Ah! How nice it is to hug a clean, nice-smelling, and well-coiffed dog fresh from the groomer. And those perky little bows are so cute. You may have a breed like a poodle that requires regular professional grooming. Or you may just prefer to have a pro do the job.
But grooming that includes shaving can occasionally cause skin irritations like the kind you might get on your legs or face when you use a razor. Razor burn usually appears as a red, bumpy rash but might also be a bright pink or red area without bumps. It can be sensitive to the touch and may also be itchy. Razor burn can appear immediately or take hours, or even a couple of days, to show up.
Reasons dogs get razor burn
Dogs can get razor burn if the blade used on them was too dull. A dull blade drags against the skin and pulls the hair, which irritates the skin. When a groomer is working with a dull blade there's a tendency to push harder to force the blade to work. This pulls at the hair more and, well, you get the picture.
Overheated clippers can also cause razor burn. Electric clippers made for animal use are designed to not overheat. But friction between their moving parts over a long period of time can still cause the blades to get hot.
Particularly when working on a large dog, groomers may shut their clippers off periodically to allow them to cool down and oil them to reduce friction. But if they don't do this often enough, the overheated metal parts of the clippers can come into contact with your dog's skin and burn it.
Clipping too close to the skin can also cause razor burn or even a cut that bleeds. And some dogs just have very sensitive skin.
Assess and clean
If your dog develops a skin irritation after being shaved, it's probably razor burn. The first thing to do is assess how serious it is. In other words, is it vet-bill worthy?
If the area is inflamed with or without bumps, you can probably treat it yourself. If it's oozing blood or fluid, best to bring your dog to the vet.
If you've decided to treat the razor burn yourself, you should clean the irritated skin and apply a dressing. You'll also want to keep your dog from making it worse by preventing him from rubbing, scratching, or licking it.
Rinse the area with slightly cool, clear water and gently pat it dry. Or, if it's in a spot that's not easy to rinse, just pat it very gently with a washcloth saturated with clear, clean water.
Safe and effective remedies
Aloe vera gel is an excellent, natural remedy for canine razor burn. Note that aloe vera gels are fine to use on your dog, but never apply aloe straight from the aloe leaf, as this could be harmful if the dog licks it. Pure aloe contains saponins, which can be toxic if ingested.
Products that contain hypochlorous acid, like Vetericyn, are excellent for treating skin irritations on dogs, cats, horses, and other animals. Hypochlorous acid is produced by the body's white blood cells in response to infection. It's not actually acidic at all, it's pH balanced. It doesn't sting and can even be used safely around your dog's eyes, ears, and mouth.
Triple antibiotic ointments like Neosporin can usually be safely used. (There is a rare dog here and there that will have an allergic reaction to it.) Use the ointment instead of the cream because the creams have more additives. Do not use the ointment that contains painkillers as it can make your dog sick.
Protect the razor burn
An Elizabethan or E collar is the most common way to cut off a dog's access to a wound. You can buy one at a pet supply store. Pet stores also sell inflatable "doughnut" collars like the Kong Cloud.
Inflatable collars don't block a dog's vision as the cone-shaped E collars do. They're also soft, pliable, and more comfortable than E collars. But depending on how good a contortionist your dog is, it may not keep him from accessing the razor burn as well as an E collar.