The Hound and the Hair
Published 5 Dec, 2018
When Dr. Charles Michel suggested using needles and current to remove people’s ingrown eyelashes, I’m sure that there were many doubters. Yet here we are over 100 years later removing hair permanently.
Well, Ardeth Koop uses electrolysis to remove the eyelashes of dogs. What a great innovation! She talks about it in our interview.
At Ballet, we salute electrologists who work on treatments of new areas, or find original ways of beginning professional relationships with people with excess hair (via dermatologist, for example) or who pioneer new treatment methods. They drive our profession forward and oblige us all to think creatively.
We have to keep moving forward. After all, only electrologists know how to do permanent hair removal.
Thanks for reading,
Jim and Sara Paisner
Q: How did you begin to work on dogs???
A: When I semi-retired from electrolysis to care for my young children, I wanted to do something to supplement the family income. So I got a job in a local veterinary hospital on the weekends. I am an animal lover, but my son is asthmatic, so we have no animals at home. I did that for over a year: then I went back to electrolysis. One day, a veterinarian phoned and asked if I would be interested in doing a treatment on a dog.
Q: Why did a dog need electrolysis?
A: The owner was repeatedly tweezing the dogs eyelashes out, to the point where it was causing a lot of discomfort for the dog (and the owner!).
Q: Why did the owner do that?
A: The dog had inward turned lashes that got in his eyes. In my experience, this is often a problem with purebred dogs. It is painful, and if left untreated, the dog will continually scratch the eye. Owners have it checked because they see the dog scratching up around the eye all the time. The condition is called trichiasis.
Q: Where exactly are the hairs?
A: Most commonly the problem is on the lower lids and toward the tear duct.
Q: What modality do you use?
A: I use manual thermolysis; blend does not work as well – you cannot get good conductivity because the skin is covered with hair. So I work with low intensity and long timing- about 1-2 seconds. Sometimes the hairs are shallow rooted, and I don’t want to use a higher current level because of fear of surface damage. This method produces less surface reaction.
Q: Do you use any special equipment?
A: The dogs always ask for Ballet needles (laughter). Actually, I use Ballet Insulated. I’ve tried all sorts of needles, including stainless and gold, but Insulated works the best. I think that this is because of the moisture at the skin surface. I get better results with less trauma to the skin.
The hairs are fine, so I normally use a size 2, but of course I bring a selection of sizes to the job.
Q: And your technique?
A: I use one hand technique, so I have the needleholder and forceps in my right hand, and with the thumb and forefinger of my left hand, I pull the lower eyelid down, and the upper one up, to give myself some working room.
The moisture content is so high, almost as if you are working on mucus membrane tissue, that it can be very difficult to find the correct angle to do an accurate insertion. Most hairs are at about a 60˚ insertion angel. Also, sometimes the hair is so short that it is hard to see the growth angle; and because most animals’ skin color is black, with dark hair it is difficult to see the hair.
Of course, it can be a problem if the dog starts to wake up…
Q: Aren’t the dogs under anesthesia?
A: Yes. Typically the vet incorporates hair removal into another treatment, like teeth cleaning, or spraying/neutering, so the animal will be under general anesthesia. I work before the other procedure – as soon as I finish the doctor takes over.
After the treatment, the doctor applies antibiotic eye drops to reduce the chance of infection. To my knowledge, there has never been an infection.
Q: How effective is the treatment?
A: Very. I have had to only one dog twice; all the others needed just one treatment. The dogs are asleep, so there are no pain tolerance issues to deal with. Also, unlike when treating humans, we know the full extent of the hair problem. People may have been using temporary methods – waxing, tweezing, etc. With a dog, you can usually see all the problem hairs.
Great work Ardeth.