ASCP Skin Deep

July/August 2013

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your niche Animal Esthetics Pet spas are more than just dog washing by Rebecca Jones Renee Bartis, of Mebane, North Carolina, is a former cosmetology instructor who wanted to do something better suited to her love of animals. So it was a welcome surprise, when she went back to school to become a professional pet groomer, to immediately discover that her previous training in skin care would serve her well. Five years ago, Bartis opened Cameo's Pet Spa, where she now earns about $75,000 a year offering coconut oil scrubs, mud wraps, salt soaks, and paw treatments, as well as traditional pet grooming services. Those aren't just fancy names for oldfashioned dog washing. "We can select the proper treatment for each pet's individual skin needs," Bartis says. Vinegar rinses acidify a dog's skin, close the cuticle of the hair shaft, and condition the coat. Mud wraps regulate oily skin in the same way a clay mask works on a human client. And salt soaks can soothe itchy, irritated paws. To her delight, the business has proven nearly recession-proof. "It's a great industry for income," she says. "People spend money on their pets even when they might not spend it on themselves." Bartis spent three years learning to become an animal groomer, though it's possible to do it in as little as 18 months. Professional groomers, such as those certified by the National Dog Groomers Association of America, are the equivalent of canine cosmetologists. Because of her background in human esthetics, Bartis is especially adept at working on animals with skin issues. Michael Fleck, of Bradenton, Florida, approached animal esthetics from the opposite direction. A veterinarian for 40 years, Fleck became interested in the world SkinDeep_JA_2013.indd 11 "People spend money of esthetics several years ago through a dermatologist friend, and decided to go back to school to become a licensed esthetician. "As I was going through the program, I started looking at my own patients differently," he says. "I saw that there was so much I had overlooked, things we should be doing about pets' skin. In veterinary school, we were trained to look for disease, but esthetics school taught me more about minor skin issues." When Fleck began looking for skin care products for pets, he found virtually none. He decided to develop his own product line, Epi-Pet, which now includes ear cleaner, shampoo, skin-enrichment spray, and sunscreen for small pets, as well as a line of skin care products for horses. "Six years ago, when I developed a pet sunscreen, everybody pooh-poohed me," Fleck says. "Now it's in great demand." Fleck has since sent several of his staff members to esthetics school. While he doesn't expect many people to blend esthetics training with a veterinary degree, he sees pet esthetics as a blossoming career niche. Loving animals is clearly a prerequisite. "But it's not playing with puppies," Bartis warns. "There are a lot on their pets even when they might not spend it on themselves." –Renee Bartis of unexpected things that can happen with four-legged clients: pooping, peeing, throwing up, fighting. It's a whole lot different than working with humans." Although there are no specialized training programs available in animal skin care beyond what is included in broaderbased grooming or veterinary training, Bartis believes there would be a market for such a program. "I think it could change the way the grooming industry operates, to have a canine esthetician program you could become certified in," Bartis says. "Maybe I can help make that happen." Rebecca Jones is a longtime animal lover, freelance writer, and newspaper reporter based in Denver, Colorado. Contact her at killarneyrose@ Get connected to your peers @ 11 5/15/13 4:23 PM

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