Pet Talk: Bathing your dog is preventive health care

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-1170879281857.jpg’, ‘Image courtesy of www.theswankypooch.com’, ‘A dog with short hair that doesn’t go outside much can go a little longer than two weeks between baths, but a longhaired dog that rolls in the dirt every afternoon may need to be bathed more often.‘);

Your dog may howl at the word “bath,” but it doesn’t have to be a four-letter word.

Janet Broadhead, a veterinary technician at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says a pet bath can also be an important step in a preventive health care routine. “Bathing every couple of weeks really helps with skin odor and skin problems,” says Broadhead. “It also keeps the dog’s coat shiny and healthy.”

A dog with short hair that doesn’t go outside much can go a little longer than two weeks between baths, but a longhaired dog that rolls in the dirt every afternoon may need to be bathed more often, she believes.

Broadhead also says seasons may affect bathing regularity. “In the winter, we find that they can go a little longer in between baths because they tend not to get as dirty,” she notes.

Just changing Rover’s shampoo may help to ease his bathing discomfort. There are many dog shampoos on the market, but some may not be right for your pet.

“Bathing too often can dry the coat and skin out, so we like to use moisturizing shampoos,” says Broadhead. If your dog suffers from a medical skin condition, you may need to see your veterinarian, who might prescribe a special shampoo.

“If your dog doesn’t have a medical skin condition, you should consider frequency of bathing and your dog’s individual skin and coat type when choosing the shampoo that is best for your pet,” she advises.

Ear care is an essential, but often overlooked, concern that should be included in your pet’s bathing ritual. Broadhead says the regularity of ear care should depend on the dog breed and its environment.

Some breeds develop ear problems more regularly than others; longer-flapped breeds like cockers or labs or dogs that get in the water a lot, may need ear cleanings more often,” she adds.

Regardless of the breed, Broadhead suggests that dogs should have their ears cleaned after baths.

“Ear cleaner contains a drying agent that helps dry the ears out after a bath and keeps your pet from developing any problems such as infection,” Broadhead says, “A veterinarian should clean your pet’s ears the first time to ensure he doesn’t have any problems, and to teach you how to clean them at home.”

Some dog owners may also want to use bath time to cure their dog’s “death” breath.

“Certain dogs seem to attract tartar more than others,” says Broadhead. “Your veterinarian can help you decide whether your dog can get by with a yearly dental check-up.”

If you are the owner of a dog that needs cleanings more often, or if you just want to prevent tartar buildup on your dog’s teeth, you can buy toothpaste or rinses for your dog at the veterinarian’s office.

Trimming your dog’s nails is usually the most challenging of the grooming tasks and most detested by a dog, but Broadhead says, “The sooner the animal learns to have his nails trimmed, the better.” She suggests asking your veterinarian for some basic trimming advice and starting your pet off slowly, just holding his paw at first.

“Gradually work up to manipulating the nail, getting him used to the sound of the clippers, and finally clipping the nails,” says Broadhead. Another tip is to make sure your dog’s nails are smooth when you are done trimming so they won’t snag on carpet.

From the Feb. 7-13, 2007, issue

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