Winter weather is here, and California is finally getting some of the rain we desperately need! Because this is a time of year when our pets are spending more time indoors or travelling with us to visit friends and relatives, we want them to be clean, shiny, and smelling nice. So, how often are you actually supposed to bathe your dog? This is a question we get all the time. There is a lot of information (and misinformation) out there about when, how, and why to bathe your dog. Bathing recommendations for dogs depend on your pet’s lifestyle, skin health/disease status, and their breed and hair coat type.
Dogs with healthy skin and coat really do not need to be bathed that often. Short coated dogs can often get away with being bathed every few months, or on an as needed basis- when they run through the mud at the dog park, or are smelling a little too “doggy.” Dogs with longer coats, or breeds with continuously growing hair (such as poodles) may need more regular grooming – every 6-8 weeks is fairly typical.
Dogs with skin disease often have special bathing needs. For some patients, it is not uncommon for the doctors here at Animal Dermatology & Allergy to recommend bathing 1-2 times per week! We will often prescribe a medicated shampoo for your pet- the choice of medicated shampoo depends on the specific skin disease(s) we are treating. Pet owners are sometimes concerned when they hear that we want them to bathe their pet so frequently…”Won’t this cause dry skin?” The answer in most cases is NO. Veterinary shampoos have really come a long way- these medicated shampoos have just as much scientific research leading up to their development as many of the human shampoos we use to wash our own hair. Medicated veterinary shampoos are designed for frequent bathing, and many of them contain moisturizers to help replenish natural skin oils. Additionally, pets with skin disease frequently have up-regulated production of skin oils, and so frequent bathing helps de-grease their skin and coat.
If your dog has sensitive skin or has a skin disease of any kind, you may want to avoid shampoos that contain tea tree oil or oatmeal. For many dogs, these shampoos are just fine. However, when our clients tell us about pets having a reaction to over the counter dog shampoos, it is often with a shampoo containing tea tree oil or oatmeal.
For pets with sensitive skin or skin disease we also recommend bathing with luke-warm to slightly cool water temperature, because heat can intensify the sensation of itch. If you are using medicated shampoo, here are some general guidelines: wet the skin and coat first, apply shampoo, then allow shampoo to sit on the pet for 10 minutes prior to rinsing thoroughly. Towel dry, or use a room temperature air dryer.
With the colder weather, we do recommend that you keep pets in a warm place until they are completely dry. If you have questions about your dog’s specific bathing needs, call your veterinarian to ask for advice.
The doctors and staff at Animal Dermatology & Allergy wish you and your pets a wonderful holiday season, filled with the joy of family, friends, good food, and good health!