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.
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.
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!
Main Causes of Razor Burn in Dogs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 100% dog and cat safe and, USDA certified organic, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!
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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 50K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-). Read more