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Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic Blog

The Do’s and Don’ts Of Bathing Your Pet

Doctor veterinarian is trimming dog nailsIt’s not uncommon for pet owners to dread bath time. Convincing a pet that it is actually beneficial to get a soapy bath isn’t always easy. However, this doesn’t mean you can put off regular bathing. Bathing your pet helps their skin and coat look and feel clean and contributes to optimal health. Dogs with skin problems benefit greatly from frequent bathing. We’ve put together some do’s and don’ts for bathing your pet below to help get you started.

Getting There

Some pets absolutely love getting wet and sudsy. While they may have naturally come to this attitude themselves, it’s more likely that a patient owner introduced the idea early on (but never before 5-6 weeks old). Just as we slowly ease into any body of water until we’re accustomed to the temperature, your pet might appreciate a gradual introduction to the concept of bathing.

Similarly, if your pet isn’t quite used to being touched on spots that require cleaning, such as the ears, paws, and face, it’s a good idea to start on dry land before you attempt this during a bath. Offer treats, and lots of affection, during this process can help them make positive associations with bathtime, and grooming in general.

Tuning the Instruments

Encourage your pet to analyze the scents and appearance of the comb, brush, and clipper before you employ them. Turn the bath water on and off, and allow your pet to smell the pet shampoo. We are always happy to help you find the right product that meets your pet’s needs. If you are using a portable tub or container instead of a bathtub, let your pet get acquainted with it.

Be Prepared

There are a few things you can do to get ready before you even start the bath. Depending on your pet’s size and temperament, it might be useful to have someone help you with bathing your pet.

We recommend the following tips to help ease the process of bathing your pet:

  • Brush your pet beforehand, and make sure to gently remove any tangles, mats, foxtails, dirt, and debris.
  • Trim your pet’s nails to minimize scratching your floor, bathtub, or you.
  • Use a non-skid rubber mat in the bathtub to help stabilize your pet.
  • Inspect your pet’s skin and coat for any fleas, ticks, and other parasites.
  • If you do not have a detachable shower nozzle, get a pitcher or large cup for pouring water.

Bath Time

Your approach to bathing your pet should be gentle, but you’ll want to keep the pace at a good clip to ensure all parts get clean before a potential revolt.

Here is a step by step process for bathing your pet that should hopefully make things quick and easy:

  • Once in the bathtub make sure to thoroughly wet your pet’s coat and skin. It should be lukewarm, never hot.
  • Apply the shampoo to several spots along the neck and back, then massage into the coat and skin all over. If they have an infection or flare up start there so the shampoo has the longest contact time with the affected areas.
  • Remember to get into those hard to reach areas such as the inside of the legs, skin folds, between the toes, around the foot pads, and under the tail.
  • After lathering up let the shampoo sit on your pet for the time recommended by your veterinarian or what is listed on the shampoo label. This is usually 3-5 minutes for medicated shampoos, though it might be less for general cleansing.
  • Thoroughly rinse the shampoo from your pet’s coat and skin with clean, lukewarm water.
  • Once completely rinsed let your pet shake themselves to get rid of the excess water, then towel dry them.

What Not to Do

Even with a positively reinforced introduction to the activity, bath time can be stressful for your pet so it is important to make sure they are as comfortable with the experience as possible.

Keep up the reassurances to help relax your pet and pay particular attention to avoid the following items of what not to do:

  • Spray your pet’s face or allow shampoo to drip into their eyes, mouth, or nose.
  • Wash off the shampoo before it has a chance to penetrate the fur.
  • Cause tangles by massaging the coat in the opposite direction of growth.
  • Forget to wash the neck (the collar area is particularly important), paw pads, and ears.
  • Allow your pet to air dry in cold, breezy weather.
  • Use a hairdryer, as it can dry out your pet’s coat and skin, causing itchiness.

Frequency and Other Tidbits

If your pet has a normal skin and coat then bathing can be conducted about once every 4-6 weeks. Some double-coated breeds only need 3-4 baths a year in contrast with curly-coated breeds. However, if your pet suffers from a skin condition that significantly alters the normal function of their skin and coat, they will usually benefit from more frequent cleanings. Depending on the severity of their skin problems we recommend bathing at least once every week, preferably 2 to 3 times a week, with shampoos specifically formulated for their condition. If they are experiencing an active skin infection or breakout, bathing more than 2 to 3 times a week with the proper medicated shampoo is usually part of the treatment to help clear the flare up.

The Professional Touch

Bathing your pet may not be for you, and that’s just fine! Professional groomers can help you freshen up your pet, trim his or her nails, express the anal sacs (if necessary), trim the hair around the eyes, and dry the coat.

Always Here to Help!

Please let us know if you have any questions, or need assistance picking out the correct shampoo for your pet. Our experienced veterinarian and staff are always here to help. Good luck bathing your pet!