With the rainy and muddy season upon us, our four-legged friends collect a lot of debris in their feet and fur, and our floors are covered with muddy pawprints. There are no firm guidelines as to how often we should bathe our dogs, and quite often the requirements are breed-specific or dependent on the type of fur, lifestyle and activities of your pet. If your dog is clean and healthy, there is no reason to bathe them. In fact, frequent bathing may damage your dog’s coat and make it harsh and dry. Regular brushing will keep the coat and skin in good condition and eliminates the need for a bath. However, if your dog is dirty, has an unpleasant odour due to an oily coat, or has a lot of dead hair during shedding time, it can be beneficial to bathe your dog.
Before you bathe your dog, it is important to brush out all the tangles and matts in the hair. Bathing will not remove these, and the wet, matted hair will tangle even more. Very importantly, only use a shampoo made especially for dogs. The skin of dogs is neutral, and most human shampoos are acidic and consequently not suitable for dog skin. Never use any type of household disinfectant, as many of these are toxic to animals.
Dogs can be washed outside, but only on warm sunny days, otherwise bathing should be done indoors in a basin or bathtub. Use a rubber mat at the bottom of the tub to avoid slipping and panicking the dog. If you are washing the head area, place cotton wool inside the ears to keep water out – wet ear canals might predispose to infections. Add lukewarm water to the tub and gently place your dog in. Wet the dog thoroughly either by spraying or with a damp cloth, and then add the shampoo section by section, lathering all of the dog. Remove the shampoo by rinsing carefully, it is very important to remove all the shampoo (unless it is a special medicated one with instruction to leave in) as the residual shampoo will make the coat dull or cause allergies. After rinsing, remove as much of the water as possible by hand, allow the dog to shake and then finish drying with a towel. In cold weather, do not let the dog outside until the coat is completely dry. Don’t forgot to remove cotton from ears if using!
Cats are very good at grooming themselves. Their tongues have spikes that act like a comb and cats spend a lot of time licking themselves. This does not mean that they shouldn’t be brushed, as brushing will remove excess hair that would otherwise be shed, get tangled or swallowed, causing hairballs. Shorthaired cats need less brushing, generally once a week is ideal, but longhaired cats might need daily brushing to avoid matting.
Generally, indoor cats will never need to be bathed. Bathing removes the natural oils that are essential for a healthy coat and should be avoided. However, if the coat is badly stained, oily or smelly, sometimes bathing is the only option. It is very important to use a shampoo made specifically for cats, as human and dog products can be toxic for cats. Like dogs, it is important to remove all tangles and matts before bathing. Cotton can be used to plug the ears if washing the face.
It can be challenging to wash a cat. The best option is to lower the cat into relatively shallow warm water (with her back to you to avoid getting clawed) and to scoop water onto the cat’s back with a cup. Continue with the shampoo and rinse as normal, never spray water directly at the cat’s face. Sometimes it is easier to have two tubs, one for soapy shampoo water and one for rinsing in clean water. Dry the coat gently with towels, avoid rough rubbing as this will cause matting of the hair. Keep the cat indoors in a warm room until she is completely dry.
Article by: Dr. Laura Wessman