THE IMPORTANCE OF BATHING YOUR DOG
Dr. Julie Schell BSc(Hons), DVM, CVA, CVCHM, CVC
Would you ever wear the same pair of socks without washing them for a month or longer? Would you ever go without washing your own hair for a month? I assume that no, you would not. Then why should we make our dogs go weeks or even months without giving them a bath?
Cleanliness is so important to the overall health and happiness of dogs. Training your dog to allow you to wash and dry his or her feet after coming inside from outdoors is important and healthy. It is amazing the amount of debris, mud and plant material that gets stuck in between their paw pads. This includes dangerous items such as pine needles, tree sap, rocks, snow, ice, insects, and even harmful chemicals like lawn fertilizer crystals and motor oil. Foot washing also decreases foul odors, and helps you identify problems such as skin irritations and redness that you can then show to your veterinarian. The earlier problems can be identified and treated, the faster they will be healed.
If we as pet guardians do not remove this debris, then our dogs will often lick it out, which can be toxic to them. Excess licking of the feet can also lead to skin infections and irritations. Washing debris out of your dog’s feet will prevent your dog from tracking it all over your home as well. If you let your dogs sleep on your bed, as I do, you do not want debris in your bed either.
Washing your dog’s feet daily can also help you monitor the length of their claws so you can bring him or her for a nail trimming, or trim them yourself. The more you work with and gently handle your dog’s feet, the better they will be at trusting nail trimming and fur grooming.
Total body bathing once per week (or more often if your dogs love to roll in puddles or mud) is also very important. Dogs feel so good and smell amazing after a good bath. The act of bathing is similar to giving a massage, especially as the shampoo is lathered in. I like leaving the shampoo in contact with the skin lathering for 5 minutes. Giving your dog a 5 minute massage is very beneficial and can be done while you lather the shampoo in. Here is a video on massage techniques for dogs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Zim3PgYEAE
Plus, bathing your dogs helps you monitor for skin irritations, lumps and cuts. You can detect these issues earlier and then report them to your veterinarian. Early detection is vital.
Letting our dogs swim in a pond, lake or river is not the equivalent of bathing them. It is also inaccurate that weekly bathing is too frequent and will strip out your dog’s natural skin oils. Those are myths. Weekly bathing with a good quality shampoo from your veterinarian will never harm your dog. Come in and check out the types of safe, natural shampoos we have here at Bow Bottom Veterinary Hospital.
For dogs that grow long fur, bathing at home can be done in between visits with his or her professional groomer. You can also take classes and courses to learn how to groom your own dog. Many dog owners have learned to groom and bath their own dogs in the comfort of their own homes. You just have to prevent shampoo and water from going into your dog’s eyes and ears. You can place cotton ball in their ears for protection. And avoid shampooing vigorously their head. Instead use a warm wet facecloth to spot bathe their head and muzzles. Luke warm water is best – not too hot and not too cold. I do use warmer water in the winter time, and cooler water in the summer time to help the dogs feel best. Toweling dry is also excellent and comfortable for the dog rather than a loud blow-dryer. I also let my dogs shake off the water- dogs are very good at removing the water with a full body shake, then I towel dry again with another fresh towel.
Dogs are routine oriented. Thus, making a habit of bathing your dog on the same day and same time of the week is helpful. My dogs know that Saturday night after work are their bath times!
It is definitely possible to train dogs to accept bathing and feet washing. Gentle practice and positive reinforcement help so very much. Check out our video on how to bath your dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hV1BjQeOkgk
And on nail trimming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=702KnomERfk
Work with your veterinarian to help make bathing more pleasurable to your dog. There are many resources to help including safe, effective shampoos, relaxing herbs to help make it an even more comfortable experience for your dog, and tips to ensure success. Embrace new skills! Your dogs and yourself will benefit greatly! For more information and help contact us at www.bowbottomvet.com and [email protected]