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Ask Guy Aitchison

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Q) I'm an experienced tattooist with a record of good healing. Recently, two of my clients have had rough heals on a couple occasions, both in the same areas- their wrists and forearms. It's not confined to a particular color, but seems to be a random bad heal all over their forearm areas. I can't explain this- any ideas?

(This question was followed by a long phone conversation where I found out: (1) the clients were brothers, (2) one of them has dogs, (3) the one with the dogs has a new baby in the house and has been getting a lot of help with the dogs from his brother)

A) I generally discourage a "blame the client" approach to healing problems, and always try to look for weaknesses in my own routine before blaming the client. But I have definitely found that there is a pattern to healing problems of a certain type- localized bacterial infections. In a large proportion of these cases, the clients are pet owners. Owners of large dogs are especially susceptible. Pet owners are generally very comfortable with their animals and don't really think of them as being dirty, but around fresh tattoos, you should always expect the worst. If you know your client is a pet owner, try to encourage them to keep their fresh ink away from contact with furniture that the animals (and their private regions) are often in contact, and recommend that they wash their hands thoroughly before handling their tattoo. When in doubt, wear loose clothing over the fresh tattoo when around pets. These precautions are really only necessary for 4-6 days, but can make a huge difference.