For most pets, bathing may be anything but relaxing. The water itself, the noise, the confinement, the scrubbing and the suds can make most pets extremely nervous. It is up to us to make their experience as relaxing as possible as bathing minimizes shedding, keeps your pet’s coat healthy, reduces allergies, decreases chances of infection and diminishes the spread of dirt and germs throughout your home.
NOT TOO WARM, NOT TOO COLD
Shoot for lukewarm water. Water that’s too hot or too cold will create a negative stimulus for your pet, which may turn them off of bath time for the long haul. So how do you know it’s the perfect temperature? Spray the nozzle on your forearm first. That area of the skin is more sensitive to temperature than your hands.
EASY ON THE SPRAY
The sound of the loud running water combined with the water pressure from the water jet may frighten and upset your pet. Instead of spraying the water jet straight on to his fur, try to keep your pet calm by letting the water hit the back of your hand first as you slowly move the nozzle across your pet’s body. Once he is at ease, you can move your hand away and start getting his entire fur wet.
NOT THE RIGHT SHAMPOO
A pet’s skin has a different pH balance than humans, just don’t assume your pet can use your human shampoo. When choosing your pet shampoo look for brands that are specifically formulated for cats or dogs and follow the directions for shampooing on the label. Oatmeal-based shampoos are a gentle option. Medicated shampoos are an essential part of treating many skin conditions. Ask your veterinarian which might be right for your dog or cat. If your pet has sensitive skin, test the shampoo on a patch on the back of his leg first, and then look for any signs of irritation a couple days before a bath.
POOR SOAP APPLICATION
Thoroughly massage the soap into your dog or cat’s fur with your hands and fingers for four minutes. Start with your pet’s legs and work your way up to his face (the most sensitive area), avoiding the eye area. Clean his face with a cotton ball or washcloth. Wash the outside of his ears with a tiny bit of shampoo on your fingers, a washcloth or a cotton ball. Tilt your pet’s head down to keep water from going into the ear canal and to prevent ear infections. Pay extra attention to your pet’s paw pads, too, as these areas can sweat and trap odor. Then rinse away the shampoo with the shower nozzle, making sure to remove it thoroughly.
CAREFUL WITH THE BRUSHING
Pets should be brushed before and after a bath, but only if you regularly brush him at least three times a week. Brushing can be painful and uncomfortable for your pet. If you don’t know how to do it properly it can turn into a nightmare for both you and your pet. if there are mats or knots in your pet’s fur you have to be extra careful. If this is the case it is preferable to take your pet to a professional groomer. For breeds that shed (such as Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds), you can brush your pet while he is shampooed to help remove some of the excess undercoats, but for all other breeds, make sure your pet is super dry after the bath and before brushing.
A slicker brush and/or long-tooth comb will work best for most breeds. Some de-shedding tools and undercoat rakes have been known to knick the skin and cause infections, so double check all tools with a professional groomer or veterinarian you trust before using them. A groomer will also be able to demonstrate the proper way to brush your pet from head to paw.
RIGHT DRYING TECHNIQUE
Make sure you have towels ready before the bath and, if you own a dog, have a few towels on the floor and one ready to drape over his back in case he wants to shake off during the bath, or roll on the towels as usually, they like to do after a bath. Use a towel to gently squeeze the fur and pull out as much water as possible. By the end, your pet should be damp but not dripping wet. The last drying step is to use a blow dryer or any other type of drying tool. It’s difficult to regulate the temperature of the airflow, which increases the risk of burning your pet’s skin. Plus, most animals are scared of the noise, which may put a damper on the end of an otherwise positive bath time experience. Be as gentle as possible with this drying step.
BATHING TOO OFTEN
Most dogs and cats groom themselves, so no need to bathe your pet more than once a month. Too many baths can actually strip away the natural oils in your pet’s coat and cause skin irritation. Always speak with your pet's veterinarian or groomer to determine the best grooming schedule, technique, and best type of shampoo for your pet’s breed and activity level.