There is no hard and fast rule as to “how often” you should bathe your pet. However, there are a few things we should be aware of when considering bathing a pet. All pets may need a bath once in a while, and some of that is dependent on the a) type of pet and species specific requirements for bathing b) age and temperament of the pet c) allergies and medical conditions (owner and pet) d) owner preference
- Dogs should be bathed when they are dirty or smelly – generally not more than once a month and sometimes only a few times a year for healthy indoor dogs – although they may be bathed more frequently as long as a correct method and shampoo is being used, neither drying out the skin too much nor leaving the skin damp and causing infection.
- For large breed and difficult to handle dogs, or dogs with challenging coats, consulting a vet and/or a professional groomer is always a good idea.
- Make sure your dog’s nails are clipped, and is well brushed and matt free before bathing.
- Have all materials on hand, including towels, and use warm (not cold) water.
- Use products designed for dogs – no heavy perfumes, formulated for the needs of your dog.
- Thoroughly wet coat before shampooing, and rinse really well to make sure all shampoo is out – repeat this process with conditioner if desired, or use a leave in conditioning product.
- Make sure to thoroughly dry and brush your dog to prevent skin problems.
- Cats hardly ever need bathing!
- Long haired cats, or cats who have gotten sick or dirty may need the occasional bath.
- Try not to bathe more frequently than once per month – sometimes all that is necessary is attention to a specific area (head or tail area) and the rest of the body will not need to be bathed as frequently.
- Clip cat’s nails a day before a bath and brush and remove matts.
- Have all materials ready ahead of bath and room is warm and comfortable.
- Use shampoos and conditioners designed for cats — some shampoos safe for dogs are not safe for cats (i.e. tar shampoo for skin conditions).
- Some cats will tolerate having tubs of clean water dumped over them more than running water.
- Make sure the water is warm to the touch — cats have a high body temperature and cool water feels cold.
- Use shampoo sparingly and rinse as thoroughly as possible and use lots of towels — use a hair dryer if feasible.
Ferrets and other small furries:
- Each species has its own special requirements and please consult an expert for each different animal.
- A Chinchilla for example, is not bathed in water, but bathes itself in a special dust bath!
- Ferrets have a uniquely oily coat that requires special attention and special products.
Reptiles and birds:
- Baths can provide special enrichment for owners and pets.
- Many birds need to bathe in shallow clean water to facilitate preening behaviour, and maintain healthy feathers and skin.
- Many reptiles can benefit from access to clean water soaks to facilitate ecdysis and encourage drinking and defecation. Frequent, short-term soaking in clean soapy water is often the first line of defense against mild mite infestations and can be incorporated in conjunction with medication.
- It is important to consult an expert on your bird or reptile as to that animal’s unique requirements for bathing.
- For some pets, the wrong products or methods can be toxic, or life threatening.
The best person to consult on the basic needs of your pet and cosmetic or therapeutic bathing is always your vet. Your vet’s job is to put the health and welfare of pets first. If you require transportation to the vet or groomer, consider the only veterinary trained dedicated professional pet transport service in the GTA to get your pet to and from their appointments safely – it’s easier, and more economical, than you think. www.torontoams.com
Photo by Autri Taheri
Amanda G. is an RVT and a valued member of the Toronto AMS team.