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Ask A Vet: How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

| Published on October 20, 2016

It is culturally expected that most human beings shower or bathe everyday. We can even bathe more often as circumstances present themselves. We all know that gross feeling we get when we know we need a shower and we may get kind of paranoid that we smell bad.

Your dog has no such concern. She does not care how bad she smells and probably even rolls in bad odors just for the fun of it. WE care how our dogs smell and we also know that hygiene is important to overall health. Some people need truly frequent cleaning because of conditions like oily skin or acne and individual dogs’ needs can vary too.

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Most every dog needs a bath sometimes, even if he spends most of his time outdoors.  Not only is clean hair and skin important for health, bath time is an opportunity to see more of your dog because with his hair wet, his skin in more visible for your inspection. During a bath, you might notice bumps or scabs, tumors, or missing hair. These types of things need to be mentioned to your vet sooner rather than later. Many dogs are acceptably clean and their hair is not too brittle with weekly baths, but factors that can affect how often your dog needs to be bathed can include:

Oiliness of hair and skin

Oily skin (called seborrhea) is a medical condition and the treatment may include medicated baths. Your vet will tell you the frequency and even give you certain shampoos that are more effective. The amount of time the shampoo is in contact with your dog’s skin is also important, so if your dog feels greasy, ask your vet if he could have seborrhea. If your dog has a dry, flaky hair coat, bathing frequency might need to be less.

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Topical Products

If you use topical (applied to the skin) flea and tick treatments, the frequency of bathing may affect the efficacy of the product. Be sure to read the label thoroughly and if you are not sure, call the customer service hotline number which should be available on the packaging.

Tolerance and Training

Dogs have to be taught about bathing. It is a learning issue like any other. Some dogs love baths instantly, but all dogs must become accustomed to being wet and shampooed. Be patient when teaching a puppy to accept baths and do not force her if she is afraid. You can start feeding her in the bath tub to make it feel like a good place and make sure the water starts out slow dripping and is an acceptable temperature to your hand before wetting your pup.

Baths provide a great chance to check your dog, make him smell better and also can be a good reminder to clean ears and eyes and check teeth. If your dog has been trained to think that baths are a routine part of his life, he will not resist this valuable part of his care. Weekly bathing is a good starter guideline, but ask your own veterinary staff about the recommendations for your particular dog.

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