Clipper Rash - a Groomer's Guide

Clipper Rash - a Groomer's Guide

Whether you’re new to the industry or an experienced groomer, clipper rash can (and likely will!) happen. As with most things, preparation is key. So, let’s take a look at how to prevent clipper rash, and how to treat it when it does occur. 


What causes clipper rash?


Clipper rash, otherwise known as clipper burn or razor rash, describes the skin irritation that can be caused while using clippers. Common causes of clipper rash include: 


-       shaving too close to the skin 

-       overheated clippers 

-       dirty clippers 

-       damaged clipper blades 

-       nicking the skin with the clippers 

-       skin sensitivity 


Clipper rash is not uncommon, so here’s all you need to know.


What does clipper rash look like?


You may notice sore, red looking skin at the end of the grooming session. Or you may notice the dog scratching or licking at a particular area of their body. However, more often than not, the clipper rash is not obvious before the pet leaves your grooming salon. 


The first sign of clipper rash may be the pet owner noticing their dog licking or scratching at home. Other symptoms of clipper rash include:


- red, sore looking skin

- oozing skin

- wet or clumped fur (from excessive licking)


Clipper rash tends to be more common around the groin, under the neck, the face area, and sometimes the feet and tail. If any areas are particularly matted, these will be more prone to clipper rash after grooming too. Keep in mind that clipper rash can occur anywhere!


Because the skin is itchy and sore, the dog will lick or scratch the area. This makes the rash worse, the skin itchier and sorer, and so starts a vicious cycle. If left untreated, clipper rash can lead to pyoderma (bacterial skin infection). 


How to prevent clipper rash


You can never completely avoid clipper rash, as some dogs will have particularly sensitive skin. However, there are steps you can take to try to prevent it:


-       Ensure the skin and coat are clean and dry before starting

-       Make sure you are cleaning your blades properly between animals 

-       Check your clipper blades regularly for signs of damage, and replace them as needed

-       Ensure your clipper blades don’t get too hot. Check them regularly on the back of your hand and change them, or use clipper oil, if they feel hot. Clipper blades can heat up in as little as 10-15 minutes

-       Never shave too closely: use the correct blade length for the area of the body you are working on

-       Choose longer blade lengths for dogs with sensitive skin

-       Consider opting for longer blades in a dog that hasn’t been groomed for a long time

-       If you’re inexperienced, it may be sensible to start with longer blades, until you get used to applying the correct pressure

-       Watch the angle of your clippers

-       Keep the number of times you pass the clippers over any one particular area to a minimum


Having a chat with your clients before grooming can help you to tailor their groom, and prevent clipper rash. Do they have sensitive skin or skin allergies? Are there any particular areas of sensitivity? Have they had any skin issues after a groom or medical clip in the past? A good history can make all the difference, and make your life easier.


How to treat clipper rash


If you notice clipper rash, initial first aid treatment should be aimed at soothing the skin and preventing infection. Whenever the skin barrier is compromised, such as with clipper rash, this makes it easier for bacteria to cause an infection. Start by cleaning the area with an antibacterial wash, wipe or first aid spray. Next, apply a cold pack to help soothe the area. (Although it’s worth noting that you should never apply an ice pack directly to the skin or you risk freezer burn. Either use a medical cold pack or an ice pack wrapped in a tea towel).


These skin rashes are very itchy, so it’s important to prevent the dog from scratching or licking. You could use an Elizabethan collar or a temporary loose-fitting bandage. Self-trauma will make the rash worse and much more likely to become infected. Make sure you communicate this to the owner too, so they can prevent self-trauma at home.


Good communication is key in these situations. If a dog was particularly matted, it’s a good idea to warn the owner that they may develop clipper rash in these areas, and explain why. Warning the owner ahead of time allows them to be prepared. If you notice clipper rash before you send a pet home, or suspect clipper irritation, be upfront with the owner about what has happened, and advise them to seek veterinary guidance about their pet. If left untreated, the outcome is likely to be much worse.


Written by: Sarah-Jane Molier BVM&S BSc MRCVS