Bathing your dog or cat is an important part of pet ownership. Regardless of your pets’ breed and coat type, shampooing promotes cleanliness and a healthy skin and coat. Frequency of bathing varies greatly between breeds and individual pets, and how often your pet should get a bath depends on the needs of your own dog or cat.
Cats and dogs may share many things, when it comes to baths and bathing techniques, cats and dogs couldn’t be more different. Cats are fastidious self-groomers, and many cats can go a lifetime without requiring a true bath. This is generally a good thing, because most cats aren’t big fans of the bathing process, and bathing a cat is generally not for the inexperienced cat owner, or the faint of heart.
Some cats do require bathing, usually for medical reasons. Cats being treated for skin infections or fungal infections, such as ringworm, may need regular baths to treat and prevent re-occurrence of skin problems. Older and overweight cats may not be able to groom themselves as thoroughly, and may require routine bathing in order to keep up their personal hygiene.
An occasional bath may be necessary if your cat gets sprayed by a skunk, gets unusually dirty, or gets a foreign substance on his or her coat. But for the average, healthy cat, a good brushing program may be able to replace the bath for routine coat care.
On the flip side, while dogs do require routine baths to stay clean and healthy, they fortunately are a little more accepting of the process. Regular bathing of all dogs, despite coat length or type, helps to keep the coat and skin healthy. Most dogs do not require frequent bathing (once a month or less!), but brushing in between bath times helps to keep them clean, removing dead hair, dirt and other debris from the coat.
How often you should bathe your dog depends greatly on your dog, his activity level and breed. The best way to tell if your dog needs a bath is through your nose- if your dog has that “doggy odor” than it’s probably time for a bath.
Some dogs require more frequent bathing as a matter of cleanliness, but as a generally rule, most dogs should not have a bath more than once a month. Some breeds prone to oily skin, such as Cocker Spaniels and Shih Tzu’s, may require baths every 2-4 weeks, while thick coated dogs, like Chows and Huskies may only need a bath a few times a year.
Unlike human hair, dog fur is not suitable for constant bathing, and repeated washing will strip the skin of its natural, protective oils. The loss of these oils can cause your dog to scratch, irritating the skin, and, yep making the dog stink, causing him to be bathed even more frequently. While over-bathing can be a vicious cycle, there are some things you can do to make sure that bathing doesn’t create a problem for your pet.
For the average dog, bathed once a month or so, human shampoo can usually be used without ill effect. Dog skin is more sensitive than human skin, and using shampoo designed for people can cause a pH imbalance in the skin, leading to excessive dryness. Any dog being bathed more frequently than once a month should always be washed in a dog-specific shampoo.
A quick trip to your local pet store, and you will find a variety of shampoos for every possible need your dog may have- formulated to help combat itchy skin, fleas and ticks, doggy odor, excessive shedding, coat color enhancers, and everything in between. Not all soaps are created equal- if you have questions, consult your veterinarian or groomer for their recommendations on a good shampoo for routine use.
There are some cases where your dog may need baths every few days for a time, such as for treatment of skin infections, fungal infections and other skin and coat problems. Your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated shampoo, designed to help combat the underlying skin problem. It is important to follow your veterinarians’ instructions carefully in these cases, because often the medicated shampoos must be lathered onto the dog, and left in place for several minutes for optimal effect.
If your dog is prone to skin problems, talk to your veterinarian about your current grooming regimen, and see if adjustments should be made. Often dogs that suffer from recurrent hot spots and skin infections can be helped with a more steady bathing ritual, to remove dirt and build up from the coat and allow the skin to breathe. Dogs that swim in pools and the ocean should be bathed thoroughly after every swim- the chlorine and salt water are both highly irritating if left on the coat, and can cause skin irritations and infections.
If your dog is long haired, or prone to tangles, a coat conditioner may be useful as a second step to the bathing process. Conditioners can help to manage the hair and make it softer, allowing for mats and tangles to be more easily removed, along with re-moisturizing the coat.
It is important to note that in dogs prone to ear infections, bathing (and swimming) can be a constant cause of ear irritation. In order to help avoid ear problems, place a cotton ball into the outer part of your dogs’ ear canal while bathing, to prevent excessive water from seeping in. After bathing, clean your dogs ears with a dog-specific ear cleaner- this will help to remove excess water from inside the ear canal, a prime candidate for causing ear infections.
How often you should shampoo your pet depends greatly on your dog or cats living circumstances, age, condition and breed. Bathing is a valuable tool to keeping your pet healthy and happy, and when done correctly, can help your pet to lead a long and happy life.