Bathing and brushing the dog or cat. It’s one of the parts of pet ownership that we here at Vetopia get a lot of questions about – how often should I bathe my dog? Should I trim the fur and nails? What kinds of shampoo are best to use? And do I need to clean my pet’s ears or teeth? We’ve written this article to help answer some of those questions – and we’re always here to help if you have specific inquiries or need help with your dog or cat’s personal hygiene routine.
Regular bathing and grooming helps remove loose hair, scale and debris, and improve the hair coat’s shine. In some cases for dogs with skin conditions, bathing and grooming is also an important part of their medical treatment plan as recommended by your vet.
A well-groomed dog or cat will have a healthier skin and coat, less shedding, smell better, and be happier too. Expert tip: throw in a gentle massage during the shampooing to further stimulate the blood flow and boost skin function and hair growth.
Cats take much better care of themselves than dogs do, and require less intervention from their human owners when it comes to grooming. Cats naturally groom themselves (as you can see when they lick their coats). Short-haired cats rarely require grooming or bathing as their short hair is kept clean by their own grooming habits and they don’t often develop any knots or tangles in their short coats.
Longer-haired cats on the other hand, often require intervention from their human owners as their longer coats are more prone to tangles and knots. Owners of long-haired cats should start grooming their cats from a young age to get them used to being brushed and combed. Most long-haired cats benefit from a good brushing weekly, maybe more depending on their coat type.
Bathing isn’t normally required as the cats do a good job of this themselves, but some cats who are prone to skin issues or very prone to knots and tangles can benefit from occasional bathing.
Most advice you find on the internet recommends washing your dog just several times per year or by seasons! In Hong Kong with our very humid weather this should be done more frequently. I recommend once every 2 weeks in summer and once per month in winter. You should always use a mild shampoo that won’t irritate the skin.
How often your dog needs a bath depends on the following questions:
1. Does your dog live indoors or outdoors, and does your dog sleep in your bed?
If your dog lives in your house with you and more importantly, if he/she sleeps in your bed, then you are probably going to wash your dog more regularly–depending on the breed anywhere from once a week to once a month. Hong Kong has a very humid climate with high levels of environmental yeasts and dirt, so regular washing is important to maintain skin hygiene and health – much more so than in cooler, drier climates. Given the regular washing, it’s important to always use a high-quality shampoo that is suitable for your dog’s skin to prevent coat dryness.
2. Breed of dog
Harsh-textured coats repel dirt pretty well so they don’t get as dirty as a soft-coated dog. Breeds with harsh-textured coast include Shelties, Collies and Labs and they can be bathed once a month. But of course it also depends on the individual dog you’re your Retriever is out hiking the trails every weekend they will certainly need more regular washing. Dogs without undercoats like Maltese, Yorkies, Afghans and Shitzus should be bathed once a week. If you’re not sure, remember, a clean dog is a happy dog.
3. Is anyone in your household allergic to dogs?
If so, you should groom & bathe your dog regularly. This is very important to reduce the hair and dander that a pet sheds, significantly reducing the level of household allergies. It is important to bathe in a gentle, nourishing, high quality shampoo to keep the dog’s skin healthy and happy, which will also reduce shedding and irritation.
4. What activities does your dog do?
Do you take your dog to the dog park? Does your dog play in the sand or dirt? Does your dog roll in the grass or go swimming or hiking? What about sniffing butts or drooling?
If you have a normal dog, he or she probably partakes in several of the above activities– all of which warrant regular bathing.
5. Does your dog suffer from itchy skin?
Unlike humans who absorb most environmental allergens through their noses and mouths, dogs tend to absorb allergens through the skin. Weekly bathing can prevent itchiness, washing allergens away before they get a chance to penetrate the skin. This is very important, and regular bathing can significantly reduce skin allergy and irritation in dogs, especially if we use a medicated or hypoallergenic shampoo.
The simple answer is that most dogs benefit from a bath and grooming every 2 weeks or so, depending on their skin type, sensitivities and lifestyle. Remember to always use a gentle pet shampoo and conditioner that is suitable for your pet.
What Shampoo should I Use?
There are a number of different shampoos based on skin type, sensitivies and any underlying problems.
For dogs with yeasty skin, those prone to dandruff or bacterial infections, Malaseb shampoo is an excellent choice.
And if your dog does have dry or sensitive skin, it’s best to use a conditioner after bathing.
Lastly, you should avoid using human shampoo on your dog or cat. We have a very different skin pH and anatomy to dogs and cats, and human shampoos can result in stripping the coat of oil, skin drying and dermatitis.
What about clipping the coat?
In a lot of cases this is really more down to personal preference and appearances, although dogs and cats with longer coats should be gently trimmed every few months to ensure the hair doesn’t knot or clump. Most short-haired dogs and cats don’t require regular trimming.
Some people do get their pet’s coat trimmed for the summer to help with the heat. This can help a little in some cases, but be aware that the coat acts as an insulator against both heat and cold, and recently trimmed dogs can be at even higher risk of heatstroke if the sun can directly heat the skin. If you do clip your pet’s coat short, make sure to always give them regular breaks when on walks to cool off, and if you’re hot and sweaty consider pouring some water on them to help keep them cool.
How do I reduce shedding?
Do you find pet hair on your furniture and clothing? It is normal for pets to shed, but that does not mean you have to live with it. Regular pet washing and grooming helps reduce shedding and hair loss by removing old hair and stimulating the skin to produce strong new fur, keeping the coat healthy.
Protecting your pet's feet.
Regular grooming involves washing and brushing of the fur, but it can also include nail trimming, tooth brushing and ear cleaning. Dogs who spend a lot of time walking on pavement may not need to have their nails clipped as they will grind down naturally.
However, if a dog’s claws make a clicking sound when he walks it could be sign that he needs a pedicure. Pet pedicures are essential for keeping the nails at an appropriate length so pets can walk and run comfortably and without the risk of serious damage.
Pet grooming can also include special care for eyes, ears and teeth. Regular brushing or chewing on hard toys will help prevent dental tartar, cavities and gingivitis. Ear cleaning and eye cleaning can also be necessary in some breeds to remove excessive discharge, helping prevent infections.
An expert tip for ear cleaning: don’t fill the whole ear up with cleaning solution as this can cause wetness and irritation, just use a cotton ball soaked in the ear cleaning liquid.
For eyes, never touch the eye itself, but instead use wipes or a damp cotton ball to clean the grooves and furrows on the skin below the eye.
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