Entering the Flea Market
Even in this do-it-yourself age, not everyone wants to get their hands dirty or risk finding themselves not up to the task at hand. Sometimes, it is just best to hand the problem over to the experts. When it comes to fleas and ticks, there are more products than ever on the market for consumers who want to treat—or prevent—the problem at home, and yet, pet owners will often look to groomers as their first line of attack when hit with a parasitic infestation.
Still, while groomers are often equipped to handle flea- or tick-ridden pets quickly and effectively, the most beneficial service they may provide is offering the information and even the products that pet parents need to prevent infestations from happening in the first place. It is an opportunity for a grooming salon to solidify its reputation as an expert on pet care and as a foremost destination for grooming services.
Discovering fleas or ticks on a pet is a common problem, and many groomers are willing and able to help out the occasional customer who has a flea or tick infested pet. Salons in high-infestation regions, in fact, may be dealing with the issue on very regular basis. Either way, groomers have long been in the business of treating effected pets with flea baths or flea and tick shampoos.
Shawn Dowling, owner of Laurel, Md.-based Sean Patrick Pet Spa, for example, uses a flea and tick shampoo on the pets that come through his shop. “They immediately go into the tub and get a flea and tick bath,” he says, “and that will kill the fleas and ticks that are on the dog at that time.”
He offers a brand-name spot-on treatment to customers, as well, as an add-on to the service. But the advice he can offer these pet owners may be as appreciated as anything else he does at the shop.
“Generally, people have a lot of questions about what to do, since there are often issues with there being fleas in the owner’s home, depending on the level of infestation,” Dowling says.
Fleas & Ticks 101
While killing a few fleas or a tick on a dog is a manageable task, sometimes the infestation requires more than just that a trip to the groomer. Since infestations can spread from animal to animal, and plenty more fleas or ticks may be lurking in the backyard, carpeting or other furnishing, pet owners often have to apply a more aggressive and comprehensive treatment than a groomer is able to provide. In this case, the thing pet owners may need most from their groomers is some guidance and information about how to prevent and treat infestations. Groomers can also help by offering an assortment of flea- and tick-related staples.
The first step for groomers, however, may be helping customers shed some of the misconceptions they have about fleas, ticks and how pets become infested. And there are several floating around, according to Paris Revoir, DVM, pet specialty training manager at Bayer Animal Health, makers of Advantage II and K9 Advantix II.
“The first [misconception] is that flea and tick control is a seasonal activity,” he says. “Experts, including the Companion Animal Parasite Council (www.petsandparasites.org), recommend using flea and/or tick prevention on a year-round basis. If this past winter has proven anything for most of the United States, one can never predict the start or end of the period when fleas and ticks can be active.”
In fact, Revoir adds, even in regions where a typical winter is likely to bring on months of chilly temperatures and snowy days, customers may want to protect their pets from possible infestations.
“Fleas like the same environmental conditions in terms of temperature and humidity that people do, so our homes are great places for fleas to thrive and breed even if there is a foot of snow on the ground outside.”
Another common misconception groomers may want to shatter for their customers is the idea that as long as you don’t see any fleas, everything is fine.
Flea infestations can be particularly difficult to manage. Fleas have a four-stage lifecycle—egg, larvae, pupae and adult—and to be effective, treatments have to be able to kill fleas at each stage. Many , if not most brand-name treatments, on the market can and do work on all stages. however, some products will need to be used in conjunction with another product.
“The reality is that 95 percent of a flea infestation is in the pre-adult stages that the naked eye cannot see,” Revoir says. “It is necessary to use a flea-control product that treats all flea life cycle stages.”
People should know, as well, that killing ticks can also be challenging, and products that easily kill adult ticks may not be so effective on juvenile ticks or eggs. Finding the right product or combination of products is important.
The education process shouldn’t stop there. With the understanding that infestations can happen year round, it is important that pet owners know how to prevent them from happening. Groomers that know the products on the market and how they work can be invaluable resource to his or her clients. In fact, grooming business and boarding kennel consultant Shannon Heggem, NCMG, CKO, CMG, says offering information may be all that a grooming salon need concern itself with when it comes to flea and tick treatment.
Heggem says groomers—especially upscale salons, marketing to a high-end clientele—shouldn’t feel obligated to offer de-flea or tick-removing services at all, especially given the many products that pet owners can use themselves to treat and prevent infestations. “We’re pet stylists and not exterminators,” she says, adding that keeping groomers safe from the effects of chemicals or diseases associated with parasites like ticks is worth the loss of that revenue the service may bring in.
It is a good idea, however, for groomers to be able to offer guidance on the subject. She suggests that salons post printable information on their websites about prevention and treatment, or put up signage in the shop about recommended products.
“Keeping current is really the key, because the technology is changing all the time,” Heggem says. “New products are coming out constantly. Staying on top of that is really important, not necessarily so that you can use them, but so you can inform your client [about them].”
Grooming salons can also choose to take it one step further by offering flea and tick products for sale. These days, owners don’t even have to head to the veterinarian’s office to get the treatments they need. The market offers a wide range of products that both prevent and treat the problem. They come in various forms, from powders to sprays, and with increasingly inventive delivery systems. The market has also evolved to include many botanical and all-natural alternatives to the traditional treatments, as well as sprays and treatments for the home, the backyard and surrounding environment.
Since the field of options has broadened so much in recent years, deciding which products to promote and sell may take a bit of research. Knowing the ingredients in the treatments, how they work and their effects is key. For starters, having a good understanding of these products allows a salon owner to make an informed decision about what to stock. Groomers will also need this information in order to be able to give customers sound advice and answer questions.
In many cases, the manufacturers themselves will provide much of the information groomers and customers will need. For example, Bayer provides training resources through its distributors. “These include educational materials and training seminars for staff, as well as tools to assist associates to educate pet owners,” Revoir says.
Groomers may or may not choose to stock flea and tick treatments, and those who do may have a limited amount of space to devote to the category. Still, at least knowing the various options, from the traditional treatments to the natural options and all the forms in which these come, can come in handy when customers come in with inevitable questions about preventing or treating infestations.
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