By Dr. Laura Hady
As warmer days approach, many of us get the urge to start Spring cleaning. I always enjoy cleaning up my pets as well, especially since they are starting to shed their winter coats. Bathing our animals helps both the pets and us humans because it reduces the allergen load on skin, which can cause us to wheeze and sneeze and pets to itch and scratch.
Other benefits of bathing include odor suppression, dirt removal, and hair matting reduction. A good cleaning can even help heal infected or inflamed skin. Healthy pets can enjoy a bath about once a month so as not to strip away the oils in the coat, whereas pets with skin infections or allergies may need to be bathed weekly. Below are four tips for bathing your pet.
- The pre-bath ritual: It’s a good idea to brush your pet before a bath or shower to reduce the amount of hair going down the drain. My favorite dog brush is a Top Performance double rake brush that has a polymer coating. It is nice and soft, and the second row of teeth helps remove the undercoat of dogs. Then, use warm water to pre-rinse the skin before applying shampoo. Consider washing pet bed covers and blankets, too, on the day you wash your pet as these accessories can harbor odors, bacteria and yeast. For the same reason, it is even a good idea to wash dog collars at least every two months and change them out with the season. While cats may not tolerate a full bath, combing the hair with a brush that has widely spaced metal teeth and using a waterless shampoo such as the Burt’s Bees product may help remove mats and decrease the occurrence of hairballs.
- Pick the proper shampoo: Your veterinarian can recommend the proper shampoo based on your pet’s skin type. I have found that less is more in shampoos and recommend about 2 tablespoons when bathing a mid-size dog. Unless the pet needs a medicated conditioner, try a lightweight leave-in conditioner or mousse.
- Why drying is important: In the summer, you can let pets air dry after a bath. In the winter, use a blow dryer. Some dogs are very nervous with the use of the blow dryer, so try to get them accustomed to it when they are young by giving treats and using soothing words when applying the air near them. Brush the fur after drying and apply a leave-in conditioner. Drying is important to also help eliminate the undercoat and any additional smells or bacteria.
- Infections and allergies: With the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, your vet may recommend a chlorhexidine-based shampoo, and possibly antibiotics or an oral anti-fungal medication for animals with skin infections or allergies. Some pets will simultaneously have bacterial and yeast infections. Yeast infections can have a distinct sicky-sweet odor. I use the same chlorhexidine-based shampoo. For pets with parasites, such as fleas, ticks, or mites, a special oral or topical medication may need to be applied after a bath. Your veterinarian can direct you as to the medication most appropriate for the problem at hand. The Duoxo company (products available on Amazon.com) has specially medicated shampoos and leave-in mousses that help treat and soothe the skin.
A good Spring cleaning will make your pet feel lucky and also give them a spring in their step.