Have you ever watched your dog roll on the ground, lick her coat or chew at her fur? These are her ways of keeping clean. Sometimes, though, she’ll need a little help from you to look and smell her best and stay healthy.
The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog at least once every three months, but some may require more frequent baths if he or she spends a lot of time outdoors or has skin problems. Here are some steps to help you get started.
- First, give your pet a good brushing to remove all dead hair and mats, and then put him or her in a tub or sink that’s been filled with about three to four inches of lukewarm water.
- Then, use a spray hose, large plastic pitcher or an unbreakable cup to completely wet your pet.
- Take care to not spray or pour water directly in his ears, eyes or nose.
- Gently massage in shampoo, working from head to tail, and rinse and repeat as needed.
- Dry him or her thoroughly by giving your pet a good rub with a large towel. Voila, clean pet!
Dogs with loose facial skin or wrinkles—such as Shar Peis and Pugs—will need special attention. To prevent dirt and bacteria from causing irritation and infection, clean the folds with damp cotton. Always thoroughly dry the areas between the folds.
Bathing a Puppy
Some pups think that bath time is a perfect time to act goofy! Young puppies especially will wiggle and bounce all over the place, and tend to nip at bath time. If this sounds like your pet, put a floating toy in the tub with her so she can focus on that rather than on mouthing you.
Choosing a Shampoo
Using a shampoo formulated for pets is best. Human shampoos aren’t toxic to pets, but some may contain fragrances or other substances that can irritate your pet’s skin. Select a product that’s specifically formulated for your species of animal, as some ingredients may be harmful when applied to different types of pets. It’s always smart to talk with your pet’s veterinarian to make sure you’re selecting a shampoo that will meet your pet’s needs.
Protecting Your Dog’s Eyes and Ears During Bath Time
Since shampoos and soaps can be major irritants, ask your vet for a sterile eye lubricant to use during bathing—this will help protect your pet’s eyes from shampoo. You can also use a sprayer or a showerhead with a long hose, allowing you to control water flow during rinsing. Avoid shampooing your pet’s head altogether by simply using a wet washcloth to gently remove any dirt or debris from his or her face.
Protect your pet’s ears, too, by placing a large cotton ball in each ear until the bath is over.
Regular grooming with a brush or comb will help keep your pet’s hair in good condition by removing dirt, spreading natural oils throughout her coat, preventing tangles and keeping her skin clean and irritant-free. Plus, grooming time is a great time to check for fleas and flea dirt—those little black specks that indicate your pet is playing host to a flea family.
The way you brush your pet—and how often—will largely depend on his or her coat type.
Smooth, Short Coats
If your dog has a smooth, short coat (like that of a Chihuahua, Boxer or Basset Hound), you only need to brush once a week. Use a rubber brush to loosen dead skin and dirt and follow with bristle brush to remove dead hair. Polish your low-maintenance pooch with a chamois cloth and she’s ready to shine!
Short, Dense Fur
If your dog has short, dense fur that’s prone to matting, like that of a retriever, brushing once a week is fine. Use a slicker brush to remove tangles and catch dead hair with a bristle brush. Don’t forget to comb her tail!
Long, Silky Coats
If your dog has a long, luxurious coat, such as that of a Yorkshire terrier, she’ll need daily attention. Every day you’ll need to remove tangles with a slicker brush. Next, brush her coat with a bristle brush. If you have a long-haired dog with a coat like a collie’s or an Afghan hound’s, follow the steps above, but also be sure to comb through the fur and trim the hair around the feet.
Long Hair That’s Frequently Matted
For long-haired pooches, it’s a good idea to set up a daily grooming routine to remove tangles and prevent mats. Gently tease out tangles with a slicker brush, and then brush your pet with a bristle brush. If matting is particularly dense, you may try clipping the hair, taking care not to come near the skin.
Although shedding old or damaged hair is a normal process for dogs, the amount and frequency of hair shed often depends upon their health, breed type and season. Many dogs develop thick coats in the winter that are then shed in the spring. Dogs who are always kept indoors, however, are prone to smaller fluctuations in coat thickness and tend to shed fairly evenly all year.
Steps to Minimize Shedding
While you cannot stop a healthy dog from normal shedding, you can reduce the amount of hair in your home by brushing your dog regularly. Ask your veterinarian or groomer to recommend a specific type of brush or comb that will work best for your dog’s hair type.
Excessive Hair Loss
Shedding is a normal process for pets. Excessive shedding can also be circumvented with proper nutrition. Quality pet-food manufacturers work hard to include the right amount of nutrients so that supplements are not needed, but pets with allergies or sensitivities might need to experiment with different brands to discover which food works best for them.
However, excessive hair loss or bald patches may be due to one of the following:
- Parasites (fleas, lice or mites)
- Fungal or bacterial infections
- Inhalant- or food-related allergies
- Kidney, liver, thyroid or adrenal disease (including Cushing’s)
- Pregnancy or lactation
- Certain medications
- Self-induced trauma due to licking
- Immune disease
- Contact with irritating or caustic substance
If you notice any of the following conditions, consult with your veterinarian for treatment.
- Skin irritation, including redness, bumps, rashes or scabs
- Open sores of any kind
- Bald spots or thinning of coat
- Dull, dry hair that pulls out easily
- Constant foot licking or face rubbing