By Dr. Pippa Elliott, Petplan pet insurance Veterinarian
After a day of digging in the dirt, your four-legged gardener is bound to need a bath. Some pets love to make a splash in the tub, but for others it’s a real soap opera. But if you follow these tips, you can have some fun while getting your furry friend squeaky clean.
Photo credit: iStock
Faucet frequencyDirty dogs need regular washing, but there’s a balance between keeping clean and preserving natural oils to keep skin healthy. Once a month is a good guideline, but keep in mind your dog’s skin and coat type. Dogs with water-resistant coats should be bathed less frequently, while those with greasy skin or who need a prescription shampoo should be bathed more often.
Scrubbing bubblesPick a shampoo that’s just for dogs and avoid products with artificial fragrances; these can be too harsh and could irritate pets’ skin. For dogs with smooth, glossy fur, try a mild or oatmeal-based product that’s soothing and gentle. Try moisturizing shampoo on pets with dry, dull or harsh coats (aloe-based products will provide extra moisture). If you have a pet with a dense or wiry coat, finish with a spritz of coat conditioner after bathing.
Spa necessitiesPrepare these bathing essentials in advance so you don’t have to leave your pet unattended in the tub:
- Cotton wool
- Clean face cloth
- Comb and brush
- Warm water in a bowl
- Large jug or pitcher
- Non-slip mat
- Tub or shower
- Warm, dry towels
- A hairdryer with a cool setting
Pre-bath massageBefore your pet goes under the faucet, look for reddened or scaly skin, grease, scabs or sore patches that could indicate a skin infection. Run your hands over his body to search for new lumps, or check the ones you know about. If you find anything unusual, schedule a checkup with your vet (and don’t bathe your pet, as it will wash away the evidence).
Tackle tanglesNix knots while your pet’s fur is still dry. To do this, grasp the tangle above the skin and work the hairs apart, then comb it out. Be extremely careful with scissors, and if the mat is very close to the skin, it’s best to get a groomer to clip it out.
Don’t forget to trim the fur between his toes and clip his nails, but don’t cut too much! If you aren’t confident with nail clipping, it’s best to leave this to someone who is, like a groomer or your vet.
Next, check those delicate private places where dirt and bacteria can hide. Use damp cotton wool to clean the crevices and wipe them dry. Keep an eye out for anything abnormal, like darkly-stained skin, greasiness or a discharge, and tell your vet if you see any of these signs.
Using a bowl of warm water, wipe your pet’s face with a damp cloth. Check inside his ears – any smell, wax, redness or discharge is not normal and requires veterinary attention. To clean his ears, use a product designed for this purpose. And once you’re done, plug his ears with cotton wool. Now you’re ready for the bath!
Photo credit: iStock
Photo credit: iStock
Place a non-slip mat or towel at the bottom of the tub and prefill it well below your pet’s elbows. Use warm water, never hot.
Lower your pet into the water and wet the coat down to the skin. Place a coin-sized amount of shampoo in your hands, spread it from head to tail and lather well. Use your fingertips to massage your pet deeply.
Using a jug or pitcher, rinse until the water runs clear to avoid leaving irritant soap suds on his skin. Use your hands to squeegee the excess water from his coat, then lift your pet out of the tub to start drying him off.
Soggy doggyFor short-coated dogs, towel drying will work. Be sure to dry between the toes and those private places! For long-haired pets, towel them off while using a hair dryer on the cool setting (anything hotter could harm sensitive skin). Hold the blower at a distance and keep it moving over their fur. If your pet isn’t comfortable with the dryer, stop immediately and towel dry as best you can. Once your dog is dry, don’t forget to take the cotton wool out of his ears.
If a home spa isn’t for you and your dog, ask your vet or a friend to recommend a groomer. Visit the groomer to check that the facilities are clean and ask how they cope with stressed pets. You could even introduce your pet and see if they get along with the groomer — after all, animals are an excellent judge of character!