KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Washing a dog or watching someone else wash a dog: moment of Zen. (Depending on the dog, of course.) Washing a cat: not so much. Here are some tips from groomers and veterinarians on the best way to get the job done. McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers
How often should dogs be bathed?
"I kind of go with 'Wash them when they're dirty,' " says Margaret Silvius, a veterinarian at Lakewood Animal Health Center in Lee's Summit, Mo. Wash some dogs too frequently and their skin will dry out.
Every four to six weeks is typical, says Amanda Stoufer with Quivira Road Animal Clinic in Lenexa, Kan., but it depends on the dog. She bathes her own dogs every week in the summertime to remove allergens and pollen.
What if your pooch is antibath?
Make it a positive experience, Stoufer says: lots of rewards (treats) and praise. Make sure a bath doesn't seem like punishment.
What kind of shampoo should you use?
Don't use human shampoo. Dogs "have completely different skin than we do," says Jessica Quinn, 20, who works at Brookside Barkery & Bath in Kansas City, Mo.
What about cats?
"I've never given my cat a bath, and we've had her five years," Silvius says. "Most cats are really good self-groomers." But you do need to comb or brush your cat.
Stoufer says long-haired cats may require baths. And any cat that gets into something — motor oil, for instance — needs a bath.
Stoufer has noticed that cats seem to be calmer at the clinic than they would be at home; they're out of their element. "Most cats just kind of sit there and let us do what we do," Stoufer says. "Everybody assumes that cats hate water, but most of them don't seem that traumatized by it."
Still, for cats, a treat afterward may not help. Their attitude seems to be, "You humiliated me! I want some space from you," Stoufer says.
How about "pocket pets" such as guinea pigs, hamsters and mice?
They self-groom, too, for the most part. "I would just spot-clean them if they happen to get messy," Stoufer says.
Can pets be blow-dried?
Yes, but use the coolest setting. Dogs and cats can easily overheat. Stoufer's office uses no-heat fans that hook onto cages.
Quinn's tip: Be sure to dry the dog completely; it helps prevent matting.
Do you really need to brush your dog or cat's teeth?
"That's definitely the ideal thing," Silvius says. Brush their teeth every day if you can (with pet toothpaste, available in flavors such as poultry). Dental treats and water additives can help. Tartar buildup and periodontal disease can affect pets. The good news: Brushing is enough. You don't have to train your pet to rinse and spit.