A veterinarian whom I know online recently gave me some information about bathing dogs, and what she said was so much like my own approach, that I got her permission to use it here. I rarely bathe my dogs, but she has the arguments against doing so! “I often have people come into my practice and apologize because they haven’t bathed their dog in a few weeks,” she said. “But in my mind, that’s great.”
She explained that normal dogs without skin allergies or other sensitivities simply don’t need bathing very much at all. A dog’s coat contains natural oils which are designed to repel dirt.
When people wash their dogs a lot, these oils can be removed. If that happens, then the coat will no longer stay clean naturally. So then the people are inclined to wash the dog again, and so it goes.
She said that she bathes her own dogs roughly once a year. She realized that would horrify a lot of tidy housekeepers, but while her dogs do shed some hair, they really don’t bring in much dirt. I didn’t think to ask her what breeds they were.
She advised that if you really felt you had to wash your dogs sometimes, be sure to use a very mild shampoo, one which is soap-free, because that will remove less oil from the skin and coat.
But won’t the dogs smell without frequent baths?
This veterinarian said, ” In my experience, doggie smell comes from less-than-healthy skin. ” There are a couple of factors that particularly affect skin: diet and parasites. A good quality diet will lead to a nice shiny coat and healthy skin. If your dog has fleas or other critters that lead to scratching, then the normal bacteria and fungi that live on the skin may multiply out of control. In this context, she added that not bathing your dog will also make the flea control meds that you apply last longer.
The skin in a dog’s ear canal is much like the skin on the rest of the body. She said to me that if the dog has normal healthy ears without discharge or excessive wax, don’t use cleaners. If you do, you might upset the natural balance of fungi and bacteria in the ear. If they multiply, they will cause infection. She had a convincing argument: she personally has owned dogs for some 22 years, and she has never cleaned their ears. Just once in all that time did she have one dog with an infection… briefly.
When this advice might not apply
She recommended that you work with your veterinarian if your dog has allergies, sensitivities, or infections. In those situations, medicated baths or some kind of ear treatment may be appropriate.