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

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We as humans bathe or shower every day (and sometimes more in my job) and we wonder about hygiene for our pets. Dogs can and should be trained to be calm and accepting of a bath at an early age. Because of the nature of a dog (see Why Does My Dog Stink), many house dogs will be bathed often. Dog owners want to know how much is too much or not enough.

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All pets should be brushed or inspected on a frequent basis. This allows their caregiver to assess any changes in their coat or skin health, noting changes in hair texture, missing hair, the presence of parasites or skin masses. A bath is a great chance to do a thorough inspection because with the hair wet and lying down, you can see things that you may have overlooked. Changes uncovered in these inspections should be mentioned to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Full shampoo baths are recommended no more than once weekly if you use many of the topical flea products. Because some of them depend on oils in the skin to spread, a shampoo can strip the oils away and change the efficacy. The manufacturers have certain shampoos that are preferred for this type of product because they are non-stripping. If you have a question about a certain shampoos, ask the staff at the veterinary clinic where you purchase your flea products. If you use an oral parasite control product, it is not imperative that you limit bathing. Sometimes my dog needs a bath every few days for odor control, it seems, so I use an oral option for fleas and ticks. We go to assisted living facilities and other pet therapy locations and she must be clean and smell fresh. I always use a veterinary shampoo when I have her bathed and follow up with a conditioner for her hair coat.

Most dogs (and their owners) can benefit from at least a weekly bath. It is a great time to assess your dog’s overall condition and also to wipe out her ears and eyes and check her teeth. Look carefully at her while she is wet to see if your notice anything out of the ordinary for her. Any lumps, bumps, patches of missing hair or unexplained weight loss, should trigger a call to your vet.

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.

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Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm

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