Canine Coat & Skin

Caring For the Canine Coat

The last decade has seen the grooming, boarding and pet retail industry well into an upward trend towards providing a better client experience and customer service in every aspect of our businesses.  The grooming side of our businesses have seen a turn towards a more lush & relaxing spa atmosphere and spa type services that offer what I term, “encompassing grooming”- or added services in addition to the staple grooming for our clients.  In all, these raised expectations and individual endeavors have brought with them a sense of much needed professionalism from ourselves and our business fronts like never before.

These changes have brought with them not only the chance at higher revenues, but the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and our salons and shops.  Whether we are mobile, home based, strip-mall, freestanding or corporate located, the advantages that total client care brings to our table in terms of profitability, personal growth potential, and business sustainability and growth- cannot be ignored.  Our businesses’ adaptability is singularly designated by us- the owners.  Our potential for personal education and professional growth is just as singularly important to achieve longevity.  Not to mention that overcoming individual challenges and making and meeting goals are the cornerstone of inner happiness and sense of pride.

So, with that outlook on furthering our education and professional skills as groomers, I have added many supportive services for my clients from my salon & spa; and I have had much positive response and a great sense of accomplishment from those changes. In what I feel is deeply rooted in the needs of our pet clients- to address and help care for- not just ears, nails, baths & haircuts- but the overall quality of life of our clients, and their interactive roles as part of their human families, these services came into focus.  I believe many other groomers who yearn for broadening their horizons, your inner voice will not be ignored, and it can be greatly rewarded. From that need, I comprised skin & coat care services, supportive & alternative services, and networking abilities for the services that I could not provide.  Thereby assuring that my business could be a greater source of the care options for my clients’ pets.  Of course, grooming is always the cornerstone of my salon, and most any salon in our industry, but we can add the services I will describe in this series of articles without any substantial change to our existing business in terms of monetary investment or build out.  These changes come from educating one’s self, and being open minded to the fact that we can make MORE money and groom fewer dogs, and still leave work each day less stressed, and more rewarded.

For this series of supportive care & spa type services, the first installment of these articles will cover adding sugar scrubs and will cover the what and why of offering this service.



The skin is the largest organ of the body, and keeping it cleansed, moisturized and healthy assures that it can perform the task it was designed to do- to protect the body and maintain a level of defense against environmental pathogens.  After all, the pets’ skin & coat are the canvas on which we do our work, and without healthy skin & ample coat, we cannot achieve a quality groom or style. 
So, in line with keeping things simple and using the products and ingredients that have offered relief and benefits for hundreds of years , I chose to implement many herbals and whole, raw ingredients to address the pet skin & coat issues that I saw many times over in my salon.

  The first simple and whole ingredient is:


Sugar is a simple, edible, crystalline carbohydrate. Sugar comes in many different forms, however, all types have a sweet flavor. The main types of sugar are sucrose, lactose and fructose. Common table sugar is typically sucrose which is extracted from cane or beets.  Sugars can go through multiple refining processes, such as our white table sugar, or be kept at a more complex & whole state such as with raw and some brown sugars.


Another form of sugar is honey- one with complex additional micronutrients & minerals.

Honey is composed of sugars like glucose and fructose and minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulphur, iron and phosphate. Honey also contains vitamins B1, B2, C, B6, B5 and B3 all of which change according to the qualities of the nectar and pollen taken in by the bees in the area from which it is collected. Bees use the pollen from local plants and eventually it ends up in your honey. This is why using locally grown or harvested honey topically on skin of a dog exhibiting skin allergies can be beneficial.  It can help the pet’s immune response to local or area allergens and can actually help build a better tolerance for the pet.  Besides the above, copper, iodine, and zinc exist in it in small quantities. Several kinds of hormones are also present in honey.

What positive properties does honey lend to the skin?

The micronutrients in honey are water soluble. Meaning that they readily dissolve in water and can be carried by water to disperse them onto and superficially into the skin layers.  Water-soluble minerals will absorb sublingually and, through cell osmosis, be transported throughout the body if the particle size of the mineral small enough.  You not only get the mineral into the body (absorption), but you also accomplish cell assimilation, which is the key to fully utilizing the benefits of mineral nutrients. 

Honey also has the ability to attract water- so it lends itself as a moisturizer in its most simple & pure form.

Honey is also a natural antiseptic. Medical journals cite more than 600 cases in which honey was employed to treat wounds.  Honey contains antimicrobial agents, which prevents infections by killing the bacteria in and around wounds. Many types of bacteria can’t survive in honey, so wounds heal faster, swelling eases, and tissue can grow back which can be applicable with issues such as hot spots, severe eczema or atopic dermatitis.

It is important to mention that while we cannot treat the dog’s problems from within, but we can give relief and provide positive change to skin & coat within the timeframe that the dog visits us in the salon. We can also provide complimentary relief and help support turning around a pet’s quality of life from ongoing medical issues by educating the owner, networking & referring

What properties does sugar lend to the skin?

Sugars have the ability to Mechanically Exfoliate.

The most obvious benefit of using a sugar scrub comes in the form of exfoliation.

Mechanical exfoliation means how the sugar or other abrasive product or ingredient acts upon the skin surface in a direct manner resulting from coming in contact with it, hence creating a change in the skin’s layers.  The granulated particles of sugar- whether coarse or finely graded in the sugar body scrub serve as tiny scrubbing beads that slough off dead surface skin cells and smooth over rough patches of skin. More coarse sugars such as raw will have a much more aggressive exfoliating ability due to their granule or crystal size. Whereas refined white sugar or fine brown sugar will have a softer exfoliating action on the skin.  The sugar beads glide over the dried and dead layers of skin cells, removing them- to reveal the soft, fresh skin cells underneath. 

Applying the scrub in gentle circular motions, will result in removing as much of the dead skin cells as possible while also helping to unclog skin pores. Pet skin follicles can become clogged or impacted with dirt, dead hair, saebum & waxeous oils that cause the follicle to become constricted & therefor unable to cleanse itself and maintain the healthy flora environment within & on the skin’s dermal layers.  Follicular clogging also cause the skin difficulty in its hair shed & growth phases.  

Follicular occlusions can result in many secondary skin symptoms such as oily or waxy coat, hot spots, acne, lackluster & patchy coat production, and also creates a breeding ground for yeasts & secondary bacteria to actively grow and create even more serious infections. 

In my opinion, I have on hand both types of sugar scrubs and will use finer grades for smooth coated dogs or on skin which is tender.  I will use the raw sugar scrubs on heavily coated dogs and oily/greasy dogs to get the most benefit from this sugar’s sloughing ability. 

The sugar scrub we use for bathing dogs and addressing their skin issues should be applied by hand damp and freshly cleaned skin for best exfoliation results. You can also add it to your diluted shampoo mix and use it immediately to help aid in exfoliation, but remember that applying any scrub should always be done to a pet’s clean skin so as to not rub open the skin to its fresh cellular layer and then possibly introduce dirt particles in the coat to that freshly opened skin. 


Coconut Oil


The scientific name for coconut is Cocos nucifera.  Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a "functional food" because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders consider coconut oil to be the cure for all illness. The coconut palm is so highly valued by them as both a source of food and medicine that it is called "The Tree of Life." Only recently has modern medical science unlocked the secrets to coconut's amazing healing powers.  n traditional medicine around the world coconut is used to treat a wide variety of health problems including the following: abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, dysentery, earache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, ulcers, upset stomach, weakness, and wounds.  Published studies in medical journals show that coconut, in one form or another may provide a wide range of health benefits. Some of these are summarized below with regard to how they might help us to better care for skin and coat in our grooming salons: 

  • Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, & other illnesses.
  • Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, diaper rash, & other infections.
  • Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, & other parasites.
  • Reduces inflammation.
  • Supports tissue healing & repair.
  • Supports & aids immune system function.
  • Helps prevent periodontal disease & tooth decay.
  • Functions as a protective antioxidant.
  • Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging & degenerative disease.
  • Supports thyroid function.
  • Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward of infection.
  • Reduces symptoms associated the psoriasis, eczema, & dermatitis.
  • Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
  • Softens skin and helps relieve dryness & flaking.
  • Prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, & age spots.
  • Promotes healthy looking hair & complexion.
  • Coconut oil has both antibacterial & anti-microbial (contains: Lauric Acid & Capric Acid) agents within its structure.
  • Provides protection from damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
  • Helps control dandruff.
  • Has no harmful or discomforting side effects.
  • Is completely non-toxic to humans & pets.


Coconut oil has long been reveled concerning canines when it comes to nutrition and overall health and longevity. There are many, many benefits to including coconut oil in your own diet and as a source of better overall health. It is recommended to suggest adding coconut oil to a dog’s diet, and this can be further researched and suggested along with those reasons to your pet clients in the salon for better pet health overall.

While coconut possesses many health benefits due to its fiber and nutritional content, it's the oil that makes it a truly remarkable food and medicine.  Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm.  Coconut oil is usually divided into two main kinds – refined (RBD) oil and virgin oil. RBD coconut oil is oil derived from copra (the dried-out coconut core) and is lower in quality than virgin oil.  In the contrary, virgin oil is simply unrefined oil. It is derived straight from the coconut nucleus. This form of coconut oil making is the most non artificial form and no synthetic filtering is used. 

What Coconut offers to the skin and hair?

Moisture Retaining Capacity: Coconut Oil has high moisture retaining capacity, since it is not broken down easily nor evaporated, being very stable. It does not let moisture escape thus keeping hair moistened and soft. This prevents breakage of hair. Coconut Oil is a far better conditioner for hair than any synthetic one available in the market.

Vitamin-E: Almost every aptly educated person knows the importance of vitamin-E for skin and hair. It keeps scalp and skin healthy and hair rejuvenated.

Lauric & Capric Acids: Provide anti-microbial action and seek to help normalize the skin.

Anti-Dandruff: The various fatty acids present in Coconut Oil serve as very good anti dandruff agents and are way better than any anti dandruff shampoo.  A regular application can help you get rid of dandruff forever.

Stimulates Hair Growth: By thinly and evenly coating the skin and hair shaft, this oil helps to seal in adequate moisture needed to optimize the healthy skin and follicle flora, and to protect the individual hair shaft as well.

Studies have shown that virgin coconut oil actually penetrates the hair shaft. It does this on both damaged and undamaged hair, both as a pre-wash and post-wash product. Because "Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft." Studies have also shown that using coconut oil on hair prevented combing damage.

Coconut oil has a very low melting point (the temperature at which a solid turns into a liquid. It is equal to the freezing point as well), lending it well to easily being added to a variety of shampoo mixes as well as various care methods for the skin which can be easily done by a pet groomer in the salon. 

Different uses depending on the mix and formulas

One should read labels on the products being research when buying. Some products made for hair care specifically will be parted with petrolatum in order to “stretch” the actual level of coconut oil within the product. The more pure coconut oil a product contains, the more it likely will cost and the better it is for you dietary and cosmetically.  This can usually be noticed first by the consistency of the oil within the tub or jar. The more pure coconut oil is, the more slightly solid or caked, and opaquely white in color it will be. While it will still easily scoop from the jar, it melts readily against the warmth of the hands and does not leave a sticky residue behind once rubbed in.  One can use oil parted with petrolatum, but it will likely require more dubious bathing to remove all extra product. One must use virgin coconut oil for the skin and hair, not the not the refined, bleached, and deodorized coconut oil that is usually sold in the cooking section of the supermarket.

 This is a photo of more desirable oil for both feeding and skin care.

How to apply it to dogs in the salon

This oil can be added to a shampoo of your choice, but it most easily, for dilution purposes due to the varying dilutions and formulations of shampoos, for beginners, be added as a simple step ahead of the bath.

  1. warm virgin coconut oil first if it is solid, by placing the bottle in a pot of warm water. If you don't want to heat the whole jar, take some out and put it in a safe container for use in the salon (BPH free plastic only if using plastic), then place that in warm to hot water. Do not use the microwave as that is not good for the oil- it causes breakdown of the beneficial ingredients.
  2. you can add some essential oils if you like, depending on your particular needs.
  3. apply enough so that the hair is completely covered-can be from head to tail, especially upon any areas which are symptomatic, but not so much that it is dripping.
  4. put pet in a warm towel- either wet or dry and allow developing for 7-10 minutes.
  5. Follow with a warm rinse thru of water to help wet the coat, and then apply a shampoo of your choice and finish bathing as usual. Condition the coat as needed.

It’s that simple! Three extra steps, and approximately 15 extra minutes to begin the healing and bring the terrific qualities of this oil to your salon and your clients!

For further study of this wonderful and versatile oil, visit any number of reputable online sites or read the book: Coconut Oil Benefits: Your Hair, Skincare, Weight loss, Aid To Digestion, Immune System, Fights Infections And Heart Disease Benefits [NOOK Book] by Dr. Doris Patton


On Weepy and Odorous Eyes

The following was an email sent to me by a fellow groomer, and my response:


"I have seen on the forum that you have some products that may improve certain skin conditions on dogs.  I have a client with a shih-tsu and his face stinks.  His eyes tear all the time and it results in a stinky, wet face.  He doesn't have eye gunk or crusty stuff on his face.  It's wet and stinky. 

Do you have any idea what can I do to help?  or what can I suggest the owner do between grooms?



Hello Maria!

I do believe that this odor could be from a common cause- yeast. For dogs with larger eyes and those which have a short muzzle- or are brachycephalic- one commonly sees staining, odor and wetness across the stop and under the eyes within the folds of skin found there. In the damp or wet space that holds moisture as the eyes weep, yeast will commonly grow here as it is a perfect environment for it. Diet choices which are high in grains can also add to the yeast count of a dog's skin and inner systems, as well as allergies or underlying health issues which pull down the natural flora and balance of the skin and inner systems of a dog.

Redness or staining can have multiple causes- from simple red dyes in the food and treats (ask the owner if they can alleviate all red colored food and treats)- which leach out in the pet’s saliva and tears, to high mineral or iron count in the drinking water (which are present in the tears and saliva and as they wet and then dry onto the coat), they oxidize and leave behind staining. To an overproduction of yeast that is elevated in the mucus membrane areas of the dog and also leaches from the saliva and tears (part of the reason we see a licked area also turn a rusty red) and will culture upon the skin in a localized area when it is kept moist.

Yeast is ever prevalent in a dog’s GI tract, and on their skin, but when it becomes too prolific, that is when we begin to see redness or sometimes secondary skin ulcers or eruptions, and smell the odor that almost always goes along with yeast overproduction- especially candida yeast.

Anyway, now that I have set the explanation of how this occurs. There are a number of ways we can possibly help this with our grooming and consulting with owners.

Talk to the owner about quality foods and treats. The better a food, the cleaner its ingredients and there for the better digestible ingredients for the pet- the less filler it will also have and therefor commonly far less a possibility for being the origin of adding ingredients to a pet’s  systems that will only be synthesized as food for yeast growth. Poor diet is the number one cause to not just yeast, but a plethora of many other diseases and symptoms.

Sometimes a dog which is diabetic, or has serious allergies, or has hormone imbalance- can be sugar sensitive and will commonly also have yeast issues. Without working with their vet, it is best to simply mention the sugar and yeast relationship (grain or starches begets sugars and sugars feed yeast) and leave getting to the bottom of possible health issues to the owner and their vet.

As groomers, we need to keep the skin folds beneath the eyes of these dogs trimmed closely so that no hair rubs against the eyes and could possibly cause more tearing which leads to more yeast.  Tell the owners to bring them in often even if it is only for a face trim, and to wipe the face with a warmly wet clean cloth (with plain tap or distilled water)often thru the day to help keep it clean. Commercial eye wipe pads can have peroxide in them which may lighten stains (check the label), but this does not end tearing and can actually with time irritate the mucus membranes of the eyes and lead to worse tearing or eye crust. Some dogs also GROW hair from the cornea of their eyes (if you look at the ShihTzu breed, they are prone to have active hair follicles which produce actual hair and it will grow from the eye and cause it to tear or weep constantly). Look at the dog's eyes to be sure that indeed no hair is growing from the eye surface. I know it sounds weird- but it is possible.

As groomers we also need to do a very thorough job of washing the pet’s face at each groom. I personally will clipper the face some before the bath so that I know I can get in there very well when using my fingers to scrub the face. I use a good clarifying tearless shampoo, or a facial wash on the face to be sure that it is completely clean and odor free when they leave the salon. Dogs with allergies should not have highly colored or fragranced topicals (shampoos, conditioners, coat sprays and colognes) used on them as fragrance is one of the most common causes of allergic reaction relating to the grooming experience. I also personally wash the face well first and then wash the rest of the dog- allowing the face to soak in the shampoo- before rinsing the entire dog in the tub.

Keeping the eyes well trimmed of surrounding hair, or looking for ingrown eyelashes and plucking them if needed, noting any lumps along the eyelid which can sometimes be calcium deposits- which can block the tear duct and interrupt regular tear production, or noticing an ingrown hair, these can cause the tears to pool on the eye and the eye to be always irritated and therefor to weep in effort to cleanse itself- by looking for these things we can often find a topical reason for weepy eyes. Remember that inhalant or contact allergies (those where direct exposure can cause the eyes to be irritated much the same as with humans) can also cause weeping.

Once diet is out of the equation, the hair around the eyes is trimmed away from the eyes (or banded  and wrapped if the pet is kept in full coat)- and hopefully there is no hair growing from the eye itself- if the face is kept clean and as dry as possible, you will most likely see a drastic change.

At home, the owner feeding these things can also help lower elevated yeast levels in the dog's body:

Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Coconut Oil (does an excellent and quick job of killing back yeast and can also be rubbed directly onto the coat, into ears and into the foot pads of dogs with a bad allergic response)

High quality, grain free food or super premium food and treats if the pet is sure to not have grain allergies (the most common type of food allergy is to grains- notably corn)



As groomers, cleaning and trimming will give us the best and fastest results for the client and their pet. To completely end yeast as much as possible, the owner will also have to follow up with at home care. As well, they will need a vet who does not off the cuff prescribe a steroid or antibiotics to end what they see as an allergic reaction and can commonly only be yeast overproduction which has the same accompanying symptoms as allergies: itchiness or painful areas, discolored hair and skin, skin lesions or loss of hair from licking and/or chewing, and a strong odor.  Symptomatic pets need a vet with an open mind and not just allopathic care methods.

When you have time, do some online reading on "yeast and dogs", there's a whole world of info out there arising about yeast and allergies and supportive veterinary care for the canine.

Hope that this helps!

Be well.


Understanding Your Product Labels


  Shampoo label

For many years product labeling within grooming industry has been discussed at length.  Labeling and disclosure has always been a hot topic- with those either for or against it firmly planted on either side of the figurative line in the sand. However, nothing has ever really significantly changed the actuality of the legislature in place to require manufacturers to label and to disclose their ingredients in full.

These days many manufacturers are stepping up to the plate and acknowledging that their customers: the industry groomers and professionals, as well as their customers' own client base: the pets- need to and deserve to know just what they are using and applying every day in the salon. Yet still, many products still exist which we use on a daily basis without any inclination of just what they contain.

It is worth mentioning that it is not that any product could contain toxins or ingredients that directly would cause ill effect, but more so that labeling disclosure is a necessary component to a better path to safety and to lessen usage liability (and increase educated purchasing decisions) based on our personal preference.

Labeling is required in nearly every other industry, and it is definitively required with any cosmetic product for human use, so why is it not required for animal usage? The reason is two fold; first regarding the fact that our industry is a trade industry where no licensing such as that in the cosmetology field is required. The other reason has to do with how states and legislature view animals as pets with regard to legal liability. However, with pet ownership or caregiver legislature in place per each states' guidelines, it is important for us to be up to date on where we as care providers sit in terms of requirements and legality within your practicing state.

The second consideration with regard to liability is the one we as groomers should be most concerned about. We as care providers will have a legal responsibility to provide care for incoming clients. If that breaks down by way of any service given, or product used which we offer as part of our care, that responsibility rests with us in the event of an injury.  When a product which lacks labeling is used upon an animal in our care, it grays the delineation of where product liability starts and user liability ends, or visa versa. Meaning that if negative or ill effects do happen upon a pet in our care, while we as professionals are using a product expressly produced for animal care, if legal action is made to recoup loss in any way on the end of the pet owner who is our client, we will have to foot the bill.  It will in turn be up to us to try to not only locate and compile the necessary information regarding what is in the product which we knowingly used, but it will rest on our shoulders to show that we did so with no understanding of what was in the product to either present our case for defense, or to gain any reimbursement from the product manufacturer. This makes for A LOT of work and worry on our part. Being in the middle of a client situation is stressful enough without swimming in a sea of misinformation. Within the cosmetology field alone, human cosmetologists are required to be educated and tested upon chemical ingredients and compounds of a number of the products which they use, yet since groomers as a profession are not, many groomers do not realize that legal liability rests with us.

Fingers crossed

Legal liability is not the only reason labeling is important. Many of us will get through our entire career with no serious injury to any pet in our care, yet it only takes one accident or serious injury where we have to try to make it right for a client to seriously alter not just our financial state, but our mental state about the products and services we offer from there on out.

Another facet to labeling is our own personal safety. On nearly any given day, within the grooming forums or chat groups, someone mentions have skin or respiratory issues and is concerned as to the origin of such symptoms. With the plethora of products a pet stylist or groomer uses each day in the salon to address grooming and skin and coat care needs, we handle many different chemicals and formulations- any of which could be the cause. As products continue to develop to address these needs, so does the amount of products we can choose from to use. It can be greatly difficult to isolate just what product we used which caused any ill effect, and really only over time can most people begin to make a connection between a product and an outcome. By labeling our products, and by finding products which we understand and keep regularly within our care and usage program, it can be much easier to make those connections. Furthermore, with the ever growing amount of products we have to choose from to make our grooming work easier, we could easily also be choosing products to use which make the business side or our salons easier to define and keep our arms around as well.

In the event of any adverse reaction, whether upon ourselves or upon the pets in our care, we need to be able to know quickly just what we have used in any given product. Having that knowledge at the ready is not only a consumer's right, but it could save us much time, money, and suffering.

So what can we do?

To start, we can support those manufacturers who are towing the line and giving disclosure of their ingredients. We can respectfully ask more manufacturers to not hide behind flimsy excuses for not spending the time and money it may take to have a product labeled, and we can talk with those manufacturer on an educated level about our concerns to best represent our professional ability and to create a ripple effect of positive change upon our industry.

Whether we want to personally use more "eco-friendly" or simply formulated products, we need to also realize that while we can make those choices, we should also be educating ourselves to just what those labels we DO have at our disposal mean and translate to on our skin and the pets as well.

Since our industry does not have any regulations in place requiring manufacturers to list all of their
product ingredients, we should know that anything they list is completely voluntary whether on the
label or the technical data sheets. Many companies will list certain key ingredients which they wish to
place importance on, but not necessarily disclose everything which actually makes up the product.
Most complete labels should begin with water and end with either a colorant, preservative or
fragrance. As with foods, the first three to five ingredients comprise most of the formula makeup, and
the ingredients are listed from the greatest in volume to the least in volume, but anything at less than
1% can be listed in any order. If a product touts a certain ingredient, always be sure to read the label to
see just where that ingredient actually falls within the list- if it is listed farther down than the fragrance
ingredients, it is likely less than 1% of the total product, and therefore not necessarily as beneficial as it
is being claimed.
Also a side note on MSDS (material safety data sheets) ( It should be noted that
MSDS –sheets- are not necessarily the complete list of ingredients within a formulation, but instead are
only a list of the ingredients within a formulation that have been known or documented as having
caused negative reaction or ill effect upon a human- this does not included any reaction upon an

Do some research, ask some questions, and make some decisions. Any change always starts in small ways and grows from there.

This and much more information concerning product labeling and understanding what ingredients are is all included in my newest book, "Caring For The Canine Coat".

Caring For the Canine Coat Book cover photo form

The Effects Of Fleas on the Canine Coat

The following is a chapter from my new book, "Caring For the Canine Coat, A Salon Guide for Canine Estheticians and Pet Stylists".


This dog has had a severe reaction to flea bites and as a result- the skin has erupted into many lesions, as well as having severe coat loss, and the pet has taken to self-mutilation.

Aside from that which is visibly obvious to us; itchy or reddened bite sites, black specks of flea dirt (flea feces), oily coat and/or dry, brittle coat- what is happening on a microscopic level is similar to that of a war zone. As this pet’s skin attempts to heal and normalize itself- it does so by producing an overabundance of oils and also revs up cellular production to replace damaged skin cells on the skin’s surface. When a flea bites, the site by site irritation from each bite is due to an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to the anti-coagulant or anti-clotting enzyme, histamines and a number of other substances within a flea’s saliva. One flea bite can cause hours and days of intense itching.  This itching causes the pet to physically scratch and lick or chew. This chewing and licking are what then causes a domino effect of reactions deep within the skin aside from what we can see on the outside as sores, lesions and loss of coat.

Due to the overabundance of oils and hyperkeratosis- (or thickening of the skin’s horny layer) which is due to hastened cellular replacement, the next step is that the skin follicles become occluded or clogged with built up sebum and waxeous oils produced by the skin intended to help it heal.  In essence, the skin’s healing mechanisms have now become part of the problem instead of a step in the direction towards naturally normalizing the skin.

This oil production is due to the mechanical effect that itching has upon the hair and skin: the abrasive action against the follicle and hair shaft, the tugging at the hair shaft and subsequent action of the arrector pili muscle each time the skin is scratched at, the oil production from the follicle in attempt to flush itself and heal the aggravated skin, and so on.  


 This is followed by the next step; where the skin follicles which are still becoming occluded also have a continually growing population of bacteria and microorganisms building up that cannot be flushed from the skin properly and are ever populating- creating a more and more unbalanced environment. This unhealthy flora thereby causes another reaction upon the skin to those additional irritants.

In finality, these overproduced microbes cause the follicles to become inflamed or narrowed, thereby allowing for less oil dispersion, disallowing dead hair to easily be shed; clogging up the follicle for new hair emergence, and in fact causes the new emerging hair to have increased cellular production due to this irritation and overall poor growth environment.  When new coat does emerge, it is thicker and more harsh and brittle than the previous healthy coat.   

Unhealthy skin cannot house a healthy follicle, and an unhealthy follicle is unable to produce healthy hair.

Fleas can also have a psychological effect and subsequent medical impression upon a pet. When a pet lives with an illness or an affliction, this inevitably changes the pet’s mental ability to exist day to day without at any given time, fixating on the pain, agitation, or discomfort they are feeling. This then has a secondary effect on a pet’s daily activities which would otherwise be considered as normal. This is important to us because these pets may enter the salon in a heightened sense of alert response, making them have the propensity to more easily act out and could cause side effects such as aggression or defensive reaction. 


Being a host to a pest can cause side effects of self-mutilation as well. In the cases where flea allergies are present, the loss of hair and generally uncomfortable skin can leave the pet in not just a physically influenced state, but a psychological one as well.  When a pet enters the salon with the degree of symptoms as that of the one pictured above, it is recommended to reevaluate the grooming visit at that time and refer to a vet for medical advice as to whether or not to proceed in order to not cause further pain. It may be necessary to address the pet’s condition with a prescription formula topical which we would not have at our disposal to help begin the healing process the most effectively and carefully.


Eradicating Fleas

Once the presence of fleas has been determined, and it is decided that the pet can be groomed without causing it additional pain, it is vital to move the host pet to the bathing area immediately for a topical flea treatment method. Always remember to not pre-wet the coat of a pet with fleas before applying the shampoo. Doing so can lessen the effect of the shampoo and allow for fleas to remain alive on the skin. When fleas feel threatened, they can excrete a chemical in their saliva which creates a sealing barrier around their bodies against things like pesticides or soaps- and this can cause them to emerge unscathed by our shampoos. On a pet with fleas, handle the skin and coat carefully and even more so if there is additional irritation present. Use tepid bathing water and long cool rinses to help soothe the skin and offer some antipruritic (lessening of itching) effect. Apply the flea shampoo liberally and pay close attention to areas such as the underarms, groin and navel areas, base of the tail, under the ears, and carefully attend to the head areas as well. Fleas usually congregate in areas of deeper yet loose coat, and areas where there is good blood circulation just beneath the skin, and ample warmth.  Per the product’s usage instructions, adhere to the dilution ratio (or lack thereof) and contact time- do not leave the shampoo on the pet for longer than recommended even if the fleas are at an infested level. Using multiple applications is still safer than leaving the shampoo on longer than prescribed.  After using a flea shampoo, follow up with a gentle formula cleansing shampoo and a quality coat conditioner to help hold some of the moisture on the skin which can be depleted by the stripping nature of most pesticidal shampoos.

Fleas in hair

Whether a groomer chooses to provide a flea dip, bathe with a flea shampoo- either natural or not, or follows up with a topical flea treatment- this is up to the individual groomer and the pet’s needs.  A growing number of groomers are acting upon the results of studies and educating themselves to the dangers of prolonged pesticide exposure, as well as the effects of certain pest control ingredients. It is recommended that the groomer inform themselves thoroughly on the active ingredients in any given flea treatment method, be knowledgeable in the allowances of flea treatment with regard to state statutes, and understand the residual effects, if any, of the topicals they provide.  Most importantly, only second to actually ridding the pet of its current flea population in the salon, is taking the time to talk with your client about the condition of the pet, how you will address coat and skin health, and how to treat their home and begin a care plan for the pet to end the cycle.   Take the time to organize an informational brochure, have website referrals, or at the very least- a dialogue for how to inform the client effectively and to move them in the direction towards helping the pet.


Oatmeal For Pets in Your Salon

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 symptoms. 

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.


Chih bath


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-mutilation 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."  One condition that oatmeal is not suitable for are yeast infections. Since oatmeal is a grain, it is a ready food source for the yeast population on infected skin to feed upon, and could, in theory, cause more prolific yeast production.

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 moisture.

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.