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There’s no doubt that among your dog’s least favorite things to do is taking a bath. Unfortunately, grooming is one of those chores you simply can’t avoid, however messy and time-consuming it might be. Bathing is also important for your dog’s hygiene, maintaining a healthy coat and keeping shedding under control.
Although dogs groom themselves naturally, it’s sometimes necessary to give them a bath especially when they pick up an odor after chasing a skunk or digging up an old chew bone – which dogs tend to do once in a while. However, dog experts like Dr. Adam Denish, of Rhawnhurst Animal Hospital in Pennsylvania caution against bathing your dog too often as “it can irritate the skin, damage hair follicles, and increase the risk of bacterial or fungal infections.”
A dog’s coat also needs to retain its natural oils which keep it soft and silky and protect it from damage; bathing your dog too often (especially with shampoo) strips away these important oils.
One of the ways to decide when it’s appropriate to give your dog a scrub is to check if he’s noticeably dirty or smelly. Other factors that affect how often you can scrub your dog are the breed, coat and activity level. A dog with long hair, for example, can’t stay too long between baths as his coat will get tangled, while a dog who spends a lot of time indoors will most likely only require a bath a few times a year compared to one who participates in a lot of outdoor activities. Bathing is also important for managing medical conditions such as skin allergies.
Apart from keeping the dog clean baths offer the caregiver an opportunity to check his pet for any changes in their coat or skin health. When the dog’s hair is wet and lying flat it’s easier to see any abnormalities of the skin. If any skin masses, missing hair or other abnormal signs are noted during the inspection they should be reported to the vet as soon as possible. Other things you can check for during bath time include the teeth, eyes and ears.
Although bathing a dog may appear easy at first glance, it involves a lot more than simply applying lather, rinsing and repeating the process. Pet owners who don’t find the prospect of washing their dog at home appealing, can engage an expert to help them with the task –there’s really no shame in it. Mari Rozanski, of Plush Pups Boutique in Pennsylvania who has groomed more than her fair share of canine pets, had this to say while speaking to PetMD:
“Bathing dogs is not as simple as it seems. There are so many different types of dogs and coats which each need to be addressed separately, because of varying textures and lengths. In a salon, the groomer can address these distinctions, but at home, a pet owner may not realize the difference.”
Giving the example of a Shetland Sheepdog, she says dogs which are double-coated with thick, shedding hair first of all need to undergo soaking, moisturizing with lots of water and having their fur brushed and thoroughly combed before and after they’ve bathed. A dog-specific conditioner can also be used followed by rinsing and drying with high-velocity blow dry.
Besides getting help from a professional it’s also important to use the right bathing products if you’re going to do the job yourself. Some of the products that are manufactured for human skin can cause a lot of irritation to a canine’s skin. If you’re giving your dog a routine bath, you should use a mild, moisturizing dog shampoo.
You should also be wary of negative reactions your dog may have to shampoos and other bathing products, even if they’re designed for dogs. The reactions can be a result of entry through the skin or from actual ingestion of the product and can result in symptoms like a red, itchy skin and hives. Ingestion, on the other hand, can result in vomiting, decreased appetite, and excessive drooling. Should you notice these symptoms, the remedy lies in rinsing your dog purely with warm water and consulting your vet on what other action to take.
If you’re undecided on what kind of shampoo to buy, a vet can help you choose the right product as he has an understanding of your pet’s medical history and can use this knowledge to make a recommendation that specifically suits your dog especially in cases where your dog suffers from a skin condition.
Although your dog may never readily jump into the tab for a bath, you can still make bath time a smoother and faster process by avoiding these common mistakes:
If you follow the guidelines above then giving your dog a bath shouldn’t be a strenuous experience. Remember the key is to do it only when necessary in order to preserve the coat in its natural state and use products that aren’t too harsh on it. Do this and the next time you run a bath your dog won’t be sprinting in the opposite direction of the tub.
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