Grooming Your Dog
Back to Bathing Basics
     Washing a dog isn't rocket science, but that doesn't mean we couldn't use some advice, especially when it's from an expert. Gene Nesbitt, DVM, Dip. ACVD, of Tufts Dermatology and Allergy Services answered our questions about making bathing effective and easy for our dogs. Is there a general rule for how often dogs should be bathed?

      No, the bottom line is that, if you're bathing a dog for cosmetic reasons or routine odor control, you can bathe most of them with varying frequency and not have any problems. Bathing a dog is more often about troubleshooting.

     The list includes most Terriers (that means Rats Terriers too), Golden Retrievers, Beagles, Dalmatians, Shar-peis, English Bulldogs, English Setters, Lhasa Apsos, Miniature Schnauzers, Pugs, Airedales, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Labrador Retrievers, Old English Sheepdogs, Cockers and Springer Spaniels.

     The allergic dog that is itching often has increased glandular secretions and more moisture in friction areas, under arms, groin, neck folds or in occluded areas, such as between toes and pads from foot licking.
      Increased odor is often the result of secondary yeast or bacterial infection in these areas. The obese dog is predisposed to friction and increased moisture, thus more surface and yeast. Odor is frequently associated with ear and lip fold infections. Dogs that have excessive drooling and deep lip folds -Springer Spaniels, St. Bernards and Bull Mastiffs - are prone to lip fold infections and increased odor.

     What are the consequences of bathing too often? Does it dry out the skin? It depends on what shampoo you're using and the dog's specific conditions. A lot of the medicated shampoos do have a tendency to remove some of the oiliness from the skin, and there's a normal lipid layer fatty film on the surface that holds moisture in. So if we're using these shampoos that are removing what we want, we may very well remove some of the protective layer and make them more susceptible to dry skin or another problem.

     Is there a preference regarding water temperature and different shampoos? If you have an itchy dog, we suggest bathing in cool water. If your dog doesn't have this kind of problem, then warm water is fine.

     Is there any area of the dog that owners should pay special attention to when bathing?
Many times owners don't clean the underside of the dog very well. The toes and pads of the feet and the underarm area are some pretty common spots people miss.

     Should owners put cotton balls in the dogs' ears to keep water out? I don't think it makes any difference. Not that much water gets in the ears anyway.
      What about the eyes? Do you suggest owners make an extra effort to keep soap away from the dog's eyes? Absolutely. I recommend an ointment over eyes drops for this because liquids can't form the same kind of protective barrier that oil-based ointments do. An ointment puts a film over the cornea so you don't have direct contact between any irritant and the eye. This is an especially important precaution when bathing for medical purposes, and you're treating a specific area around the head and muzzle.

     What are the pros and cons of toweling vs. blow-drying? The advantage of the blow-drying is that it keeps the hair from tangling and makes brushing much more manageable. A groomer routinely does this because it gives more fluffiness to the hair. The downside to blow-drying is that, if you have a dog that is itchy, it can aggravate that condition. It also will add to the troubles of a dog with pre-existing dry skin and dandruff problems. These are the dogs to towel dry.

     What's your best advice on the topic of dog bathing? If no skin issues are involved, almost anything will work in terms of bathing. However, if skin problems exist, they have to be addressed on an individual basis. This is where the veterinarian's knowledge and input come into play.