[Guide] How to Prevent and Treat Razor Burn on a Dog

by K Marie Alto July 14, 2022 11 min read

[Guide] How to Prevent and Treat Razor Burn on a Dog

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.

What is Razor Burn and How Does it Happen?

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.  

Organic Dry dog shampoo_v2_ by Momma Knows Best

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.

Dog Razor Burn Image by Toe Beans

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.

Slicker dog Brush by EarthCare

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:

  • Dull clippers. If the blades on your clippers are dull, they won't cleanly cut through fur as you trim. Instead, they'll end up pulling on those hairs, which tugs at the skin and irritates it. In small amounts, this is annoying but not dangerous, but if it repeatedly happens in the same area, it results in razor burn.
  • Trimming too close to the skin. While razor burn isn't actually cutting into the skin, the vibration and motion of clippers can irritate the skin if it's pressed up against it. Unless you really, really need to shave your fur baby, you generally don't want to get that close to their skin. Even cutting away matted fur or trimming back a shaggy coat doesn't need a super close shave; typically this is reserved for surgical preparation.

    "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.

    • Hot clippers. Since clippers are rapidly moving, moving constantly, and powered by a small, poorly-ventilated motor, heat builds up in them. In small dogs or for small amounts of trimming, this doesn't result in a problem. However, if you're doing a more thorough grooming with a larger dog, you may need to pause to let the clippers cool down; otherwise, the heat can irritate or even burn your poor fur baby's skin. This can also be an issue with busy groomers when their tools are in constant use.
    • Heavily matted fur. If you're taking care of your fur baby properly, this won't be a problem, but if your poor pooch gets lost for days in the woods, or if you're dealing with a stray you're rescuing, matted fur can be a problem. In addition to potential infections already present, matted fur requires a closer shave and more pulling to remove, and that can lead to razor burn.
    • Inappropriate pressure. Too much pressure is a common cause for clippers to irritate your pup’s skin. Combining the pressure with dull or hot blades and you’re just asking for trouble. This one is tough to master for the beginner groomer as it can vary based on the clippers and size blade you use.

      Organic Dog Skinfold Balm_2_ by Momma Knows Best

      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.

      How to Spot Razor Burn on Your Dog

      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.

      CBD oil for dogs_unlock healing powers_by Momma Knows Best

      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.

      Searching For Razor Burns Image by Toe Beans

      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.  

      How to Avoid Razor Burn When Grooming Your Dog

      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.

      Preventing Razor Burn While Grooming Image by Toe Beans

      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.

      Dog Rope Toys made in the USA by Toe Beans

      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.

      How to Treat Razor Burn on Your Dog

      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.  

      Dog Styptic powder by Momma Knows Best

      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.

      Treating a Razor Burn Image by Toe Beans

      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.

      • An Oatmeal Bath, is a great way to soothe the skin, but if you’ve just gotten your pup home from the groomer, you may not want to have to start from scratch. However, if your pup has large areas of razor burn, this is going to be an effective way to soothe it. Just remember to keep the water room temp and make sure your pup is nice and dry when you’re done.
      • Vitamin E, these little capsules are inexpensive and readily available at any grocery store. Simply poke a hole in it and apply to the affected area. Continue doing this daily until the rash has resolved.
      • Witch Hazel, is a plant that has been used for centuries to help a variety of skin issues. It helps reduce both pain and inflammation. It comes in little convenient wipes, but if you have a bottle, use a cotton ball to apply it to your pup’s skin.
      • Aloe Vera, is great for soothing skin, but never use raw aloe that you’ve harvested yourself.Aloe contains latex, which can be toxic if your dog ingests it. You can avoid this risk by purchasing a food grade aloe, that has had the latex removed.

      As an alternative, or in addition to the items above, you can also use the following to soothe your pup’s skin:

      • Petroleum jelly, which is pet-safe as long as it doesn't have additives.
      • Vetericyn, which is a topical ointment made to help balance pH levels, heal skin irritation, and improve the healing process.
      • Certain lotions like Aquaphor, which are made from petroleum jelly and moisturizers. Make sure you know what's in it and that it's non-toxic!
      • Dog skin moisturizer,there are plenty of options out there. Most are marketed as dog paw balms but they can be used to moisturize any part of your pup. We recommend looking for USDA certified organic options to avoid any harsh chemicals and potentially toxic substances from making it into your pups blood stream.

      If your pup insists on licking, scratching, or rubbing at the area. You may need to take some additional protective measures.

      • Get a cone or Elizabethan collar. These can help prevent your fur baby from rubbing their face against surfaces (if the razor burn is on their face) or licking at it on their body. It can't really help against scratching, though. Make sure you get a soft collar that won't irritate or get in the way of your fur baby's lifestyle, though. There are a lot of soft collar options that won't irritate or get in the way of your fur baby's comfort – so don’t feel like they have to be in a plastic cone of shame.
      • Consider a light shirt or sweater. If their irritated skin is on their body, you may be able to use a shirt or costume as a way to prevent them from scratching at the area. Just make sure it's light and breathable; otherwise, you might trap moisture and cause an infection.

      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

      Read More Dog Care Guides

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      K Marie Alto
      K Marie Alto

      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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