There are no firm guidelines for how often to bathe a dog.
The quality and texture of the dog’s hair (whether it’s long, silky, curly,
smooth, or wiry) will determine how much dirt it collects and how frequently
the dog should be bathed. Your dog’s lifestyle and activities will also
influence how often she gets dirty and needs a bath. If you own a dog with
special coat requirements, you may wish to consult a breeder or a professional
groomer for specific recommendations.
The usual reasons for bathing a dog are to remove
accumulated dirt and debris, to facilitate the removal of dead hair at shedding time, to eliminate
doggy odor in dogs with oily coats, and to improve the appearance of the coat.
Routine bathing is not necessary for the health of the coat or the dog. In
fact, frequent bathing can rob the coat of its natural sheen and make it harsh
and dry. For most dogs, regular brushing will keep the coat and skin in good condition and
eliminate the need for frequent baths.
Otodectic mites are tiny insects that live in the ear canals and
feed by piercing the skin. They are highly contagious to cats and dogs, but not to humans. Ear
mites are the most common cause of ear symptoms in puppies and young adult
dogs. Suspect ear mites when both of the dog’s ears are involved.
Ear mites should not be confused with the mites that cause sarcoptic mange. This is an entirely
different disease, but one whose signs can include crusty ear tips (see
Scabies, page 126).
Before bathing a dog, brush out all snarls and tangles and remove mats. If
this step is omitted, the wet, matted hair will set and be most difficult to
It is important to select a shampoo labeled “for dogs.” The pH of canine
skin is neutral (7 to 7.4). Most shampoos for humans are on the acid side and
are therefore unsuitable for dogs. There are a number of good commercial dog
shampoos on the market for white dogs and dogs with other coat colors. Do not
use human hair dyes or coloring agents on dogs.
Household disinfectants must never be used on dogs. These chemicals are
absorbed through the skin and can cause death.
Except on warm, sunny days, baths should be given indoors using a bathtub or
basin. Place a rubber mat on the bottom of the tub or basin to keep the dog
from slipping and panicking. Plug her ears with cotton to keep water out-wet
ear canals are predisposed to infection.
Add some lukewarm water to the tub, then place the dog in the tub. Begin by
washing her face with a damp cloth. Lift up the ear flaps and wipe the
undersurface to remove dirt, wax, and dead skin. Using a bath sprayer, wet the
dog thoroughly with warm water. If necessary, bury the nozzle into her hair to
get to the skin.
Then work the shampoo in by hand, one section at a time. Be sure to lather
all of the dog-not only her back and sides, but also her neck, chest, belly,
legs, feet, and tail. If the coat is badly soiled, rinse lightly and then
repeat the sudsing process.