Nothing is better than a soak in the tub after a long, hard day: warm water, nice smelling soaps and shampoos and that squeaky clean feeling as you dry off. Your pet probably likes being clean and fresh too, but if you are not careful, bath time could result in an animal ER visit.
Brush Before Bathing
If your pet is matted, you might be tempted to just to pop him into the tub and hope the mats detangle when you rinse him off. Wet mats tighten as they dry and pull at the underlying skin. Really dense mats hold moisture against the skin. The combination of tension and moisture can result in nasty infections underneath the mat, so never bathe without brushing or clipping out mats. Don’t use scissors to cut out tightly adhered mats. Every veterinarian can recite a list of patients requiring suturing after a do-it-yourself mat removal.
Don’t succumb to the desire to use any shampoo or conditioner you find on your shower shelf. Human hair products are not designed for pets. Think about it. We don’t lick our hair after washing, but for sure your pet will and your shampoo is probably not formulated with ingestion in mind. Certain ingredients in human shampoos, like tea tree oil or anti-dandruff medications, may be too harsh for your pet’s skin. If you are in a jam and find yourself without pet shampoo, use only a no tears baby product to bathe your pet.
When your pet has just one dirty spot – spilled food, a muddy paw or a messy behind, you might want to skip a full bath and use a spot cleaner. A quick Google search will reveal a number of waterless shampoos, dry shampoos, and wipes specially made for pets. Two of my current favorites in the exam room are the Quick Bath product line and the nice smelling no rinse, waterless shampoos from Wahl. More on spot cleaning Spot.
Protecting the Eyes
Bathing your cat or dog may not be a Zen experience. If they tend to flail about in the tub, shampoo can easily splash into their eyes causing irritation, or worse, a painful ulcer in the clear part of their eye, also called the cornea. If you see your pet squinting following a bath, try rinsing the eye with some saline eye wash. If the squinting persists for more than an hour, you need to make a trip to the veterinarian’s office for special testing to identify an ulcer. To help prevent a shampoo-induced ulcer, you can apply a small bit of sterile ophthalmic lubricant (petrolatum and mineral oil) before bathing to protect the delicate cornea.
Dry On Cool
In the wintertime, you may decide to shorten drying time using your own blow dryer. Some of them can get pretty hot and burn your pet’s tender skin. First, towel dry your pet and then use the blow dryer on a cool setting. You might even consider using the diffuser to decrease the tangles from blowing.
Now that you can safely bathe your pet, all you need is a cute holiday collar or bow and she is ready to be part of the annual family photo.