It is a well-known fact within the animal medical community and experienced grooming salons that shave downs of the fur-bearing dogs may lead to alopecia (hair loss) and skin disease. There are a myriad of skin diseases, under the category of “Coat Funk,” that are either caused by or triggered by the shave down groom of the fur-bearing dog.
Although some have referred to “Coat Funk” only as the absence or destruction of guard coat, “Coat Funk” refers to a myriad of diseases such as The Black Skin Disease, Alopecia X, Sebaceous Adenitis and Post Shaving or Post Clipping Alopecia to mention just a few.
Although “Coat Funk” is more prevelant in fur-bearing dogs, it can happen in hair-bearing dogs as well.
The mechanism for causing or triggering “Coat Funk,” after-shave downs in the fur-bearing dogs, is unknown to medical researchers. It is simply known that there is a high incidence of “Coat Funk” as a result of shave downs. Furthermore, shave downs of fur-bearing dogs should only be done for medical reasons. Cosmetic choices for fur-bearing dog shave downs, such as a pet owners desire to reduce shedding or make the pet more comfortable in the heat, are unacceptable reasons for the pet to have its hair shaved. If a dog is shaved down for cosmetic purposes and develops “Coat Funk,” it is assumed that the groomer iatrogenically caused the disease and is held legally responsible for the resulting skin and hair coat disease.
The determination of whether you as a groomer will perform a shave down on a fur-bearing dog is to be directed only by the veterinarian. Since all shave downs are to be performed for medical purposes, simply ask the pet owner to bring in a written notice from their veterinarian requesting the shave down for their pet. Your shave down groom then becomes an extension of veterinary treatment and the veterinarian becomes legally responsible if “Coat Funk” occurs as a result of the shaved down. Some veterinarians may feel that it is medically important that the dog may become overheated or that excessive shedding is medically not in the best interest of that fur-bearing pet. Have the veterinarian essentially write the order to perform the shave down for those cosmetic purposes and let the veterinarian be accountable if “Coat Funk” occurs after you the groomer do the shave down.
Groomers are rapidly evolving into a highly respected profession by the general public. Groomers are not just stylists, but they are also considered to be on the margin of the animal health care industry. So, lack of knowledge of services performed on the skin and hair coat of the pet by the groomer that may have negative health effects are inexcusable. Performing grooming services on a pet, knowing that it can be potentially injurious to the pet, such as a shave down of fur-bearing dogs only for cosmetic purposes, is even more egregious and open to litigation. So, when one of your better customers (clients) request “The Shave Down,” educate the pet owner of the potential negative effects on the skin and hair coat post shave down and, instead offer regular bathing and brush outs of the pet or refer them to the veterinarian for the veterinarians medical recommendation in writing for the groomer shave down.
In addition to the written direction from the veterinarian, have the pet owner sign a waiver exempting you from skin and hair coat damage post shave down. The Grooming Institute for Pet Cosmetology and Esthetics (GIPCE), currently the educational arm of Epi-Pet, has a Waiver Release Form available for request via e-mail at email@example.com. The free waiver should be used as a guideline for customer signature.
Fur-bearing dogs are defined with hair that grows to a predetermined length. Hair-bearing dogs have hair coats that grow to an undetermined length. Examples of fur-bearing dogs are Alaskan Malamutes, Keeshonds, Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds, Pomeranians, Chows, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, etc. Examples of hair-bearing dogs are Shih Tzu, Poodles, Lhasa Apso, Cockers, etc. The AKC website www.akc.org lists all the breeds and their coat type.
The author of this article was stimulated to write this article because of a recent article presented in Groomer to Groomer written by well respected and accredited grooming school writing about options of patterns for shave down in the fur-bearing dog. What strikes this author is that, even the best of the grooming schools, needs to reevaluate their curriculum and consider spending more time securing information for their students on the health of the pets’ skin and hair coat and incorporate additional education on how ingredients, products and grooming procedures effect the pets’ skin and hair coat. As the future of the grooming profession continues to emerge, groomers are not only going to be measured on their style and cutting abilities but also on their abilities to maintain or improve the health of the pets’ skin and hair coat.
Poodle Picture: www.vet.utk.edu