Caring For the Canine Coat
Holiday Jester Collars


One of the most common questions that I see and hear in our canine skin & coat care
classes are surrounding the topic of grooming dogs which enter the salon with itchy, dry
or pink colored skin due to allergies. It can be seasonal or contact allergies, but these
dogs repeatedly come in with uncomfortable skin, and lackluster and unhealthy coat.
We have to remember that we can do all the best we can on the outside of these dogs, but
what is causing these symptoms is continuing to well deep inside the pet. In these cases,
it is ever so important to try to take the time to educate your pet client owners about
allergies, symptoms that you see and possible causes. Most of all, try to recommend
them to a vet who specializes in systemic and supportive care practices that really get to
the root of the problem. Without a good vet in place and pet owners who will work with,
your only method of providing relief for the pet is to use your tools and supplies in your
salon that you know will provide the pet the most benefit, some relief, and the least
amount of stress during their visits. Sometimes we can only know that we are doing the
best we can for the pet and giving some relief even if it visits again with the same
There are natural and simple ingredients and products that you as a groomer or stylist can
easily have on hand to help provide relief and create a beautiful groom for your clients at
each visit and to lessen a pet’s symptoms and provide some relief-even if only for a short
time. Having these on hand will enable you to give some genuine physical comfort to the
pet and to well clean the “canvas” on which you will lay your finished groom.
One of the most simple, whole, and safe products you can have in your bathing rooms is
colloidal oatmeal.

Colloidal Oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal, is also known by its Genus Species name, Avena sativa L.. What
colloidal oatmeal does is to help smooth and comfort itchy, scratchy, and dry skin. These
same effects can be given to your pet clients as well as it does for us humans.
Following is an in depth excerpt of work from Alessandra Panoni of the clinical
properties, uses & benefits or colloidal oatmeal. Beyond this, continues my article on
using colloidal oatmeal in our salons.

Oatmeal has been used for centuries as a soothing agent to relieve itch and irritation
associated with various xerotic dermatoses. In 1945, a ready to use colloidal oatmeal,
produced by finely grinding the oat and boiling it to extract the colloidal material,
became available. Today, colloidal oatmeal is available in various dosage forms from
powders for the bath to shampoos, shaving gels, and moisturizing creams. Currently, the
use of colloidal oatmeal as a skin protectant is regulated by the US Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) according to the Over-The-Counter Final Monograph for Skin
Protectant Drug Products issued in June 2003. Its preparation is also standardized by
the United States Pharmacopeia.

The many clinical properties of colloidal oatmeal derive from its chemical polymorphism.
The high concentration in starches and [beta]-glucan is responsible for the protective
and water-holding functions of oat. The presence of different types of phenols confers
antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Some of the oat phenols are also strong
ultraviolet absorbers. The cleansing activity of oat is mostly due to saponins. Its many
functional properties make colloidal oatmeal a cleanser, moisturizer, buffer, as well as a
soothing and protective anti-inflammatory agent.

History of Oatmeal

Enzymes, such as lipase, lipoxygenase, and superoxide dismutase, have also been found
in oats. (23,24) Because oat grains are rich in lipids with a high content in unsaturated
fatty acids, they contain various compounds with antioxidant activity to protect the lipids
from oxidation. (25) This activity is mostly derived by the presence of phenolic esters.
(25,26) The oat plant at various growth stages has been found to contain a large number
of phenolic compounds including all major classes: benzoic and cinnamic acids,
quinones, flavones, flavonols, chalcones, flavanones, anthocyanidines, and
aminophenolics. (25) The most important antioxidant phenols in oat flour are the
glyceryl esters of hydroxycinnamic, ferulic, p-coumaric, and caffeic acids. (27)

Oats also contain flavonoids (phenolic structure) with strong absorption of ultraviolet A
(UVA) in the 320 to 370 nm range. (25) Other phenolic esters, called avenacins
(structurally belonging to saponins), have also been isolated. (25) These have a large
lipophilic region and a short chain of sugar residues, which interact with nonlipid
components. Because of this structure saponins have a soap-like action. (28) Lastly, oats
contain a variety of minerals and vitamins. (29) Among these, vitamin E, present mostly
as [alpha]-tocopherol, is the most clinically relevant. (23,27)

Clinical Properties

Because of its chemical polymorphism, colloidal oatmeal presents many functional and
dermatological clinical properties such as cleansing, buffering, moisturizing, protecting,
soothing, anti-irritant, and antioxidant. As a skin protectant, colloidal oatmeal is
regulated by the FDA as an over the counter drug, and can be included in tub baths at a
minimum concentration of 0.007% if alone, or at a minimum concentration of 0.003%
when combined with mineral oil (30%-35%). (15) The monograph defines a skin

protectant as a "drug product that temporarily protects injured or exposed skin or
mucous membrane surfaces from harmful or annoying stimuli, and may help provide
relief to such surfaces." (15)

Other types of phenols in oat are responsible for different functional properties. In fact,
the oat flavonoids are strong UVA-screens, (25) and the avenacins have potent antifungal
activity as well as a soap-like function. (25,28)

Tocopherols (vitamin E) have anti-inflammatory and antiphotodamage activities. They
have been found to prevent or reduce UV-mediated damage in the skin and to inhibit the
biosynthesis of prostaglandin [E.sub.2]. (38)

The anti-inflammatory properties of oat have been substantiated in several
investigations. A study using extracts of Avena sativa showed strong inhibition of
prostaglandin biosynthesis in vitro. (39) Another in vitro investigation found that the oat
extract decreased mobilization of arachidonic acid from phospholipids, suggesting value
for ameliorating inflammatory skin disorders. (40)

A recent investigation in burn patients demonstrated the soothing benefit of a
shower/bath oil containing 5% colloidal oatmeal in liquid paraffin. The results showed
that the group using colloidal oatmeal had a significant reduction in itch compared to the

New technology in the formulation of oatmeal products has allowed more cosmetically
appealing topicals for improved moisturization, cleansing, and shaving, and new
products are constantly being developed to address different skin types, skin conditions,
and age groups. (8)


I thank Dr. Alessandra Pagnoni for providing her expert opinion and critical help in the
organization and preparation of the manuscript above.


How Does Colloidal Oatmeal Work?

Colloidal oatmeal is simply oats ground into an extremely fine powder. When added to
bathwater, it creates a milky dispersion that prevents the oatmeal from settling rapidly. So
the oatmeal stays in the water and doesn't just sink to the bottom of the bath. When you
get into the tub, the colloidal oatmeal feels silky, as it coats, moisturizes, softens, and
protects your skin.

What Conditions Are Helped By Colloidal Oatmeal?

Colloidal oatmeal works great to help relieve dry, psoriasis, skin patches (Eczema), acne,
bug bites, sunburns, and other minor skin irritations. It also helps relieve chicken pox,
poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and other itching and scratching rashes. These

rashes also work twofold with the central nervous system as they continue to create-to
keep it simple-an itch signal to the nerves and then on to the brain-from within the skin
tissue. Regardless of how aggressively it is scratched on the surface, it is still telling the
brain that there is something there that continues to not feel right. This subsequent
scratching can be the source of much more than simple itching. Self mutiliation response
to relieve allergy itching often causes both secondary skin infections, a cycle of hair and
skin loss, sores, and general anxiety and even depression in a pet. Imagine being trapped
in your body for weeks, months or even years and always feeling itchy and
uncomfortable. To me, it would be maddening! Remember that these pets likely are not
“themselves”-they could be skittish, reactive, aggressive and just plainly unhappy at their
visits. Here is your chance to start a positive change for them, even if it is only a few
hours of normality and relief following their groom. What good things we can do if we
choose to try. Since colloidal oatmeal has an anti-itch property that helps reduce the
“need to itch,” soaking in the bath brings soothing comfort to those infected. When your
skin is itchy and irritated, its pH level may be higher. Colloidal oatmeal helps bring the
pH back to normal levels, taming the "need to itch."

Checking in a pet who may have allergies

It is important to address your concerns straight away with the pet owner. Both to
possibly help create a change back home while they are in your care at the salon, and to
avoid possibly having any issue blamed to your hands. Help the owner to leave your
salon with an idea of what services you plan for their pet, and WHY. Care for the pet as
best you can during their visit, and repeat that care every time you see them.

If the pet is extremely matted where you cannot get the skin and coat clean, you may
need to first remove some or all of the coat as a rough in clip. However, if avoidable, I
will always try to get them into a cool bath straight away and wait for grooming work
until the coat is clean and the skin has a little of its moisture and elasticity back. If your
grooming clients have skin that is mildly inflamed, reddened by irritation, is coated in
dander and oily or tacky residue, colloidal oatmeal can help soothe their skin as well.
Here is the method that I prefer to use in the salon for clients, it takes an extra 10 minutes
for prep time and allowing the pet to soak, but it still gives genuine help in a short time so
it is well worth having as a tool for relief.

Providing a Colloidal Oatmeal Soak

Rinse the pet for 2 to 5 minutes with cool to luke-warm water. Light water pressure and
heavy water flow is beneficial. You do not want to water spray or to mechanically rub
the skin too hard when it is aggravated for obvious reasons.

Follow the long cool rinse with a gentle cleansing shampoo. Some may find that a gentle
shampoo does not adequately break up excess skin dander or oils to be effective in their
removal, so it may be necessary to step up to a clarifying shampoo if there is excess
debris on the coat. Always remember that gentler is better, but we also want to be
effective in our results to make a difference for the pet owner and the pet. If the skin is
not built up too badly, step back down to a gentle formula shampoo, and bathe at least
twice. Be careful about manually scrubbing too hard, let the water and products work for
you, and follow this bath with another cool rinse for 2 to 3 minutes to help seal in

After the bath, you can now get your oatmeal soak ready for the pet. You can keep the
pet in the tub, or remove them, towel dry lightly, kennel, and keep them warm while you
mix the soak.

Add 2 Tablespoons of colloidal oatmeal powder to a luke-warm bath of up to 5 gallons of
water (a very warm bath will irritate the skin), the heavier the mix, the only change will
be that you must be more thorough in rinsing. You can either cup up & pour the tepid
water over the pet’s back and neck, or allow them to soak supervised in a bath deep
enough to cover them up to their neck. The dilution ratio for the oatmeal should be listed
in the product’s label, but in the effect that it is not, a good rule of thumb is to mix 2
Tablespoons into 5 gallons of warmer water. You want this soak to be warm, but not hot
and not so cold that they may chill. Be sure they are supplied with an anti-slip matt in the
bottom of the tub, and never leave them unattended. Add your pet client, and let them
soak for 5 to 7 minutes. You can pour the tepid or cool water over the pets back and neck,
or allow them to soak supervised in a bath deep enough to cover them up to their neck.
Again, be sure they are supplied with an anti-slip matt in the bottom of the tub, and never
leave them unattended. Be sure not to get the colloidal rinse into the pet’s eyes.
Allowing the ear leathers to soak in this solution is a great help for inflamed ears as well.
After a soak rinse them again for a minute or two with cooler water, towel dry by softly
squeezing the water from the coat, and either kennel or hand dry as needed. If the pet has
needed a clarifying or deeper shampoo, you will want to apply a diluted cream rinse or
conditioner to their coat to be sure the skin is given added moisture. We never want to
over condition the coat, but we do not want to leave it at all stripped as well. *Remember
with conditioners, less is more, and slathering on a heavy cream or oils will only cause
coat build up and keep the skin from regenerating and cleansing itself as it was designed
to do. In the case of all pets with abnormal skin, we are seeking to normalize the skin,
help the skin to create its own healthy flora, and then to stop subsequent treatment in the
salon once that is achieved. Meaning that you may not need to treat the skin in this
manner at the next visit, or that you may need to alter your care as the skin’s healing and
normalization continues. We want to bridge the gap in the pet’s normal skin condition
and then let the body step up to continue that normality on its own if possible.

After the rinse, it is normal for both your hands and the pet to feel very silky and smooth.
This is the oatmeal doing what it was designed to do; lightly coat the skin, seal in
moisture, and providing elasticity back to the skin & hair. Since colloidal oatmeal also
pulls out the annoying irritants that are on the skin’s surface, and even superficially in the
skin’s upper cellular layers, your pet will be feeling better in no time.

This treatment will help as soon as it is applied for most every pet, but must be repeated
every two to seven days either with you or at home if this is what the pet owner wants to
rely on for relief. Using colloidal oatmeal is a very gentle and non-invasive remedy to
topical irritation and itching, but simply will not end allergic responses unless it is used as
part of a care regimen that helps end the allergen(s) inclusion in the pet’s daily life.
Remember that an oatmeal bath is a remedy, NOT a solution to an underlying issue
which may be at the root of the itchiness or odors. Again, always work with your pet
owners and their vet to be sure your pet’s health need are addressed and fulfilled.


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