by K Marie Alto July 14, 2022 11 min read
Grooming is an essential and regular part of caring for your pup. Whether it's keeping their eyes and ears clean, trimming their fur to keep it from matting or getting irritated, or giving your pup a quick bath every couple of weeks, you need to stay on top of their grooming.
One of the most common issues with dog grooming is razor burn, also sometimes called clipper burn, brush burn, or razor rash. It can occur when you're grooming your fur baby or even when an expert groomer is doing it, and you might not even be able to tell it's happening.
In this blog post I discuss all about how to prevent and treat razor burn on a dog. From how to spot it, to how to avoid it to how to treat it when it happens.
As always, for pet parents 🤓 looking for more dog fur care guides, never ever ever miss the further reading section at the bottom. My blog is simply packed 📚 with useful resources.
Razor burn is a skin condition that can afflict dogs, humans, and pretty much any living thing with hair. It's technically a form of "contact dermatitis," that is, inflammation of the skin caused by something that came into contact with it. In this case, a razor or clippers.
Razor burn generally only happens to people and animals with sensitive skin but it can also happen if you're using the wrong tools for the job. For a person, that usually means a dull razor or a razor without any sort of product to soften hair and soothe skin. It's a little different for dogs, though.
Razor burn doesn't show up immediately in dogs. It's not like cutting yourself shaving; it's more like the clippers pulling on each little hair in their fur coat, tugging and irritating the skin.
It's also distinct from razor bumps, which are ingrown hairs caused by shaving too close, where the hair follicle ends up blocked and the hair curls up under the skin instead of emerging through like it should. That's much less common in dogs, though it can still happen.
Razor burn isn't terribly bad in people. After all, you can recognize what it is and soothe it using a skin cream. Dogs, however, don't have that kind of self-control or luxury.
In dogs, razor burn can be painful, cause itching and scratching, and your dog will likely lick around that spot, which further irritates the skin. The regular licking continues to irritate the area preventing it from properly healing. Continued licking can eventually lead to a skin infection or even a wound if they break the skin.
But what causes razor burn, clipper burn, or brush burn in dogs? The answer is right there in the name.
Since razor burn tends to be a sensitive skin issue, it’s important to keep an eye on the areas that tend to be most sensitive, the face, under the arms, and in the groin area. If your fur baby has their coat shaved down (like if you need to trim it down in spring to make them more comfortable in the heat), it can lead to razor burn. Clipper burn is the same thing, and brush burn occurs when you brush one area too much, and it irritates the skin. Think of it like a rugburn, or even like scratching at an itchy spot so much that it gets raw and painful (as anyone who has ever been bitten by a mosquito can attest to.)
Some dogs have very sensitive skin and are prone to razor burn even when the right tools are used. Other dogs are fine for most of their lives but become more prone to the issue later in life as their skin thins due to age. Many others have thick, impenetrable skin and never experience razor burn in their lives. Lucky them!
Here are the main causes of razor burn or clipper burn in dogs:
"For most pet dogs, a #10 or #15 blade is considered a safe length to start with if it is used correctly… On pets that are extremely sensitive, even longer blades such as a #9 or a #7F are safer alternatives.” learn2groomdogs.com.
Finally, "brush burn" is a variation of razor burn caused by too much brushing in one spot. Most commonly, it happens when you're trying to brush out a mat, especially if you're not using the right brush. Many pet parents are inclined to use a slicker brush, but this brush is best left to the professionals as the metal bristles will damage your pup’s skin if it’s not used properly. Try it on your own head if you don’t believe me. Instead, look for a brush with rounded bristles that can perform the same job with much less risk.
The biggest challenge with razor burn is that it takes time to show up, often hours (or even a day) after the grooming occurred. Because of this lag, you might not associate cause and effect and might not realize you're dealing with razor burn.
Razor burn is a skin irritation and you need to know the signs so you know what to watch for. Visually, this means pink skin or redness. In more serious cases you might spot small bumps, and possibly even scratches or lines. Behaviorally, your fur baby will likely constantly lick, scratch, or rub the affected area. Usually, their behaviors will make it worse, so you'll want to keep an eye on your pooch for a day or two after being groomed to make sure it doesn't show up.
Generally, razor burn will start to show up within a few hours of grooming. If your fur baby does not show any signs of irritation by then, they'll probably be fine. The exception is if they got a close shave and it exposes their skin to an irritant, but that's not really razor burn, it's just unrelated skin irritation.
Now that we know what causes razor burn, it better prepares us in the future for preventing it.
First things first, if you’re new to shaving your pup ask a friend or visit a groomer and ask for a recommendation for clippers. Ask how long the blades last and if the clippers tend to overheat. It’s also helpful to know how loud the clippers in case your pup is timid around loud noise.
Once you have your new clippers, always start out with a longer blade even if you ultimately want a shorter cut. By doing so you can begin to gauge if your pup has sensitive skin by watching their reaction after the clipping. This also gives you a little more room for error as you learn how much pressure to use.
If this isn’t your first rodeo, but you accidentally gave your pup razor burn, you might need to sharpen or replace your clipper blades. You should also make sure to check the temperature of the clippers to make sure they aren’t hot to the tough. If they are, let them cool down before proceeding. Also, remember to avoid brushing too much in one spot, and do smaller amounts of grooming more frequently to avoid letting mats build up.
Alternatively, if you’re going to a groomer, ask for a recommendation from friends or your vet, or check out reviews online. Before you ever hand over your pup, make sure you communicate any skin sensitivities your pup might have. In doing so your groomer will likely use a longer blade to prevent irritation.
Now if your groomer caused the rash, you need to talk to them about it. They may not know that their tools need sharpening, or they may have simply shaved too close when they shouldn't have done so. Since they don't get to see your fur baby in action after the grooming, they won't be getting the necessary feedback. So as awkward as it may be, you need to tell them what works and what doesn’t work for your pup.
If your poor fur baby is suffering from razor burn after grooming, try not to worry too much. It's always heartbreaking to see them suffering, but it's a very minor ailment as long as you treat it quickly.
Luckily, unless it's further irritated, razor burn will go away on its own, so you want to do what you can to prevent that additional irritation.
First, you should take a look over your canine companion. Look for any red patches and splotches that may indicate razor burn or another form of skin irritation. Look out for behavioral indications for a few days after the grooming session.
If it's a full-on rash with cracked skin, blood, or even worse, oozing pus, then you have an infection going on. If your fur baby has developed an infection, take them to the vet right away for treatment. You don't want to let it linger and get worse.
The key thing with helping razor burn to heal is making sure that it stays dry. Dampness can lead to further irritation like hotspots. The second most important thing to do is to discourage your pup from licking, scratching or biting at the affected area. Once you start to soothe the burning and itching your pup is more likely to learn the area alone.
You’re probably wondering at this point what you can use to soothe your pup’s skin and I have several options, let’s start with the natural ones.
As an alternative, or in addition to the items above, you can also use the following to soothe your pup’s skin:
If your pup insists on licking, scratching, or rubbing at the area. You may need to take some additional protective measures.
You may also want to spend extra time monitoring your pooch and stopping them if they're scratching or licking at the area. If they persist, consider a more soothing ointment to cut back on the itching.
Do you have any questions about how you can either prevent or treat a razor burn on your dog? Or perhaps, do you have any concerns about razor burn your furry friend already has? As always, if there is any cause for concern, be sure to take them to the vet, as being safe is always the correct call. But if you have other non-serious questions on the topic, please feel free to leave those down below! I'd love to assist you and your canine companion however possible!
If you are looking to a little something for your fur baby that is unique, made right here in the USA (or anywhere but in China), 100% dog and cat safe and, USDA certified organic, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!
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K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 30K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).
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