Has your pet ever received a “bad haircut” at your veterinarian's place? It happens ... a lot. Veterinary hospitals will fail to pay attention to their clipper blades, a tool as fundamental as it is maddening.

Why? Because clippers are notoriously finicky tools. They require lots and lots of maintenance (multiple times a day, usually) to keep them clean, sanitary, well-oiled and rust-free. After all, we use these usually-unsung instruments more times a day than we probably keep track of (routine phlebotomy, surgery site prep, IV cath site prep, puncture wound search, hot spot clip, wound care in general, etc.).

Which, I’ve been thinking, is probably because we’re so scalpel-and-syringe oriented that we’ve lost sight of some of vet med’s more mundane tools.

So says a groomer.

Here’s the exchange:

Q: I was hoping you could broach a subject that is driving me nuts? –– rusty clipper blades. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why vet techs and veterinarians go to such lengths to make a nice sterile field for surgery, yet start that process by shaving off the hair with a clipper blade that looks like it has been left out in the rain. Go on...I dare you....check the blades at your clinic.

Why is this a big deal? Well, with such a close shave and a gunky blade, you almost guarantee clipper burn. I am a groomer and I can't even count the number of pets I see clipper burned from the vet. I never understood this until I started volunteering and working at vet clinics (I'm attempting to be a vet myself). Every clinic I have ever been to has these nasty blades tucked in a drawer, and then they use them to prepare for surgery. I asked a few techs about this and they said, "well no one ever told us about blade care or checking a blade to see if it is hot".

If I ever clipper burned a dog or cat like that, I would be out of business. And I fail to see how one can expect an incision site to heal properly when the surrounding area is burned and driving Fido up the wall.

And as I had the joy, once again, of observing a nasty clipper burn on a lab that had a lipoma removed, I decided that even if I don't make it to vet school, I will at least leave my mark in the world by educating vets about this incongruity. Blades should be cleaned and oiled every night, no exceptions. And blades should be cleaned right after use on a animal that might be really dirty (only takes a few minutes). As a rule, I have at least 2 each of my closer shaving blades to switch up when they get hot while I work. If using a 40 or 50, I would say you need 3. I always check my blades on my wrist, if it's hot to the touch, I change blades.

I know that spay and neuter days can be busy, and techs not want to take the time to do this, but trust me, this is one of the biggest complaints I hear as a groomer about vets (besides how you raked them over the coals in price). And it only takes a moment. Some animals just have sensitive skin and there is nothing you can do, but the majority of 'post-op clipper burn' can be prevented. Please...help spread the word!

A: Thank you. I'm trying to think about how to blog about this. Do you have any other groomer-based complaints about veterinarians? This way I can include a few more issues than just the one.

In our defense, however, we oil our clipper blades about twice a day when it's busy and always at least once. We always clean the blades between patients. A rusty blade? Yeowch! That's malpractice!

To heck with the other issues, I decided. Enough of you out there take your pets to the veterinarian and watch the clipping process that you undeniably have a horse in this race.

How about it: Have you ever borne witness to travesties of the blade? I have, much though I’d like to think it happens elsewhere.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Lilly Full Haircut by Luke Larsson