Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Professional grooming has always been an industry that demands protocols against contracting zoonotic diseases as well as the spread of parasites, bacteria, and viruses from pet to pet. However, in these current days of a COVID-19 pandemic these protocols are even more important than ever
Professional grooming is an essential service for the majority of our clients. Not to mention the fact that professional groomers have bills to pay the same as everyone else. So how do we handle getting back to work, protect ourselves, our clients, and the pets we groom? We adapt. We implement new protocols that could be temporary or perhaps permanent. We set new rules and adjust our business to safely accommodate clients. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we ensure that our business can continue to thrive financially.
COVID-19 Transmission In The Pet Industry
The Centers for Disease Control, the World Organisation for Animal Health as well as other independent infectious disease experts have found no evidence to indicate that the few incidentally infected pets are responsible for the spread of COVID-19.
Our concern with infection comes from human to human contact. COVID-19 is primarily contracted through a person's bodily secretions. Droplets from coughing, sneezing, yelling, or even talking loudly can travel 6 - 12 feet depending on the environment.
COVID-19 can be also spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the mouth, nose, and/or eyes. However, this appears to be a secondary route. Remember that viruses survive/transmit better on non-porous surfaces (counters, doorknobs, pens) than porous surfaces (pet fur).
While there are definitive symptoms of COVID-19, one of the best protocols is to assume everyone you interact with or allow into your salon has tested positive. This is because we know the incubation period can range from 5 to 14 days before the onset of the first symptoms. We also know that asymptomatic carriers are still perfectly capable of spreading the virus.
From start to finish, there are protocols we can take to ensure our safety. Some are minor adjustments to things we have always done. Some are completely new and alien to us, so they will take time and patience on both the part of you and your clients. Here are a few suggestions to help protect everyone:
Masks - The most important tool we have in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 is a mask when interacting with our clients. Masks prevent the spread of droplets into the surrounding air which then have the probability of being inhaled by others.
This shouldn't be anything new for professional groomers as we wear masks to prevent us from inhaling hair and dander which can lead to what commonly is referred to as 'groomer's lung' But what about our clients? If clients are being allowed into your salon, the best protocol is to require a mask be worn. This is made easier if you can provide a disposable mask for those who forget.
2. Curbside Drop Off & Pick Up - Numerous grooming salons including my own have adopted this protocol. Curbside drop off and pick up is just that. Clients do not enter the salon. Instead, you or an employee collect the pet from the client's car. Cats should be placed in carrier located on the passenger side of the back seat if possible. This allows you to have minimal contact with the owner. This can work for small dogs as well. Larger dogs should be leashed and ready to exit via the back passenger side as well, again allowing for minimal contact with the pet owner. Remember to wear your mask.
3. Straight To The Tub - We know that viruses transmit more readily from non-porous surfaces. Pet fur/hair is porous and while possible does not pose a serious threat of transmission. However, the safest protocol at this time is to get the pet to the tub as quickly as possible if not immediately upon entering the salon.
We also know that basic soap will kill COVID-19 when lathered vigorously for 20 seconds or more. This goes beyond the time it takes to properly bath even the smallest of pets with our plethora of professional shampoos. Therefore, if we get the pet directly to the tub we know we have eliminated any risk involved with COVID-19 as well as any other transmissible virus or parasites.
Groomers who are used to pre-clipping before the bath would have the most difficult time adapting to this protocol. While there are numerous reasons to skip the pre-clip, there are situations such as matted coats that have no other alternative.
4. Collars, Leashes, & Carriers - Non-porous items such as nylon collars, coated leashes, and plastic carriers pose more of a risk than the coat of the pet. Having the proper disinfectant handy to spray these items will prevent potential transfer. Do this quickly as disinfectants must either dry on the surface or sit on the surface for a specific amount of time before being wiped. You don't want to send home a wet collar, leash, or carrier. Find EPA approved disinfectants listed here and learn how to confirm if your disinfectant has an EPA registration number and that human coronavirus is listed as a target pathogen.
Some professional groomers have chosen to offer slip leads to clients for their dogs thus eliminating the need for handling collars and leashes. Slip leads are inexpensive especially when purchased in bulk. They can be sent with the client to be disposed of once home or they can be carried back into the salon to either be disposed of or reused. Remember to thoroughly sanitize if you intend to reuse.
5. Staggering Appointments - More and more professional grooming salons are booking by appointment only these days. How these appointments are booked depends on the business structure of each individual salon. How many groomers are there? Does each groomer have a bather? Is there a receptionist available?
These are just a few questions we need to take into account. At the end of the day it most often amounts to grooming less pets per day. This could mean an average of one to three fewer pets per day to allow time for curbside drop-off/pick-up, extra disinfecting protocols, perhaps adapting to not having a bather, etc...We will address this more further down the list.
6. General Cleaning & Disinfecting - In an industry where we work with live animals from whom we could contract zoonotic disease, both internal and external parasites, and specific infections from bites/scratches, the protocols we should already have in place will allow us to readily adapt to COVID-19 disinfecting.
We commonly disinfect our essential equipment (grooming tables, clippers, blades, scissors, combs, brushes, etc...) but remember those slip leads? We also need to remember to disinfect items such as reception tools. Pens, pencils, debit/credit card machines, each of these and more are non-porous items that can more easily transfer viruses. Also remember to disinfect brooms, shop-vacs, clipper-vacs, etc...While there is minimal concern with what the pet comes in contact with, basically anything the human touched needs disinfecting especially if clients are allowed into the salon.
7. Let's Talk Prices - Earlier, we discussed staggering appointments and the ramifications that can have on the business's finances. Most of us will see a drop in the number of dogs we groom per day, at least for the unforeseen future, as we adapt to new protocols. If you are one of the few who does not see a drop in your number of pets per day, good for you! But for those who wish to stay in business and actually earn a living, this means a price increase.
I know, I know...many people are out of work right now! But if you don't accept the inevitable, you will be out of work too.The loss of even a single dog per day can add up to quite a lot. But what about the items you now need as essential supplies? Masks, perhaps face shields, proper disinfectants, slip leads...all these items are now a regular expense. Then there is the time you spend on extra disinfecting, hence the drop in the number of dogs per day. You might want to do some checking around too. My CFMG says the cost of her blades has increased from 35.00 to 45.00 in the last few months. If ever there was a time to increase prices, it's now.