What is a good hygiene regimen for a dog?

A good hygiene regimen depends on the breed of the dog and how much grooming they need. Some dogs you could bathe maybe every six to eight weeks, a little bit of hair brushing, trim their nails, and they're good to go. Another dog is going to need brushing every couple of days or once a week to prevent matting, or also haircuts to keep the hair short because they'll continually grow. So, grooming is very breed-dependent.

Dr. Heather Kovac
The Drake Center

How does keeping my dog clean contribute to good health?

Keeping your dog's skin, ears, and nails in good hygiene and clean and short is very important. They can get mats and hotspots. Fleas are more common in dirty dogs with many mats. They can get overgrown nails that can penetrate their footpad or cause an infection, or their nails can fracture if they're too long. Also, when you are cleaning them and brushing them, you're more likely to notice something, so you might see a rash or a little lump on the skin that, if you weren't doing that, you probably would miss until it was much larger. So, it contributes to their skin health, but also their general health.

Is brushing my dog's teeth important to overall hygiene?

Yes, brushing teeth is a huge goal for us here at the Drake Center. We want to encourage all of our clients to brush their dogs' and cats' teeth. We have a separate video about that if you're interested in watching, but oral hygiene is so important. Almost every dog and cat that comes in here has some sort of dental disease that's completely preventable with hygiene. We recommend brushing every day, if you can, but have your goal be three times a week. Get some enzymatic toothpaste in there, using a toothbrush for abrasive action. Most dogs will accept this if they're brought up thinking it's a pleasant thing and it's a reward for them—not a scary thing. Getting them used to it is very important, but oral hygiene is essential to overall health.

How do I find the right bathing products for my dog?

There are many bathing products. Pet stores carry aisles-full. You want to go for something that's not heavily scented, that's hypoallergenic, mild on their coat because some dogs can have sensitive skin. I like Johnson's baby shampoo. I think it's super safe and has a pleasant smell, and most dogs do well with that, especially if they're sensitive about getting that around their eyes. I have seen quite a few dogs who get shampoo in their eye, whether it's at the groomer or whether it's at home, and they can get ulceration on their cornea—the outside layer of the eye. So, it is vital not to get shampoo in the dog's eye. It depends on what you like to smell and if you want your dog to smell that way—just be careful with powerful scents.

Why is it important to regularly clean my dog's bed, bowls, collar, leash, and toys?

That's just basic hygiene. The bowls will accumulate bacteria because the food's in there, and the dogs are licking it, so basic hygiene with washing those in hot soapy water. I recommend at least once a week, but more often if you'd like. As far as their beds go, they're going to start to get stinky. Dogs can have some odor, especially to their feet. They have scent glands down there, so washing the bedding regularly will keep that fresh and remove excess hair that might be trapped in the fibers. I see dogs get a rash around their neck if their collar's dirty. If it's got dirt caked under there, and that's just sitting on the skin, they can get a rash from that, so regularly cleaning those is essential.

What are some signs and symptoms of poor hygiene in my dog?

Itchy skin for sure, hair loss, rashes, red flakes, scabs, scales—those types of things are signs that there's a skin problem. Of course, fleas are going to be more common in a dirty dog or a dog that's not on a preventative. You might not see the flea, but you'll see the poop of the flea. It's this little black gritty stuff. It almost looks like coffee grounds, and it might be in the bedding, or you might see it on their coat, and that's a sign that there are fleas present because they're pooping on your dog. So, it is crucial to get control of those fleas too.

How often should I be bathing my dog?

How often you should bathe your dog is very dependent on the breed. I'd say most dogs don't need a bath more than once a month, but if they're getting dirty, if they're rolling in the mud outside, if you have a super active hunting dog, you might need to do it more often. But you need to brush your dog more frequently than a full bath.

How can a veterinarian help me with dog hygiene issues?

We can, of course, do a bath for you. We can trim their nails and clean their ears. But if you have concerns when you're petting your dog, you're finding a rash, or you see a lump, of course, we would recommend an exam to check that out and see what's going on. But we're always happy to help you with nail trims. That seems to be the hardest thing for most owners is knowing how to do it and how short to cut. Many owners are afraid of that. It can be scary, especially if you cut it too short and it starts to bleed. So, we're happy to help you with that and help train you to do it correctly.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Bathing & Hygiene - FAQs

Dr. Heather Kovac
The Drake Center

How often should I brush my dog's teeth?

Tooth brushing is a critical task. We recommend you brush your dog's teeth every day, but there's a tiny percentage of people going to do that. So I'll be honest, I can't even do that for my dogs. But have your goal be at least three times a week. If you can only do it once a month, honestly, don't waste your time. You're not helping them. You need to get in there regularly so that you can remove plaque. Once plaque turns into tartar, you can't brush it off. So that's where they need a complete scaling anesthetic dental, and it takes about three days for plaque to turn into tartar. So that's why brushing every three days is so imperative.

And then, as far as how to brush your dog's teeth, we recommend flavored toothpaste made for dogs. My dogs love the poultry-flavored one, but it's important that it has an enzymatic action. That means it's going to do some good even if you are only smearing it on the tooth. It's going to work on that plaque buildup, and then getting your toothbrush in there with some abrasive action is even better. There's a video on our website that shows you exactly how to do it, and I demonstrate how to do it, but starting with the canine teeth is an essential part. We have a little model here that shows the teeth. The canine tooth is the big fangtooth, and most dogs get tartar right at the gum line of the canine tooth. So focusing on that upper canine on both sides, and then if that's going well, you can move on to the back teeth or the cheek area. Another really common spot is this upper fourth premolar, so right at the gum line in those four spots. The right and left canine and fourth premolars are the most critical spots.

How do I get my dog used to having their teeth brushed?

That's a good question. So we recommend starting when they're puppies because they're getting used to everything at that point. So make it a very positive experience, even just having them chew on the toothbrush; put a little toothpaste on there. You can put a little toothpaste on your finger and then wipe that on their teeth, making sure that it's not wrestling time. You want to make it fun for them. You can give them a treat afterward. That's okay. Make sure they're in a comfortable position. So getting them used to just the handling first before you're brushing every single tooth is important. And then once that's going well, and it seems like they're taking to it, then you can move on to working on the spots you want to work on. But the whole thing from start to finish should not take you more than 30 seconds. You don't need to be in there for two minutes as we do for us. It should be quick, in and out. Just get the job done and don't make it a big, scary thing.

What is a sanitary haircut, and why would my dog need it?

So by a sanitary haircut, what that means is we're shaving a little path for the pee and poop to come out. So, cleaning up the rear end. Many dogs will get so much hair over their rear that they'll get poop and urine stuck in there. It can cause a skin infection. It can be a mess, and of course, that's uncomfortable for them. So we want to make sure it's a clean, healthy environment in the rear end. So, sanitary trim is just shaving that hair off.

How do I get my dog used to getting groomed?

Try to make it positive. Starting when they're young is important, but if you've got an older dog and you're just getting them going, you want to make it short. So, you don't have to do everything that first time—work on the nails at first or just work on some brushing. And you might only be able to brush one part of the dog that day and then give them a break. Then the next day, you come back and work on another area if they're really matted. This is where professional groomers come in too. They're going to be more efficient than you. They're going to have the right tools. So if it's a really matted pet, that's where the groomer can help you.

Why is it important to have my dog's nails trimmed?

It's important to have your dog's nails trimmed because they continually grow. Some dogs will kind of chew on them, but that's rare. A lot of dogs will wear them down with activity. So a dog that's less mobile or more sedentary is going to have nails that grow faster. That's just because they're not being worn down. And then the dewclaws, the tiny thumbnails, those never touch the ground. So those definitely need to be trimmed in all dogs. Some dogs have them on the rear feet, but mostly the front feet. So yes, nail trimming is important because the nails can grow all the way around and cause a problem for them.

Why is my dog scooting their butt on the ground?

So, scooting or dragging the butt, what they're trying to tell you is there's a problem back there. Most likely, it's their anal glands. So dogs have scent glands down by their anus. There are two of them, right and left, and they should be able to express those glands with a bowel movement. And most owners don't even know they have these glands because they poop outside. You never smell that smell. But if they're too full, they cause pressure on the anus, and it's irritating for the dog. So the dog will drag their butt, and they'll turn around and lick. Sometimes they'll even cry out during a bowel movement because of that pressure back there. So they're trying to tell you their butt hurts, and they need to get to the vet. So, you bring them in, and we'll help express the glands and make sure everything's clean and normal back there.

When should I take my dog to the professionals for grooming?

When you should bring your dog in for grooming depends on the breed. So if you want your dog's hair trimmed, of course, we need them to see the groomer who can do a full-body clip or even just a more thorough brushing for them. And again, some dogs never need to go to the groomer. You can do it yourself, or we can help you with the bathing, but if they need their hair trimmed, then they need to go to the groomer.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.