Dog Bathing and Hygiene
Bathing and hygiene are crucial components of caring for your dog. Suppose you have turned to the Internet searching for advice regarding your dog’s bathing and hygiene needs. In that case, we strongly suggest speaking with your veterinarian, as not everything you read online is true. Even if you are simply trying to figure out how often your dog needs a bath and what symptoms can be caused by poor hygiene, we believe that pet care information should come from licensed vets — not the well-meaning but often ill-informed keyboard warriors you often encounter online. That’s why, here at GeniusVets, we decided to send some of the most frequently asked questions about dog bathing and hygiene to trusted vets throughout the U.S. and compile their responses to give you the accurate information you can trust.
While we sourced the information below directly from veterinarians, please be sure to contact your own veterinarian for advice regarding your dog’s specific needs. Don’t have one? Find a trusted vet near you using the GeniusVets Directory!
The best hygiene regimen for a specific dog varies depending on their lifestyle, breed, and whether they have sensitive skin or other problems. There are a few essential components that your pet’s regimen should include.
Critical elements of a good hygiene regimen include:
- Regular nail trimming
- Ear cleaning
- Tooth cleaning
Determine the frequency at which you should perform these tasks based on your pet’s needs and lifestyle. For example, a teacup chihuahua who rarely ventures outside needs baths less frequently than a Labrador who loves rolling around in the biggest mud puddles they can find. If you’re unsure of your dog’s hygiene needs, your veterinarian can give you dog bathing tips.
Keeping your dog clean contributes to good overall health in several ways. Dogs who have long hair or spend a lot of time outside often get burrs and other things stuck in their coat. When not removed, they can lead to mats that pull at the skin and cause pain, sores, and infections. Regular bathing prevents these problems. It also prevents skin infections in wrinkly breeds, like Shar Peis, Bulldogs, and Pugs. Cleaning your dog’s teeth and ears prevents infections, too. Performing these tasks regularly also provides an opportunity to keep an eye on your dog’s overall condition and detect changes or abnormalities. Think about how you’d feel if you had poor hygiene and didn’t keep yourself clean. Poor hygiene affects dogs in many of the same ways.
Absolutely! Brushing your dog’s teeth is one of the most important things to do to keep your canine companion healthy. Brushing eliminates plaque and bacteria and prevents tooth decay, gingivitis, and oral infections.
Dogs who don’t have their teeth brushed regularly experience several problems, including:
- Bad breath
- Inflamed gums
- Infections in the teeth and gums
- Tooth loss
- Damage to the heart, kidneys, and liver
In dogs, oral hygiene isn’t just about making sure they have fresh breath and pearly white teeth. It’s about preventing serious health complications. Talk to your dog’s veterinarian to learn more about how to safely brush their teeth at home and what products to use.
The most important step is finding products made specifically for dogs. The pH of a dog’s skin is different from that of a human or another animal. Using products not made for dogs can result in excessive dryness or skin irritation. Veterinarians also recommend avoiding strong fragrances. Your dog’s sense of smell is extremely keen, and scented shampoos and colognes can be overwhelming.
Spend some time researching brands like you would when shopping for yourself. Choose products from well-established brands that are dedicated to making safe, high-quality pet care products. Ask for recommendations at your local pet store, or talk to your veterinarian if you need help dealing with dry or irritated skin, severe mats, and other problems that could impact your dog’s health.
Scheduling a vet appointment is the best option for dogs who experience skin infections regularly. A veterinarian can prescribe antibacterial, antifungal, and other medicated shampoos that are appropriate for your pet. There are also special shampoos and other products that contain antihistamines for dogs with allergies.
Imagine if you wore the same clothes every day and never washed your sheets or dishes. They’d get pretty gross, right? The same goes for your dog’s bed, bowls, collar, leash, and toys. Hair, dander, dirt, and oil buildup on soft surfaces, and nasty films build up in food and water dishes. Pet supplies that aren’t cleaned regularly are coated in bacteria, and in the case of food and water bowls, they can even attract insects and parasites.
You should clean your dog’s…
Food and Water Bowls: Daily
Collar and Leash: Every few months
Remember to wash your dog’s toys regularly, too! Like anything else, they can become coated in potentially harmful bacteria if you never clean them.
Poor hygiene can cause a wide range of symptoms in dogs. While some are relatively minor, others indicate serious underlying health issues.
Common signs of poor hygiene in dogs include:
- Matted fur
- A dull coat
- Dry, itchy skin
- Greasy fur
- Unpleasant odor
- Bad breath
- Tooth discoloration
- Smelly ears
- Wax buildup in ears
Pay attention to your dog’s overall condition and behavior. Do they appear healthy and well-groomed? Are they scratching more than usual? Or licking? Are they having trouble getting around? Do they stink? Examine your dog regularly, and give them a good scrub if they seem dirty. And, of course, contact their veterinarian if you spot any serious issues, like skin sores, infections, etc.
In short, the answer to this depends on your dog’s lifestyle. Some dogs need to be bathed once or twice per week, while others can get away with being bathed every few months. A small, short-haired dog who mostly stays inside usually needs infrequent baths, while a large, long-haired breed who loves spending time outside — like a Golden Retriever — may need to be bathed and professionally groomed much more often.
Your veterinarian is the best source of information regarding your dog’s hygiene. They can help with everything from dealing with an unpleasant odor and treating sensitive skin to teaching you how to brush your dog’s teeth at home and trimming their nails. Building a relationship with a skilled veterinarian is the best way to stay on top of your dog’s hygiene and deal with any problems that may arise.
For answers to additional questions regarding dog bathing and hygiene, reach out to your veterinarian. If you do not have one yet, GeniusVets can help you find a trusted local veterinarian.