Pets

Simple tips for whether (or not) your dog needs frequent baths

Jessica Hinchey, left, Olivia Fleisher, middle, and Jolie Hughes, all nine-year-old Girl Scouts from Palmetto Bay, volunteer at Paws 4 You Rescue, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in Princeton.
Jessica Hinchey, left, Olivia Fleisher, middle, and Jolie Hughes, all nine-year-old Girl Scouts from Palmetto Bay, volunteer at Paws 4 You Rescue, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in Princeton. Miami Herald file

Q: My dogs seem to do fine without baths. One gets a little stinky, but the other one never gets even slightly smelly or dirty. It’s so hard to bathe them! Do I really have to? Any tips?

A: It’s really not that hard to accomplish but somehow we aren’t always keen to bathe our pets, assuming as we do that they might prefer to skip the experience. But most actually quite like it if they’re introduced to it as a fun and rewarding activity.

Lather, rinse and repeat as needed on a regular basis. Nothing much to it. Still, there are some pitfalls. With that in mind, here are some salient tips on th e subject of bathing:

▪ People shampoo is not for pets. But why?

Two reasons: a) Because pets’ skin is acidic and b) because they don’t have sweat glands. A shampoo that’s formulated for humans is too acidic, which can affect the skin’s natural defensive barrier adversely. It’s also usually too harsh, since it’s designed for those with moister skin (sweat glands add moisture in human skin). Using the wrong shampoo can lead to dryness, irritation, flaking and in some cases, even infection.

▪ Some pets rarely need bathing.

I know that seems wrong but it’s nonetheless true that some pets can live lives that are nearly shampoo free. After all, dirt baths are a real and true thing. Using fine sand and clean soil to stimulate hair follicles and lift out debris is actually quite helpful. If you have a yard, your dogs might just be bathing themselves for you.

▪ But that doesn’t mean that frequent bathing is necessarily bad.

Indeed, some pets require frequent baths to help manage their skin conditions and smells. Some skin diseases may even demand daily bathing treatments. Soap-free shampoos are great for this, but ask your veterinarian for a suggestion. And beware…

▪ “Gentle” shampoos aren’t necessarily so mild.

Lots of my clients assume baby shampoos are best, or that all puppy and kitten shampoos are “gentle.” Not so! Apart from having an acidic pH, human baby shampoos can be harsher than they might seem. Speaking of harsh…

▪ Flea and tick shampoos are unnecessary.

Wholly superfluous. Their efficacy isn’t what you’d think it’d be. And the effect doesn’t last long. Safety- and efficacy-wise, the monthly oral medications are way superior.

▪ And one more tip: Whatever you do, brush! For most non-stinky pets, brushing is best for maintaining basic hygiene.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net.

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