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How do I find the right bathing products for my dog?

You want to make sure you focus on using a dog product. Please don't use something from under your sink. That's called Dawn dishwashing detergent. That's a no to Dawn, first and foremost. If you don't have anything in the house and you want to use a human product, I'm fine with that. But there is a difference between dog skin and people's skin, what we call the pH, which is a measure of how acidic or alkaline a liquid is. For example, vinegar is very acidic. Coca-Cola is very acidic. Baking soda is very alkaline. There will be some variation between human skin and pet skin. So please always use a pet product. If you're trying to bathe your pet and you don't have any pet product, I am fine with using a human product once a week, but please keep the Dawn underneath the kitchen sink where it belongs.

Dr. Bob Parrish
Carolina Value Pet Care

Why is it important to clean my dog's bed, bowls, collar, leash, and toys regularly?

Unfortunately, the beds, the water and food bowls, and dog toys can be cesspools for bacteria, especially if you're not cleaning them. For your pet's welfare and benefit, and to give them a better quality of life, you definitely want to clean their water bowl, food bowl, and toys. Think about it. If you went to a restaurant and they put down a glass of water in front of you, and it clearly had not been washed, or you got a dirty plate, you'd be disgusted, right? Well, with good reason, not just because somebody else's using it but because it looks disgusting. That's essentially what we're doing if we don't clean our own pet's water and food bowl and toys. If it's made of rubber, put them in the washing machine; otherwise, you can put them in the dishwasher, depending on the product. Clean them periodically. They're certainly going to be a much cleaner and healthier version of that particular item.

For dog beds, I definitely recommend cleaning those regularly. I have that discussion quite a bit when we're dealing with dogs with seasonal allergies because seasonal allergies are caused primarily by pollen. Every time your dog goes outside, they bring pollen back into the house with them, and then it lays down on its doggy bed, and they splatter all this pollen all over the doggy bed. Some of it's absorbed into their body, but what doesn't get absorbed in the body will be on the bed, and they go outside four or five times, six times during the day. They keep bringing more pollen back in. So if your dog does have allergies, they're just lying in this pool of pollen, which is actually contributing to or creating the allergy issues. So it's particularly important if you have a dog with allergies. You've got to wash and at least shake your dog's bedding as frequently as possible. It definitely makes a difference for them.

What are some signs and symptoms of poor hygiene in my dog?

We'll talk about skin health more in the context of bathing. Odor. A lot of dogs can have kind of a funky odor. Usually, that odor will be magnified or intensified if they have allergies. Infection can be a problem. If we do see skin infections, that will primarily be in dogs with allergies. For the overall aesthetic of your dog and how they look and feel, you definitely want to get them into the habit of bathing. Another form of hygiene, which we're going to get into in a separate episode, is dental hygiene. We get a lot of nasty mouth odors. We always think about dogs getting in our faces and how their breath could wilt a plant because it smells so bad. Well, the same goes for you and me if we didn't brush our teeth. Most people are not brushing their dog's teeth, but we'll get into dental care in another episode.

How often should I be giving my dog a bath?

Great question because there's so much mythology and so many misunderstandings. I have to be fair. Unfortunately, a lot of veterinarians buy into the mythology and give inappropriate information to dog owners. You can bathe them as often as you want if you're using the appropriate shampoo. Let me emphasize: as often as you want to if you're using the appropriate shampoo. What is an appropriate shampoo? It has to be a dog shampoo, first and foremost. My go-to shampoos for dogs are oatmeal shampoos or an aloe and oatmeal shampoo. In fact, I'm going to speak for Carolina Value Pet Care here for a moment. We do have an aloe and oatmeal shampoo. I really like that just for general cleansing purposes. It depends on the condition or the situation with your particular pet, but the more often you can bathe them, the better, particularly if they have allergies. But please don't buy into the mythology that if you bathe them more than once a year, you're going to dry their skin out. That's simply not the case. Think about when you and I take a shower. We're washing off the surface oils that are naturally created by our bodies. But guess what? In just a short time, the oils come back, and it's no different for dogs. So yes, you can bathe them as often as you want to, but you have to use the appropriate shampoo.

How can my veterinarian help me with dog hygiene issues?

First, we need to find out if there are any specific issues regarding your specific pet. If your dog has allergies, that can lead to problems with odor and skin infection. Just like I said, your dog feels lousy. So yes, that is a form of hygiene. That's one of the key areas. Regarding the dental end of hygiene, we do think of dental hygiene coming from the mouth or the oral cavity. We can also control that or at least get involved with it. Most of that's going to stem from being at home. Are you trying to brush your dog's teeth? That's still the gold standard for people. If we can do that for our dogs, that's definitely going to improve their quality of life and help with their dental hygiene and care. There are lots of different things that we'll dig into deeper in other episodes. But yes, you definitely want to bathe them. Make sure you're using a pet product when it's convenient for you and suitable for your dog. Don't hesitate to get involved with more dental care for your dog.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 288-8620, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Bathing and Hygiene - FAQs

Dr. Bob Parrish
Carolina Value Pet Care

How often should I bathe my dog?

Great question because there's so much misinformation about this. Basically, you can bathe them as often as you want. Let me say that again. You can bathe them as often as you want. Do not believe the mythology that you will dry their skin out every time you try to bathe them. There might be the case if you're using Dawn Dishwashing detergent. Don't use Dawn. It's great for your dishes, but it's detergent. You don't want to use detergent on your dogs. You wouldn't use detergent in your hair, so why would you want to use it for your dog? And no, it's not a flea product. I promise you that. Anyway, you can bathe them as often as you want, but obviously, there are some guidelines we'll get in here in just a second.

What is the best way for me to safely bathe my dog at home?

Before I answer the question, I'm going to throw in a little bit of information. Some pet stores have do-it-yourself pet bathing. Those become quite popular because they'll often provide a towel for you, maybe $10 for a dog or something of that nature. So you take your dog, you bathe them there, so you don't have to deal with getting your own personal bathroom soaking wet, and the dog splatters all over the place, and you just have a big mess, and you have to bend over. These are elevated types of setups. So you get your dog up into this space or this tub area, and they provide the shampoo and towels, and it makes it so much easier for a lot of people.

However, if you're willing to do it at home, Awesome. I do have some customers who will walk into a shower with their dogs. That makes it really simple because their dogs don't mind being in there. Maybe the owners will put on a bathing suit or something like that, and they'll get down and get some knee pads so they can bathe their dog in the shower. They turn it off and turn it on when they need to. You've also generally got a handle, so you can use a little shower handle for bathing them. That makes it really simple. Otherwise, if you don't have that sort of a situation, or if your dog's timid about walking into the shower, then certainly don't hesitate to try to get them in the tub. Again, a lot of dogs don't like the bath, and a lot of it will be the intimidation of being in the tub as much as anything else. The bathing part, they usually don't mind. It's just that anxiety of being in this strange place and knowing something will happen to him. But there are ways of working around that.

How do I get my dog used to being bathed?

The first thing I'm always going to suggest is to start young. Also, and this is so critically important, try to make it fun. How do you make a bath fun? Well, there are lots of different ways for a dog. If you have a favorite treat or some peanut butter, you'll see that some of our clinics will use some peanut butter or canned cheese; put it on your finger and let them lick it off, for example. They're making a positive association with being in the tub. That's one way you can try to do it. But the younger you start, the more they get used to having it done, and they're going to be more receptive to doing it down the road. Also, the frequency, the more often you do it, the less of an issue it is.

I will mention a couple of other things. If your dog has high anxiety about the situation and it turns into an absolute rodeo, honestly, I recommend not doing it. If you're going to be exhausted from the experience and your dogs traumatized to some degree, just don't do it. As much as you like to bathe them, if you need to, you can always do a so-called spit bath or a sponge bath. Just take a washcloth and some soap. You can do it outside or on the bathroom floor, but don't try to do it in the tub because that puts them in a high anxiety situation. You can just try to wipe them down to the best of your ability. It's obviously easier if they've got short hair than if they have long hair, but that's one way of skirting around that issue with the high-anxiety dog.

There are some anti-anxiety medications that you can buy over the counter that I often recommend. There is a probiotic called Calming Care that can be really beneficial. Another product is called L-theanine, but the L-theanine and the probiotic need to be given for a while prior to the event. You can't wake up that morning and give it to them, and they will be fine. It doesn't work that way. CBD oil, for example, can be beneficial for dogs to help relieve anxiety. But I would suggest giving it a few days ahead if you feel you have to bathe them and if it's going to be a high-anxiety situation. But otherwise, if it's going to be a trauma for you and your dog, just don't do it. Period. Wipe them down as best you can as often as you can. This can be the best substitute for bathing without all the trauma.

What shampoo should I use to bathe my dog?

It depends on the situation. In general, my favorite shampoo for general cleansing purposes is an oatmeal shampoo. Realize we see a lot of dogs with allergies. I like the oatmeal because it does have a little bit of an anti-itch benefit. It's not potent, and it's not going to linger for days and days by any means. It's going to provide very short-term relief for itching. But an oatmeal shampoo, which we offer and have available at our clinics, is an aloe and oatmeal shampoo. The aloe, of course, is a skin moisturizer. So they're getting the moisturizer from the aloe and a bit of an anti-itch benefit from the oatmeal. That makes a great combination. If your dog has skin issues, it really depends on the skin issues. We see many dogs with bacterial and/or yeast infections, and we have a medicated shampoo for those situations. Again, it depends on the purpose, but my general go-to all-purpose shampoo is an aloe and oatmeal shampoo. I really like that combination.

Do I need to use conditioner on my dog?

Good question. I'm probably the wrong person to ask if you look at the video right now, but as far as conditioners go, if you have a longer-haired dog and you're concerned about their hair getting a little bit tangled from the shampoo, yes, there are conditioners for dogs available. You could certainly use a conditioner and, of course, use it according to the recommendations for that particular product. In general, most dogs don't need one, but you absolutely can if you would like to use one. Just make sure you get one that's for dogs and not something that's in your bathroom dresser.

Are there any products that can help my dog with itching?

There are loads of products for itching. In the context of bathing, I will tell you this. I think bathing can be extremely beneficial for itchy dogs. More baths are better. Two or three times a week, no problem at all. However, if we're going, if you're going to rely on bathing an itchy dog, it's really short-lived. It's only going to last maybe a day to provide some relief. But if I have a really itchy dog, I definitely want to do something in a pinch, and bathing them is probably one of the simplest ways and the best ways of giving them some short-term relief until we can get more appropriate medications for allergies and itching. But yes, you can absolutely bathe them for the itching. That's where the aloe oatmeal shampoo can be beneficial.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 288-8620, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.