon I exchanged several more emails with the person who found my blog when researching burns on pets. After the incident, a friend of the family (the person who emailed me the story) came over and took photos for them and is assisting the family in dealing with this. She asked me to write the story and inform groomers of the incident, as she has decided this should never happen to another dog. I agree 100% that it should never happen again, but I also feel like it should never have happened in the first place.
 
I am confident that this injury is legitimate and I am confident it didn’t have to happen. 
 
WARNING!!!  The photos below are GRAPHIC and are used with permission.
 
One day last week, Chloe, a rather small yorkie, was dropped off at a grooming salon that she usually goes to with no problem. Everything went according to plan as far as the owner knew. They picked up Chloe and she was groomed but she had a horrible odor they couldn't pinpoint. When they got home, they realized she was limping slightly, but she took off upstairs and ran under the bed before they could investigate further. A relative came by and went to retrieve her from under the bed and she yelped like something hurt. Upon further inspection they discovered an area of red dots that looked like pimples on her chest. She was not acting really sick, so they watched her. The spot got larger and weepy as time went on, and she got lethargic and refused food and water. At this point the family felt they needed to go to their vet. He was in surgery but advised they not wait and take her to the Emergency clinic.
 
She was diagnosed with a thermal burn. Here is the photo of the injury, a couple of days after the grooming. 
 
Chloe1
 
 
The only thing Chloe had done that day that would have caused this type of injury was go to the groomers. 
 
Chloe3
 
What at a grooming shop could cause such a burn to occur you might ask? Simple: a heated cage dryer or a stand dryer that has heat being used as a cage dryer. These dryers have temperatures that reach up to 155 F according to the manufacturers and since that heat is enough to do severe damage to skin with short contact time, imagine what prolonged contact can do. Can you imagine being in a closed box with that type of heat being blown on your skin? I can't and I cannot understand why groomers still use this type of dryer!
 
The groomer was shown the photos by the family friend and was visibly shaken. They had no idea there was a problem with the groom. The thing to note is that according to my contact, the grooming, drying and bathing are all done in the same room at the shop in question. They do use heated cage dryers and it is believed that this is what caused the injury to Chloe. According to the shop owner Chloe never made a sound or acted like she was uncomfortable. 
 
I have a hard time believing that a dog would not make an effort to try to get away from a heat source that is burning their skin. You would imagine that at least as the burn was beginning to occur the dog would be whining, scratching or barking. After the burn set in deep in the tissue, pain would be diminished as nerve endings are damaged, but at the beginning, there are signs. Likely the signs were tuned out or ignored as a normal fussy dog. In this case that decision may result in deadly consequences.
 
Chloe is scheduled for her first surgery this week. They had to wait until she was stable to perform the surgery. From my experience with burns, they were likely also waiting for the skin to finish dieing off. She will likely need more surgery, and possibly skin grafts to cover the area damaged by the burn.
 
In Chloe’s case, I FIRMLY believe the burn could have been caused by a hot dryer used on a metal cage. The metal cage bottom gets hot and holds the heat that is being transferred to it from the heat dryer. It never cools off and transfers its heat into the dog’s skin. A yorkie, with thin hair, has no insulation from the heat and the skin damage caused is deep and traumatic. I have seen Vari Kennels melted from the heat of a dryer! Imagine what they can do to skin over time!
 
 I do not believe anyone WANTS to injure a pet, but when equipment is used incorrectly or by people not paying attention, injuries happen. A heated stand dryer (pointed into a cage and used as a cage dryer), or a cage dryer on Medium or High in an enclosed area creates an oven. Cages that are covered, surrounded or enclosed fit that bill. It is an accident waiting to happen.
 
Many groomers do not think that the dryers they are using can cause damage to the skin of the dogs. We need to rethink that position. We need to educate groomers and bathers to the dangers of the dryers we use daily. Unless we KNOW that they can kill, and either never use them or use them extremely carefully, then more dogs will get hurt or die as a result of their use.
 
In the next installment of this series I will discuss the way burns occur and then in the third installment we will discuss ways that heated dryers can be useful when used correctly and alternatives to them that are safer and more effective. I will also have an installment on what cage dryers actually ARE and when they become a problem because many people thing cage dryers are all equal and nothing could be further from the truth! 
 
My goal is to educate as many people as possible to the effects of these dryers in the hopes of another pet never having to go through this.  

Four Principles of Effective Drying

This post was originally posted in 2010 but it is a good one and I wanted to bring it back for those of you who have not seen it yet.

For efficient drying of anything that is wet, you need four things.

  • Extraction
  • Air Flow Volume
  • Dehumidification
  • Controlled Heat

By understanding how these principals affect drying you can make your drying process faster and safer while saving yourself money on utility bills as well. I found a lot of really good research has been done on the topic by several manufacturers of water damage restoration equipment. If you think about it, drying a carpet or floor out uses the same types of equipment we use in drying dogs and to be honest, carpets and dog coats are similar in that they are all fibrous and when wet hold a lot of water that must be removed safely without damaged those fibers. By reading about how they train their people to do the work of water removal I learned a lot about drying that can be transferred over to dogs.

Let's begin with Extraction. Simply speaking that is the physical removal of water. In dog grooming that is the most important part of drying and it accomplished by two major steps of the drying process; towel drying and force drying. Proper extraction of the water can reduce your drying time drastically.

Towel drying is a critical part of the drying process for most dogs. There are many types of towels you can use. Regular bath towels, microfiber towels, moisture magnets or chamois and Water Absorbers are all available and effective. No matter which towel you choose to use, there are key steps to drying efficiently with a towel. Begin by squeezing excess water out of the coat with your hands while still in the tub. Then, using a squeezing motion again, absorb as much water as you can with your towel. Change towels as they get wet to maximize this step in the process.

From the tub, after drying I place dogs onto the drying table which in my case, has a flannel covering on it with two or three towels underneath it. This helps in the extraction process by absorbing the water from the feet, and the water that is going to be removed from the coat in the next step of the process. If you have a short coated dog, you can ruffle the hair while toweling but in longer coats it is a bad idea as it may tangle the coat.

Some people use towel warmers or towels right out of the dryer to dry dogs with. This does in fact speed up the drying process and it allows the towels to absorb more water. A warm towel makes you and the puppies more comfortable, so if possible, use one that is warmed up. Many places offer towel warmers for sale at a reasonable price. Simply search on the web and you will find ones available in many places, but make sure they will hold and heat the size of towels you are using. Some designed for human hair salons are designed to heat smaller towels.

If you are using something other than towels to dry, then a warmer is not an option. The Moisture magnet s and Absorber type towels work better when they are wet to begin with. Simply wring them out and they are ready to go back to work again.

Towel health tip: NEVER re-use towels from one dog to another. Always use a clean towel on each dog. The same is true of the other types of towels as well. Absorbers can be stored in a Chlorhexidine solution in between dogs and wrung out well, but otherwise, use a fresh towel and wash between uses.

The next step in the extraction process for us is force drying. By using a force dryer to remove water from the coat we can drastically reduce the drying time and as a result get a better finish, as well as getting the pet dryer faster for its own comfort. A good force dryer is essential to any pet groomer in my opinion. Most of them do not have added heat but pull air across the motors to cool the motor, so the air coming out of the nozzle is warm, generally 30-50 degrees above room temperature when it exits the hose. Once it comes out into the air, the temperature is drastically reduced. So while it feels hot in the hose the temperature at which it contacts the pets is much lower. Some dryers do not pull air across the motors. As a result you are getting room temperature air that uses force to dry dogs. You might, after a prolonged period of use, find that the air warms up slightly, but it does not get as hot as one that does. You must decided for yourself what you need in a dryer then choose one accordingly. 

All of these dryers are great for removing large quantities of water, and which one you choose will depend largely on what types of dogs you groom and what your personal preference is. I like warmer air, so I chose my dryers accordingly. I find that I get a better fluff with heat, and that the dogs dry a bit faster when using a dryer that contains some heat, and I can explain why that is in the next section, but others feel like the added heat is a detriment and prefer the cooler air dryers. Whatever you choose, make sure you have enough power for the types of dogs you groom. If you do a lot of the big hairies, a larger, more powerful blower is for you. If you do mostly smaller dogs then you can get by with less force. For me, I do a variety of dogs and prefer a variable speed control, so I can adjust the airflow to the job at hand, and my dryers raise the temperature of the air as well for what I feel is a better fluff out.

Whatever type of force dryer you choose however, their principle purpose is water extraction, and they do a great job of it.

 

Air Flow is the second key point in drying dog coats. Air flow is critical to drying dogs because it allows for evaporation of water left over after and even assists DURING the extraction process. The more air that passes through a coat the faster the evaporation process will be. If you think about it, clothes hung on a clothesline on a day with no wind dry slower and stiffer than clothes hung out on days with lots of wind. The wind, through air flow evaporation techniques, dries the clothes faster and the fibers are moved by the wind as well preventing them from getting "stuck" together, and they are softer. The same principal applies to dog hair believe it or not. The more air flow you can get through the coat while it's drying, the better the coat will feel and the faster it will dry.

When choosing the right dryer, consider how fast the airflow is. If it is just a small amount of air, then the drying will be less efficient. Remember, air flow promotes evaporation. Air that is stagnant cannot do that.

Ambient air dryers are the best at moving large amounts of air. Box Fans, stand fans, vortex dryers, and carpet dryers, like the Sahara by Dri-Eaz are all great at drying dogs fast and safely. I k now some people think that a fan is only blowing cold air across a dog so it cannot dry well, but remember, we already extracted water from the coat and are now looking at air flow to remove the remaining dampness. The faster the airflow, the faster the dogs will completely dry. The ambient air dryers pull air across the motors to cool them, so the room air temperature can be raised dramatically by these dryers, even though they do not put out heat directly, so it is important to keep an eye on the temperature in the room. When used with open cages, like wire crates, these are by far the fastest and safest dryers available.

Cage selection is critical as well to the drying process. Closed cages like cage banks, or vari-kennels restrict airflow. Wire cages allow the air to move past and through the area, making them much more efficient. You can even use fans to direct the air in the direction you want to the coat to lay. Place one on top of a cage for a full coated dog, and underneath for fluffier coats. There is no end to their versatility.

If used correctly this drying technique (large volume air flow) offers you versatility, safety and speed.

Dehumidification is critical to drying dogs fast and easily. When you are removing the water from the coat it is going into the air. That water in the air must be removed to maintain the balance in the room. The more humid the air gets the harder it is to dry dogs in it. That makes sense as it is also true of carpets, laundry and even mud puddles. The drier the air, the faster they dry out. It is one reason carpet cleaners tell you to run your air conditioner after they clean your carpet. It is to reduce the relative humidity in your home. I run a secondary window air conditioner in my drying rooms to keep the humidity level and the temperature under control without making the rest of the shop cold. You can use a dehumidifier if you are in a colder climate and there are many to choose from. Dri-Eaz makes a great one that they sell to the pet industry but there are many to choose from.

Dry air also reduces the chance of heat stroke, because heat plus humidity are what usually lead to that occurring.

Temperature is the final step in the process. Warm air is thirstier than cool air. Warm air increases the rate of evaporation. As a result, in cooler climates, it may be necessary to use a heated dryer at some point to raise the temperature of the air that is being passed over the dog. This can happen by using a stand dryer, a warm air high velocity dryer or a cage dryer. Typically, most dehumidification equipment works best at temperatures between 70 and 90 so it is important that the area pets are being dried at not exceed or fall below those temperatures. That range is also a safe, comfortable temperature for most people and pets. Anything hotter results in high humidity and anything cooler results in lower evaporation rates. Mobile groomers can attest to the fact that when it's colder or hotter their drying times increase.

Since the optimum temperature seems to be relatively low I am at a loss to understand why dryer manufacturers make dryers that heat up to 155F. You can see how the relatively low airflow they offer coupled with the high heat in an enclosed area like a small cage can be devastating to the pet and unproductive for the groomer. The best drying scenario for groomers is high velocity removal of water from a well towel dried dog, at a temperature of 70-90F and a low relative humidity, using high volumes of air for evaporation.

If you follow the basic principles you will have a productive, efficient and safe drying program.