Note: All of these recommendations are for animals with normal healthy skin. Animals with skin problems need examination and veterinary advice. We may recommend different treatments for animals with dermatitis of any kind.
There is no single answer to this question. Some people advise that a dog should be bathed only when it is dirty or smelly. However, bathing is important for more than just keeping the coat looking clean. Bathing will also remove potential allergens, dead hair and skin and excessive oil from the hair and skin. This reduces scratching and the risk of dermatitis. Shampoos can also help with the control of fleas.
Our advice (based on the opinion of dermatology specialists) is that dogs should generally be bathed every 1-2 weeks in the warmer months and every 2-4 weeks over winter. However, bathing less often is probably OK, so long as your dog has healthy skin.
What about puppies?
Puppies can be bathed from any age. But it’s important to use warm water on young puppies, dry them well afterwards, and make sure that the shampoo that you use is safe for use on puppies.
What about cats?
Cats groom themselves very well and do not necessarily need to be bathed regularly – which is fortunate since most of them don’t like it! However, we do recommend that cats be bathed occasionally. And if you get them used to bathing when they’re kittens, they won’t be so scared of it. Be especially careful with shampoo selection for cats.
What shampoo should I use?
There are hundreds of different soaps and shampoos used to bath dogs and cats. Most of them are totally inappropriate! An animal with a healthy coat needs a shampoo that will clean the hair and skin, without removing the thin layer of normal sebum (oil). Damage to the sebum layer leads to dry skin that is more susceptible to infection. We recommend using one of the following shampoos regularly:
- Natural Shampoo from Dermcare is a gentle hypoallergenic shampoo for animals with normal or sensitive skin. Allergroom-S is also quite good.
- Aloveen Shampoo (also from Dermcare) contains colloidal oatmeal and aloe vera and is particular good for animals with itchy skin. Episoothe-S is also good.
- Fido’s Everyday Shampoo is an inexpensive soap-free shampoo that won’t damage the skin.
What about fleas?
Using a shampoo to kill fleas is also an option:
- Ectosoothe contains colloidal oatmeal and a very good insecticide. But it cannot be used on cats.
- Fido’s Pyrethrin Shampoo is a safe insecticidal shampoo for both dogs and cats.
Shampoos are very good at killing fleas, but they usually have no residual action. This means that your dog can start to pick up fleas again as soon as it’s dry. With the many excellent flea products now available, using an insecticidal shampoo as well may be unnecessary but flea rinses are an option for short-term flea protection. Good flea rinses include:
- Permoxin Concentrate – for dogs only, not cats.
- Fido’s Fre-Itch Rinse Concentrate – dogs and cats.
Go to our flea control page for an outline of the options available to control fleas on your pet and in their environment
What NOT to use
This could potentially be a long list!
- “Medicated” shampoos are not appropriate unless prescribed by a vet. Many supermarket medicated shampoos will dry and damage the skin.
- Human shampoos are not pH balanced for a dog’s skin. Human skin is approx. 100 times more acidic!
- Soaps of any kind will generally dry out the skin.
- Eucalyptus and tea-tree oils can irritate the skin.
- Laundry detergents are very alkaline and the detergent strips the sebum from the skin. Even wool wash is not recommended.
- Organophosphates and anticholinesterases are found in many of the older insecticides. These are potentially toxic, especially to puppies or if combined with other insecticides. There are much safer and more effective insecticides available.
How to bathe your dog
Always follow the directions on the label. In most cases you should wet the dog all over with cool or warm water (depending on the weather). Apply the shampoo a little at a time, and lather using either your hands or a soft sponge. Rinse well and dry with a towel. Many people have their dogs bathed by groomers or mobile dog washes. This is fine, but you should check what shampoo they’re using, and if it’s not appropriate, ask them to use your dog’s own shampoo.
For more tips, refer to the Dermcare article Practical Tips for Shampooing Your Pet.
If you have any questions, please give us a call.
By Macarthur Veterinary Group