How to keep yourself and your clients safe during COVID: Tips for groomers
This last year has brought unprecedented challenges for the dog grooming industry. The uncertainty has been daunting and, at times, confusing. As we move into 2021, the industry faces further challenges. Fortunately, most biosecurity measures relating to COVID are now second nature to us all. There is good guidance to be found from numerous sources, including the government and CFSG (Canine and Feline Sector Group). Always make sure you follow the latest government advice. Here we summarise some top tips for safely grooming dogs during COVID.
Can dog groomers continue to work through COVID-19?
The government rules (at time of writing) state that dog owners may leave home to take their pet to the groomers. However, importantly, this must only be for welfare reasons, not for aesthetics. In fact, they list the following in the businesses that can remain open ‘Animal Rescue Centres, Boarding Facilities and animal groomers (May continue to be used for animal welfare, rather than aesthetic purposes)’ In addition, all grooming must be by appointment only. This is to minimise contact between owners, to minimise contact between animals and to allow for disinfection between animals.
In order to continue working safely, make sure you update your risk assessments and safety protocols regularly. Check with your insurance company that you have the right cover for grooming through the COVID pandemic. To help re-assure your clients, there is a poster available to download from the government website to display, if you are complying with the government’s guidance on managing the risk of COVID-19 (see the government website for more details and criteria).
Can I get COVID from a dog?
As far as we know, coronavirus infection in pets is rare. Dogs, cats and ferrets can all contract coronavirus, and there have been some documented cases of owners transmitting coronavirus to their pets. At present however, there is no evidence that pets can transmit coronavirus to people. The main routes of potential infection within the pet grooming industry are between clients and groomers; between different clients and between grooming staff. However, it is important to remember that there is a potential risk of pets acting as fomites. This means that they may carry the virus on their fur or belongings, and transmit the virus this way.
How can dog groomers work safely through COVID-19?
Naturally, you may be anxious about looking after a dog during COVID. You want to continue to provide the best care and service you can, while being apprehensive about the risks. Here are our top tips for keeping yourself, your clients and their animals safe:
General COVID biosecurity measures:
General biosecurity is second nature to us all now, but it never hurts to have a refresher!
Make sure you are washing your hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, as often as you can. In between washes, use hand sanitiser regularly.
Face masks should be worn by both parties when interacting with clients (with the exception of those who are exempt). Masks are recommended for staff within the groomers if more than one person is present; but this does not negate the need for social distancing. Wash your hands before putting on your mask and after taking it off. Dispose of your mask safely after use, or place it in a sealed bag until it can be washed. Masks should only be worn once before being disposed of or washed.
Social distancing should be maintained at all times between staff and clients, as well as between staff. 2m should be adhered to wherever possible and a minimum of 1m at all times.
If you need to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue and then dispose of it safely. If you don’t have a tissue, cover your mouth and nose with your elbow.
If there is more than one member of staff, or clients are entering the building, use one-way systems wherever possible.
Avoid handling cash and stick to card payments only.
Pet hand-over measures
Continue to screen owners pre appointment. The day before or morning of grooming, ask them to confirm that no one in the household is showing symptoms; that they are not self-isolating or been asked to self-isolate; and that they have not travelled in the last 14 days.
Consider asking owners to remain in their cars until you are ready to receive or return their pet. Both admit and discharge must be by appointment only. You could ask the owner to phone, message or ring the door-bell (then return to their car) to signal their arrival. Handover should ideally be done in an outdoor space with social distancing maintained. Where this is not possible and the handover is inside, both parties should wear masks. Cats should be left in a secure carrier, for you to transfer.
Wash your hands before and after collecting a pet; as well as before and after returning them. Limit handling anything else, such as phones, during these contact times. Consider wiping the pet over with pet-safe disinfectant wipes or spray on arrival. Use pet safe disinfectant to wipe down collars and leads. Use your own equipment wherever possible.
If you have an animal in your vehicle, whether you are a mobile dog groomer or collecting, then use pet-safe disinfectant to thoroughly disinfect the vehicle between animals.
Biosecurity during grooming and between animals
Consider choosing a pet-safe disinfectant shampoo for extra peace of mind. Between each patient, use disinfectant (with efficacy against coronavirus) to clean the grooming table, your scissors and grooming equipment, all surfaces and the floor.
Grooming dogs from owners who are shielding or vulnerable
Animals from households who are shielding or vulnerable should ideally be groomed first. Avoid mixing these pets with other animals. You should avoid contact with the owner if at all possible.
Grooming dogs from households who are infected or self-isolating
Consider whether grooming can wait until the household is clear, or self-isolation has ended. In terms of grooming, true emergencies are rare, so the great majority of animals will be able to wait until it is safer for the pet to be groomed. In the unlikely event that you do need to groom an animal from a household that is infected or self-isolating, then these animals should be groomed last. You should not have contact with anyone from the household. Consider asking the owners to arrange an alternative means of transport. Pets from these households should not mix with, or come into contact with, pets from other households.
Hang in there!
Understandably, these new ways of working can sometimes feel time consuming and frustrating. However, they are needed to safely continue to provide a service to clients, and care to their pets. This article is intended for guidance and tips only: the government rules and advice changes regularly, so ensure you keep up to date with the relevant information on their website.
Wishing you all a happy and healthier 2021!