WSU Veterinarians Offer Winter Dog-Bathing Tips

PULLMAN, Wash. — One of the most frequent complaints about dogs
concerns their smell, especially if they spend a lot of the winter coming from
the wet, cold outdoors into a warm, dry indoor environment they share with

Washington State University’s veterinary dermatologist says bathing a dog is
the obvious solution with not-so-obvious considerations.

Soap choice is where the confusion starts for most people wanting to bathe a
dog. In some situations it seems nothing but the harshest solvents will clean
your pet. It may also seem reasonable to use dish soap or a product designed
for human hygiene, such as shampoo. But WSU veterinarians caution against
using such products.

“Harsh chemicals aren’t necessary,” assured Dr. Terese DeManuelle, a
board-certified veterinary dermatologist and WSU adjunct faculty member from
Portland, Ore. “A mild hypoallergenic soap that’s formulated for veterinary use
is all you need.”

DeManuelle said “formulated for veterinary use” simply means a product
that’s formulated to work with a dog’s body and skin chemistry. While dish
soap or your favorite shampoo might strip away the dirt, oils and, more
importantly, the odor from your pet’s coat, it can also adversely affect their

Skin dryness, flaking, irritation and rashes are all common conditions that can
appear on a pet washed with a product not designed for use on animals. Pet
grooming products are designed to maximize cleaning and minimize irritation.

In addition to the odor-provoked “emergency bath,” DeManuelle notes it’s
safe to bathe your dog with veterinary shampoo once a week. However, if the
veterinary shampoo contains any medication or insecticide, follow the product
instructions exactly or the recommendations offered by your veterinarian.
Prescribed shampoos treat specific problems and may necessitate bathing
more or less frequently than once a week.

A laborsaving tip for bathing your pet is to comb out their coat first. Wet fur
mats more than dry fur. A wet tangled coat is harder to comb or brush out and
will take longer to dry. This small detail can save owners time and prevent an
uncomfortable grooming session that doesn’t bode well the next time a bath is

After a bath, your dog will smell good, look good and probably feel good.
Make sure your dog is dry before you allow it back outside or it may feel good
enough to dry itself in the nearest exotic aroma or soft dirt pile, starting the
whole process over again.