Pampered Pooch: Grooming’s Important Role in Pet Health

By Julia L. Rivera//February 1, 2022//

The dog is sitting in a bubble bath with a yellow duckling and soap bubbles. Golden Retriever bathes with bath accessories.

Pampered Pooch: Grooming’s Important Role in Pet Health

By: Julia L. Rivera//February 1, 2022//

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If these past two years have taught us anything, it’s that the pet industry is a resilient one. Multiple sectors of the industry, including grooming, have seen a positive effect from the pandemic. The increase in pet adoptions – the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey reported that 70 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which is up from 67 percent reported in its previous survey – combined with the humanization trend and social media influence, have driven the growth of the grooming category.       

For pet groomer Jess Rona, her clients and their pets have become like family. Rona is an award-winning groomer, owner of Jess Rona Grooming, social media influencer, content creator and executive producer, creator and judge on HBO’s animal grooming show Haute Dog. She has styled pets belonging to Katy Perry, Jane Lynch, Maya Rudolph and many more.      

Rona has devoted her life to the grooming profession and has seen great success, which she attributes to social media. She has a combined Instagram and Facebook following of just over 253,000. 

“Social media in general has fully taken my business to the next level,” she said. “It’s given me the opportunity to reach a larger audience, spread joy and show the world what beautiful dog grooming is. I believe it’s changed the grooming industry.”     

It should come as no surprise that social media can have an impact on pet businesses. The APPA Pet Owners Survey revealed that Millennials are the largest cohort of pet owners at 32 percent, followed by Boomers at 27 percent and Gen X at 24 percent. Millennials grew up in the digital era and are digital natives, expertly navigating the different channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, just to name a few.      

Visuals are a major part of most social media postings. Video demonstrations with eye-catching graphics paired with voice-over narration can teach the viewer, while keeping them entertained. Luckily, this industry has the appeal of animals, a key marketing tool. Social media gives groomers, retailers and brands another platform that is, for the most part, free of cost. Rona uses it to “let my work speak for itself. I don’t have to prove myself anymore, which used to be a big part of my career.”     

These industry professionals can use social media to their advantage to educate pet owners and at the same time, promote their business. Rona posts grooming clips and tips highlighting the services at her Los Angeles grooming salon as well as the latest tools and techniques she uses. In an Instagram post from Oct. 20, Rona shared her top three puppy training tips for first-time grooming. In another, she featured the Andis PulseZR demonstrating how to use the tool during a grooming session.  

Partnerships between industry content creators and industry businesses can be an easy transition into the social media world. In May 2021, Rona and Andis Company joined together to introduce the brand to at-home pet parents. Then in August, the company announced it was rebranding to empower content creators, like Rona, using unique visual storytelling. 

“Our new brand identity celebrates a new generation of creators,” said Angie Vlasaty Peterson, Andis Company’s director of branding, in the release. “The stories of customers using our tools to express their creativity has always been our motivation to innovate, and we are excited to showcase their inspiration and passion with our new look.” 

One innovative tool, the Vida Clipper, has a slimmer, lighter weight design to help reduce groomers’ fatigue while working with any size dog. With a slim body shape, this clipper is easy to hold, reduces hand and wrist strain and makes it easy to maneuver in tight spaces. The clipper also easily adjusts to 5 different lengths and includes a USB-C charging port, convenient for charging the lithium-ion battery in the salon or on-the-go. 

“It’s great for groomers who need a small, versatile clipper for tough spots, or at-home pet parents who want to touch up their pet between appointments,” said Michelle Eskowski, animal product marketing manager for Andis Company. 

Although Rona’s Instagram is full of vibrant colors and beautiful dogs after their appointment, she explained that as a groomer she sees the less glamorous side behind the camera: ear infections, rotting teeth, nails growing into pads and skin issues, all of which can be avoided. She says pet parents should understand the importance of at-home grooming “because there are so many things that pet owners take their dog to the vet for that are preventable.”  

“When pet parents have a basic knowledge, they end up saving so much time, energy and money on their care,” Rona continued.      

Retailers should be working with brands to learn the ins and outs of products to pass on that knowledge to pet owners to encourage at-home grooming by including tidbits in their conversations with customers. 

It’s possible for a first-time puppy owner or cat owner to come into a store looking to purchase grooming items but is unsure where to start. A retailer should keep a stock of assorted products categorized by animal type, coat and skin type. Four Paws on the Beach owners Meghan and Matt Ruona keep a variety of products on the shelves of their two Oregon pet stores in Manzanita and Cannon Beach. For these store owners, they look to bring in products that are “high quality and [are] as close to natural and organic as possible.” 

Matt Ruona explained further that “the reduction of waste, especially within grooming products, is important to us.” While looking for safe products that are environmentally friendly, the pair discovered Project Sudz Organic Shampoo Bars. These bars were made to minimize single use plastics while providing solution-based shampoos for both cats and dogs. With five shampoos to choose from, retailers can provide environmentally conscious parents with a product that includes organic ingredients. 

Industry professionals are also seeking a natural and preventable approach to pets’ skin health. Since its launch in 2016, Skout’s Honor’s Probiotic Grooming line has since experienced explosive growth with a following from those professionals. The brand has partnered with GROOMER’S CHOICE, a leading distributor of professional grooming supplies, tools and products for groomers and retailers, in order to bring its products to pet lovers.  

Skout’s patent-pending and scientifically proven probiotic technology is the only natural, non-medicated alternative to traditional treatments like steroids and antibiotics, designed to support and promote pets’ skin health. Its Probiotic Grooming Solutions line includes shampoos, conditioners, detanglers, deodorizer sprays and other essentials.  

The products pet parents are scouring the internet for are influenced by the humanization trend and it has crept into the grooming sector. The trend can be seen in the verbiage as the phrase “pet spa” has started to appear more frequently in recent years, whether it be used by brands, retailers, groomers or owners. Treating pets to high-quality grooming or “spa” products means shampoos and conditioners, sprays and body and paw wipes that offer solutions and preventative measures while being safe for use.  

Besides pet humanization and the social media influence of pet grooming contributing to the market rise, the growth can also be attributed to the demand for new, innovative, convenient pet grooming products based on research and development. Owners are seeking solution- and preventative-based products that also feature the latest advancements they can use at home.    

Regular grooming does more than help pets look fresh and smell clean. It also is an important part of a pet’s proper hygiene, which can reduce the risk of skin issues, matting, ear infections, fleas and other health issues. The Thera-Clean System – using tap water — uniformly generates microbubbles that “allow the entire follicle to be cleaned deep into the dermis unlike other devices and/or products that can only get at the debris on the surface,” said Kyle Darling, president of Thera-Clean. 

“Bacteria, fungus and allergens can survive deep down in the follicle, and they must come out before the skin can start healing,” he added. 

Dr. James Zarowny, the company’s lead veterinarian consultant, has written protocol programs on how to implement the baths, protocols on different skin problems, how many baths will be needed and frequency of the baths. Thera-Clean provides video calls to educate clients and their staff whenever they feel they need assistance. The company also provides marketing materials that are client specific and designed to share with their own clientele. Posters, videos and over 125 before/after case images are at their disposal.    

No matter which lens you look through, pay-per-use self-serve wash stations add value to a business. As a store owner, these stations provide an additional revenue stream and allow your staff to focus on their other responsibilities. As a pet owner, using a self-serve dog wash station is a convenient, easy, affordable way to continue to bond with your pet through grooming. Some dogs feel more comfortable being bathed by their owners, especially as they age, and these stations can help ease the stress of being bathed.    

Evolution Dog Wash offers self-serve dog wash machines and cleaning products that put dogs first, ensuring their comfort, safety and care. Although there are several models to choose from, these products are “American made, outfitted with aircraft quality stainless steel and cutting-edge technology, then wrapped up in a sleek head-turning design,” said Matt Ogden, owner of Evolution Dog Wash. “Every model is self-contained and features built-in shampoo, conditioner and a grooming grade blow dryer.”   

The newest addition to the company’s portfolio is the entry level Evolution Dog Wash Mini. Built on a slightly smaller frame with a lower price point, the brand believes the new Mini will be an attractive solution for smaller store fronts, pet stores, veterinary clinics, dog groomers, boarders and breeders and other locations not wanting to invest as much up front.   

When washing a pet at home, Vetericyn has found that pet owners want a quick bath time without the old school shampoo application process. To solve both these issues, the company developed the FoamCare trigger system.  

According to Geoff Hamby, director of marketing at Vetericyn, the design “allows the pet owner to quickly spray on the product rather than ‘plop’ it in one spot and manually work it over the dog’s entire body.” 

“That, coupled with the foaming action, made for a truly innovative pet shampoo that makes bath time fast and frustration-free for pet owners,” he continued.   

The FoamCare line comes in three formulas: all-coat, thick coat and medicated. These options give pet parents the ability to select a more personalized shampoo without overwhelming them with too many options. The FoamCare pet shampoo is plant-based, paraben-free and free of chemical dyes.  

“It’s formulated to help pets retain essential skin oils and the unique formula is designed to rinse easier than any other pet shampoo,” Hamby explained.   

Another plant-based shampoo on the market is a Buddha Bubbles. Made with organic ingredients for sensitive skin, this biodegradable cleanser is both antiseptic and antifungal. For dogs with sensitive skin, this shampoo and its matching conditioner are two products that are a safe and natural way to soothe irritated skin. The shampoo is a a natural bug repellent that features notes of lemongrass and is made with organic rosemary, shea butter, oats and eucalyptus. While the shampoo cleans and neutralizes odors, the Buddha Bubbles Conditioner seals in the odor control with tropical botanical scents. 

Lucy Caprez, marketing director for Natural Cravings, the company that created Buddha Bubbles, reiterated much of the same sentiments as Matt Ruona when it comes to extra waste. “We created the bottles in 8oz for the conditioner and 16oz for the shampoo because you wash twice and condition once. So, why have double the conditioner when you only use half of it,” said Caprez. “It’s one of those little things that I thought of that isn’t necessarily industry standard.” 

Wipes, spritzers and sprays can be used in between groomings, at-home or on-the-go as temporary solutions. Much like dry shampoo for humans, waterless shampoos are a simple way to freshen up a pet. TropicClean Papaya and Coconut Waterless Shampoo features a soap-, paraben- and dye-free formula that leaves pets smelling fresh, while also cleanses and conditions the pet’s skin and coat.   

“We also expanded our offering with this popular fragrance and now offer Luxury 2-in-1 Papaya and Coconut Deodorizing Wipes,” said James Brandly, trade marketing communications specialist for Cosmos Corporation, the company that created the TropiClean brand.   

He continued, “The category is all about ease of use with results, and TropiClean Between-The-Bath products are easy to use and safe for pets and their people.”   

At TrueBlue, health and wellness are highly regarded as they are as important to a rich full life for pets as it is for human members of our families. The company carries products for dental hygiene, skin and coat care as well as ear and eye care but has seen a high demand for wipes specifically. TrueBlue offers three body and paw wipes, an ear wipe, eye wipe and dental wipe. Although one wipe is specifically designed for cats, TrueBlue founder Doug Gleason notes all TrueBlue wipes can be safely used on cats.  

“I think [health and] wellness is playing a bigger part in grooming overall. In the human world they call this category health and beauty. I think we are seeing the health side of it gaining a little bit more importance,” said Gleason. “The dental, ear, eye and grooming wipes, because they really hit the trend, are some of our top sellers.” 

Another brand that creates grooming wipes for cats and dogs is earthbath. Although it is widely known that dogs need to be groomed, it’s a misconception that cats do not.  

“Cats may need to be groomed due to health, age, or other issues that prevent them from doing an adequate job on their own,” explained Yvonne Roth, head of marketing for earthbath“We decided to offer cat products as well because we knew there was such a need, and cat products tend to be merchandised separately from dog products in stores.” 

The company has completely relaunched its grooming wipes and has been rolling them out as they are available. The key differences are the new and improved wipes, which are plant-based, gluten free, non-GMO and vegan. Roth explained that to reduce plastic usage, they have replaced the 100-count hard tubs with a resealable soft pack that uses significantly less plastic than before. 

For PawZ Dog Boots, safety is a priority. Founded on the idea of protecting pet’s paws and owners and their home, the company has expanded its offerings of paw essentials products to include SaniPaw Wipes and Spray. “With the pandemic, there has been a heightened sense of understanding the importance of keeping their paws sanitized to protect not only our furry friends, but their humans as well,” said Andrea Friedland, director of customer service and engagement for PawZ.    

The active ingredient in SaniPaw Wipes and Spray is chlorine dioxide, which is also the active ingredient in mouthwash and is used by municipalities to purify tap water. Friedland explained, “Chlorine dioxide is also known for efficacy in the presence of organic matter, in other words, dirty environments. This is important because dogs clearly have organic matter on their paws.”   

Body and paw wipes are not the only type of wipes on the market. Jax & Cali, founded by mother-son duo Gail and Andres Bergovich, extended its wipes inventory when it created toothbrush wipes. These easy-to-use pre-moistened finger-sized wipes feature Bactase Oral, which is a unique formula of a patented blend of natural enzymes that inhibits and reduces bacterial growth, plaque and inflammation. Made in the U.S.A., the Toothbrush Wipes are natural, cruelty-free and human grade, and Gail Bergovich said, “The reason for its success is that it actually works, and the product does what it says it does.”  

Innovation seems to be taking the grooming world by storm from sleek, cordless handheld clippers to a range of wipes, and as pet owners continue to be passionate about their animals, the sector is only projected to grow. Retailers should be prepared with knowledge about the options pet parents have for their animals’ specific grooming needs.