How often should dogs be bathed is a frequent question asked by my veterinary clients. And it is a good question, because the answer is “It depends.”
Dogs with healthy skin
Bathing more frequently for these dogs will remove the natural secretions of skin cells and hair root follicles that keep the skin and coat healthy and protect from viruses and bacteria. Although, using conditioners will help it stills removes essential oils from the skin. And it is important to use shampoos and conditioners specially made for dogs. Why?
Skin pH The outer protective skin layer of dogs is slightly alkaline while the outer layer of human skin is acidic. Acidity is measured on a 0-14 point scale with 0 being highly acidic and 14 highly alkaline or basic. A pH of 7 is considered neutral.
Human hair products are formulated to protect the acid pH of human skin (5.5-6.2). When they are used on dogs, they neutralize the alkaline pH of dog skin and make it susceptible to bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. These skin infections are why dogs bathed frequently with human hair products continue to smell bad and have worsening skin problems
Dogs need shampoos and conditioners that are neutral acid (7.0) or slightly alkaline (7.5). This agrees with their skin’s normal pH and promotes skin health.
Dogs with skin problems
Dogs with skin problems have different bathing needs than normal dogs. Due to allergies, infections or immune-mediated conditions (the body’s own immune system attacks the skin as if it were fighting an infection), these dogs need the topical therapy to treat the condition.
Medicated shampoos for skin disease are specially formulated to treat the condition yet maintain the natural function of the skin. Generally these shampoos are only available from a veterinarian. Often they contain medications or chemicals that some owners prefer not to use on their dogs. Fortunately, there are natural alternatives with essential oils available that can achieve the same results. These alternatives often maintain skin and coat quality better than the commercial veterinary products.