Giving your pet a periodic bath is a good way to help clean, shine and freshen the scent of their coat. Plus, it’s an opportunity for you to run your fingers over their skin and check for any lumps or bumps. But how often should you actually bathe your pet?
If you don’t bathe your pet every month, is it unsanitary? Can long time intervals between baths cause health problems? On the other hand, if you bathe your pet too often, will they develop dry, flaky, itchy skin? What, exactly, is the right amount to bathe your pet?
The answer is: It depends. Your pet’s bathing needs depend on the health of your pet’s skin, lifestyle, and type of coat.
Pets with healthy skin
Dogs and cats with normal skin typically don’t need to bathe that often, especially if they have short hair. Given that many of them groom themselves to some degree, a bath every few months should suffice.
Obviously, if your dog leaps into muddy bogs with carefree abandon, rolls in dead fish and is a friend to all skunks, you probably want to give your dog a bath more often. Same goes for cats who like to nap outside in the garden dirt.
Most cats spend a good part of the day preening, often pointing one rear leg skyward, like synchronized swimmers. However, some conditions, such as arthritis or obesity, can make it difficult for them to reach certain body parts. Often, the hair may mat in those locations, and a good brushing and bath may be in order.
Longer-haired dogs and cats, as well as those with continuously growing coats, such as poodles, typically need more frequent brushing and bathing. Professional groomers may recommend a visit every 6 to 8 weeks.
The right shampoo
No matter how often you bathe your pet, make sure to use a shampoo that’s specifically designed for pets. Since the pH of dog and cat skin tends to be more alkaline than human skin, even baby shampoo can be irritating to pets. Some pet shampoos are specially formulated for different types of coats. If you have any specific questions about what’s right for your pet, ask your veterinarian.
You also want to be careful when using flea shampoos. Some flea shampoos for dogs may contain ingredients that are toxic to cats. Be sure to read the label before bathing.
Frequent bathing isn’t harmful
It was once believed that bathing pets weekly could strip the coat of important oils. But as long as you’re using the right pet shampoo, that doesn’t have to be the case. Your veterinarian can recommend a shampoo that’s best for your pet.
People with pet allergies may want to bathe their pets more often to remove dander, or flakes of dead skin, which can aggravate their condition.
Pets with skin conditions may also require more frequent bathing, perhaps even twice a week. The type of therapeutic shampoo will depend on the pet’s skin condition. Some medicated shampoos contain antimicrobials to help with bacterial or fungal skin infections, anti-inflammatories and anti-itch ingredients for pets with allergies or degreasing agents for other skin conditions. Medicated veterinary shampoos often contain moisturizers to help replenish natural oils for pets that are bathed frequently.
Is your pet’s coat due for a spring cleaning?
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.