Bathing Your Dog

To Bathe or Not To Bathe: How To Bathe Your Dog

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

Bathing is beneficial for many reasons. Over time, the skin surface collects dead skin cells, bacteria, yeast, pollen and mold spores, and glandular secretions. Regular bathing can help decrease marked accumulation of debris and prevent skin irritation. However, over bathing can lead to excessive drying of the skin.

The frequency of bathing is generally determined by coat type and if there is any underlying skin disease. In dogs without inflammatory skin conditions, bathing is infrequently necessary unless they have excessive debris on their coat from the environment (rolling in mud or feces, etc). In allergic dogs, bathing every 1-2 weeks is generally recommended in order to decrease allergen carriage on the coat, excessive glandular secretion due to the inflammatory condition, and help reduce the risk of secondary skin infections.

What Should I Use to Bathe My Dog?

Pre-saturating the hair coat with lukewarm water can help remove excessive debris and allow better saturation of the shampoo. Unlike humans who have acidic skin, dogs have a neutral pH. Therefore, the pH formulations of human shampoos are not ideal as they can affect the normal barrier function of canine skin.

For most dogs, a canine formulated non-medicated or hypoallergenic shampoo is sufficient. If your dog is suffering from a primary skin disease, a specific medicated (antimicrobial, keratolytic, degreasing, etc.) shampoo may be recommended based on the findings on a dermatological exam. Many canine shampoos will not lather as well as human products. A general rule of thumb is “less is more” and using about a half-dollar size amount of shampoo for each bath is sufficient.

Pre-diluting the shampoo with water can also help with distribution and oversaturation. To prevent irritation, be sure the shampoo is rinsed thoroughly. It is also important to minimize aggressive scrubbing, especially in short-coated breeds. You should always wash with the grain of the hair. Aggressive scrubbing can lead to post grooming furunculosis, which is a deep, painful rupture of hair follicles. Additionally, avoid excessive water in or around the ear canals and avoid shampoo directly on the face or near the eyes.

Do I Need to Use Conditioner on My Dog?

Conditioners are used to reduce static, give body to thin hair, supplement fatty acids or oil to the coat, or deliver medications. Normal hair coats do not generally require conditioners and they’re most commonly used for cosmetic grooming. While they are not harmful, they are generally unnecessary.

Do I Need to Dry My Dog?

It is important to ensure that the coat dries in a timely manner. Long-coated breeds typically need to be brushed and dried to prevent matting of the coat or excessive retention of moisture, which can lead to irritation and skin infections. Short-coated breeds should be towel dried to remove extra moisture, and don’t forget to dry with the grain of the coat.

Still uncertain about whether to bathe your dog or not? Your veterinarian should be able to help recommend shampoos and bathing frequency based on your dog’s skin and coat health.