Pet Health: Dog and Cat Bathing and Grooming

Good pet health includes bathing and grooming of your animal. Dogs and cats, just like people need to be bathed and groomed in order to keep their hair, skin and teeth healthy.  Animals with healthy skin and hair do not need frequent bathing or harsh shampoos - both of these can cause dry itchy skin.  However, animals that have a skin problem require a medicated bath more often in order to reduce bacteria on the skin, irritation, and inflammation and to provide relief. However, it is important to note that each animal is different. 
  • Bathe your pets when they need it, as in when they are smelly, dirty, greasy or have irritated skin. Wash their feet and in between their toes when you bring them back from exercising in fields or dirt grounds.
  • Investigate the breed of your pet and take note of any common skin problems that are found within the breed and take preventative measures as early on as possible.
  • Avoid shampoos with oatmeal.  I realize this may surprise many of you.  It is true that oatmeal is a wonderful soothing ingredient however 80% of dogs are allergic to grain, thus causing a reaction to your dog and his skin.
Often times, a dog will constantly bite at himself and this could be a sign that his skin is irritated.  Sometimes there is only a certain spot on the skin that is irritated which can be treated with creams for dry, irritated skin.  Even Aloe Vera, Vitamin E, or tree tea can help in these cases. If your dog or cat requires a soothing rinse to reduce skin irritation consider a homemade rinse.


These rinses are courtesy of Dr Karen Becker, Holistic Veterinarian.

It is preferable that homemade rinses are done in the tub.

For a yeast skin infection consider a vinegar or lemon rinse.   

Disinfecting Vinegar Rinse
  • Add 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon water.
  • Pour over dog (from the neck down).
  • Rub into skin and towel dry.
  • Do not rinse off.
 Deodorizing Lemon Rinse
    • Cut one lemon in thin slices and boil in one quart water for 10 minutes.
    • Cover and let stand for 3 hours until cool.
    • After shampooing, pour solution over your dog (from the neck down) and massage into skin.
    • Avoid eyes. Towel dry. Do not rinse off.
    Note: Applying lemon rinse to dark-coated dogs can lighten their hair color if they spend lots of time in the sun. This is not a health hazard.
     If your dog or cat is prone to hot spots, skin infections or pimples, try a Povadone Iodine Rinse. 

    Povadone Iodine Rinse
    • Add 1 cup Povadone Iodine (also called “Betadine” or 1% iodine solution from local pharmacies) to 1 gallon rinse water.
    • Pour over pet from the neck down, towel dry and do not rinse off.
    Note: This solution has an iced tea color and will turn white dogs and cats off white. This is not a health hazard.
     If your dog or cat is restless or irritated from generalized itchiness, try an herbal tea rinse. 

    Herbal Tea Rinse
    • Add 5 green, chamomile or Tulsi tea bags to 2 quarts very hot water, steep until water is cool (I recommend 3 hours to allow for the maximum amount of polyphenols to exit the teabag and enter the water).
    • Remove tea bags and pour over pet from the neck down.
    • Massage into skin and do not rinse.
    • You can also refrigerate used tea bags for a soothing topical poultice for hot spots or rashes.
    Hot Tips For A Successful Bathing Experience
    •  Use comfortably warm water, not too hot. On very hot days, or when the weather is fine give your dog his bath outside with cooler water to help reduce inflammation and irritation. Your dog or cat will love it on a hot warm or fine day. 

      Dogs with water-repellent coats (Labradors
      , poodles, retrievers, and Portuguese Water Dogs) are sometimes hard to get really wet, so diluted shampoo or rinses make the job easier.
    •  If the weather outside is cold or nippy do not bathe your dog or cat outside.  Not only is it uncomfortable for him just like it would be for you but your dog or cat can easily get a cold.  Instead bathe indoors with WARM water. Towel dry immediately and keep him indoors until he is completely dry.
    • Be aware of where your pets irritated skin is.  Irritated skin is delicate and easily injured. Your pet may feel uncomfortable at the thought of discomfort so you need to be relaxed and make bath time fun and stress free. Remember that hot spots are extremely painful so blot these areas with a rinse or shampoo soaked sponge instead of pouring water on them.  Wash paws and toes well especially if your pet goes for runs or walks in fields or large plots of dirt land.
    •  If you are bathing your dog or cat with a normal shampoo take great care to rinse his coat thoroughly.  Soap left on skin can be irritating and itchy and will leave an oily build up on your pets hair.
    • Wring out and towel dry well.  Some animals have hair that dries easily while other type hair takes a bit more work.     
    • Human hair dryers are not appropriate unless used with a “NO HEAT” setting! Allow distance between the dryer and the animal. If your pet has hot spots it is preferable you do not use a hair dryer, however if you do be very careful NOT to use any heat at all and avoid the hot spots on your pets skin.
    • Trim back your pet’s fur around any sores or scabby areas to allow air to get to the skin helping the area to dry faster and heal faster.
    • If you decide to take your pet to a groomer do not be afraid to take your own herbal rinses and shampoos for the groomer to use. Ask your groomer to avoid using fragrances and allergic sprays on your pet.
    • Although shaving your pet allows you to keep better tabs on his skin remember that hair is an insulator from the sun and can cause changes to their ability to thermo-regulate, which allows allergens to get closer contact with sensitive skin.
    Good pet health requires proper dog and cat bathing including the use of herbal shampoos for normal skin and rinsing formulas for problem skin, not over bathing and using irrigation therapy when required, as well as a proper diet and regular exercise, your pet has a good chance that his irritated skin problems can be controlled allowing him an itch, irritable, pain free life.


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