How often should I bathe my dog?
The easy answer is, when they need it! If this seems too elementary, consider this- every dog is very different in their hygiene needs and their lifestyle. A little Pomeranian that rarely gets set down outside maybe fine for months at a time with just weekly brushing, but a hunting or working dog may need to be bathed daily to keep the coat free from mud and debris.
If your dog smells, is dirty or muddy or greasy, he probably needs a bath! If your pet needs a bath more than once a month, a milder skin sensitive shampoo, such as an oatmeal shampoo, will help prevent over drying. If your dog is muddy or sandy, a rinse with water may be all that is needed.
Does the dog’s coat type matter?
Hair coat type will make a difference in the needed frequency of bathing. For example, dogs with a double coat that sheds frequently, like a Husky or German Shepherd, might require less bathing than a dog with a continuously growing single coat, such as a Shih Tzu (provided the coat doesn’t get muddy).
Thick double coats often do well with regular brushing to rid the fur of dust and debris, and to move the skin oils onto the hair shafts.
What about animals with skin conditions?
If we have asked you to use a prescription shampoo, obviously you’ll want to follow the labeled instructions. Some medicated shampoos are meant to be used very frequently to treat conditions like seborrhea or infections.
Dogs with contact environmental allergies may benefit from at least regular rinsing after being outside. If your pet is sensitive to pollens and dust, a quick rinse, especially on the feet may help remove allergens from the fur and help prevent allergic flare ups.
What shampoo should I use?
Never use a human product on your pet without consulting a veterinarian. Dogs have different skin pHs and different oils than people do.
There are many pet formulations to choose from, and your selection should be based on what you are looking for in a shampoo. A mild skin sensitive shampoo will be best for frequent bathing, but a dog prone to oily skin may benefit from a shampoo with more surfactant in it.
Stay away from perfumes and scents in a dog with sensitive skin.
There are waterless shampoos and sprays available that can help dislodge dirt and debris with brushing. Many are heavy on perfumes though and mask underlying dirtiness. Except for spot cleaning, we do not recommend using these.
There is no reason to use a flea shampoo. Yes, they do kill the fleas that are on your pet at the time of bathing. But they are toxic and as soon as you rinse it off, the fleas are back. If your pet has fleas, use a regular shampoo and give the prescription product that your veterinarian recommends. It will be safer and more effective than the pet store products, and it will last a full month.
We see many pets every week with fleas who are being treated with Frontline and Advantage. Fleas have become resistant to Frontline, Advantage and their generic spin offs.
How do I clean my pet's face?
Use a wash cloth to clean the face, being careful to not get water into the eyes or ears. If your pet is squinting or holding an eye closed after a bath, it probably means soap got into the eye. Rinse it out as well as possible at home and make an appointment with us. Any time your pet is squinting or holding an eye closed, your pet needs to be examined right away, the same day the symptom was noticed.
Dogs with facial folds, like pugs and bull dogs, need to have the folds carefully cleaned. Skin folds that are moist are prone to bacterial and yeast infections. Using a medicated wipe like MalaKet or DOUXO chlorhexadine, will help to keep infections under control. Ask your doctor for these with your next visit. And if the folds are itchy, applying an additional medication such as Momemtamax or Surolan may be helpful. After the infection is cleared up, the itching usually stops. Again, ask for these during your next visit and remember to apply them sparingly and massage it in. A little goes a long way.
How do I safely clean my older, arthritic dog?
We see a many older dogs who have had a bad experience at the groomers. Most groomers work alone and because of this, dogs have fallen or jumped off the grooming table. Most groomers do an amazing job, but older dogs may need extra care. We do offer grooming at San Bruno Pet Hospital. We do not do breed specific grooming, but we do offer bathing and shaving/trimming. Because we have one person who holds and cuddles your pet and another person who is doing the grooming, it is a happier experience for most older or fractious dogs.
Good hygiene is important for the health of your pet and the happiness of your family. If you still have questions, please call us.
by Dr Elaine Salinger
VMD, Medical Director