To shampoo, or not to shampoo: that is the question.

Grooming Advice: The Shampoo Question

Pets are a huge part of family life and we only want the best for them, including looking squeaky clean with soft coats. This means giving them the occasional bath after they have rolled in the mud or other unsavory things. With so much information out there about bathing, this article may help to outline the do’s and don’ts of bathing your pet.


Why should I bathe my pet?

If your pet does not have a skin or hair condition, you may only be bathing your pet when he or she gets dirty. Bathing your pet can help remove the accumulation of dead skin cells, dirt, debris and old hairs. Bathing can also help detangle your pet’s coat. This helps maintain a shiny, healthy looking coat and eliminate odour.

Shampooing your pet can also be a great tool for treating skin conditions such as allergies or bacterial and yeast infections. If your pet does have a skin condition, your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated antimicrobial shampoo or an anti-itch shampoo to use when bathing.


What type of shampoo is best to use?

The best shampoo to use to bathe your pet is one specifically formulated for animals. Humans have more acidic skin than dogs and cats, so ideally, a specific dog/cat shampoo should be used since it is pH balanced for your pet. There are also differences in the thickness of the skin between humans and pets, along with differences in the amount of hair. This can affect the effectiveness of a shampoo and cause it to be more irritating for your pet. Your veterinarian can prescribe a shampoo specifically formulated for your pet.


How often should I bathe my dog?

Many people are concerned about bathing their dog too often. Shampoos will remove some of the natural oils from your pet’s coat and your pet’s skin can become dry with frequent bathing. If your dog lives a mostly indoor life, he may only need to be bathed a couple of times a year. If your dog stays mainly outdoors, she may need more frequent bathing.

Some dogs’ coats can build up oil more quickly and may require a more frequent bathing schedule. If your pet has a skin condition, your veterinarian may recommend bathing a few times a week. There are some tips you can use to prevent drying out your dog’s skin.

You also don’t necessarily need to use shampoo with every bath; just using water can help clean the skin and keep it hydrated. If only certain areas of your pet’s body are affected, your veterinarian may recommend “spot treatments” such as foot baths as opposed to full-body baths.


What about cats?

Cats are notorious for hating water so bathing cats can be challenging. Some cats actually love water and can be bathed easily. Cats can be bathed but bathing is not recommended as frequently due to their temperament. If your cat does get dirty, you can bathe them. Bathe cats slowly as they can become nervous if things happen too suddenly.

If your veterinarian has recommended a shampoo for your cat and you are finding it difficult to do at home, please discuss this with your veterinarian as there may be other alternatives for treatment.