Washing Pets: How Often and What Shampoo to Use?

You may have noticed that dogs and cats both get dirty easily, but the way they clean themselves differs. Cats usually groom themselves by licking their paws and scratching around in the dirt, while dogs use their long fur to comb out dirt and other debris. Both animals require bathing from time to time to keep things fresh and healthy.

While most pets can probably handle occasional bathing, some will need regular cleaning up because their hair doesn’t stand up as well against bacteria and viruses. The first step is knowing exactly what sort of hair your pet has. Read on for specific information about the different types of dog and cat hair.


Cats are naturally self-grooming creatures. Their short coats don’t allow much dirt, dust, and moisture to accumulate, so keeping them clean isn’t a big deal. If you notice that your cat’s coat seems dull and less than attractive, however, this could indicate a problem with its hygiene routine.

A cat that goes without bathing too long can pick up parasites, fungi, and diseases. These infections can cause illness, skin irritation, and even death in extreme cases.

If you suspect that your cat is suffering from an infection or health issue, consult your vet right away. In addition, make sure all family members wash their hands thoroughly before handling your cat. It’s also important to pay attention to whether your cat urinates frequently. This might indicate that something is wrong, like bladder issues.

One of the biggest problems with not washing your cat regularly is fleas, ticks, and worms. Flea eggs can stay active inside your cat’s pores for weeks after infestation. Ticks can spend months attached to your pet’s fur, irritating the skin and leaving behind nasty sores.

Worms can burrow into your cat’s body and lay eggs that hatch into larvae, which then crawl through your cat’s bloodstream to other parts of the body. All of these pests can spread diseases such as tapeworms, ringworm, and heartworms.

Regular grooming helps prevent many of these problems. You should brush your cat’s fur gently every day, especially near its head. Pay special attention to areas where insects hide, such as behind ears, under tails, and around toes. Be careful not to pull on your cat’s tail or scratch its ear holes.

It’s very important to follow proper sanitation procedures when dealing with your cat. Make sure everyone who comes into contact with your pet washes his or her hands. Don’t share items, including razors, combs, brushes, towels, and clothes. Also avoid sharing food dishes, utensils, and cups. Your cat will probably enjoy having you give it a bath — as long as you do it properly. We’ll discuss how to do this next.


Unlike cats, dogs are social creatures. They have personalities, preferences, and habits, and they’re extremely sensitive to smells, sights, and sounds. Dogs depend heavily on humans to help them maintain good hygiene by brushing and bathing them. Proper care keeps your pet’s teeth, gums, and skin healthy and free of harmful bacteria and germs.

The type of soap you choose depends largely on your dog’s breed. Some breeds are naturally resistant to getting fleas and ticks, while others are highly susceptible. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best products for your particular pooch.

Dogs are pack animals, and they respond to commands given by their owners. Therefore, it’s imperative that you keep track of when your dog takes his daily bath. Ideally, he should be able to relax for at least 30 minutes afterward, allowing him to calm down and lick off his scent glands. When bathing your dog, use warm water instead of hot.

Hot water burns and irritates your dog’s skin. Never leave your dog alone in the tub or sink. Any time you enter the bathroom, close the door or curtain completely. And never put anything made of metal, plastic, or rubber into the water.

To reduce the number of bacteria leftover from previous users, change the water in the tub once every 48 hours. Keep a bucket of used water in the kitchen to reuse later. To remove odors, add 1 tablespoon baking soda per gallon of water. After each bath, rinse your dog’s face and nose area with a cloth dampened with cool water to soften the hairs and release oils. Dry your dog’s body carefully with a towel. Never rub hard against the grain. Instead, pat dry.


Many fish species live underwater for most of their lives. However, they still need to come up for air periodically to breathe. Keeping your aquarium clean and unclogged promotes healthier conditions for the fish.

When you clean the gravel and bottom of your tank, you remove algae growth. Algae serves several purposes for the fish: It absorbs sunlight for photosynthesis, provides energy for swimming, and acts as natural pest control. Without algae, the environment would quickly become unsafe for your fish.

Unfortunately, removing algae means pulling the entire contents of the tank out and dumping them onto a large surface. While you can pour the waste back into the tank, the new growth will soon build up again. As a result, you should clean your aquarium every two to four days, depending on the size of the tank.

In addition to helping keep the fish healthy, frequent cleaning prevents the buildup of ammonia, nitrite, and pH levels. Ammonia gas produced by decomposing organic matter causes severe eye damage and breathing difficulties in fish. High concentrations of nitrites combine with oxygen to form corrosive compounds called nitrogen oxides. Overly high ammonia and nitrite levels can lead to fish deaths.
Too low pH levels can also kill your fish. Finally, remember that when you clean your aquarium, you must use non-toxic cleaners. Always buy those specially formulated for freshwater aquaria. Avoid household cleaners, bleach, and detergents.


Like fish, birds need periodic baths to keep their feathers and plumage clean and healthy. Most bird species rely almost entirely on their feathers for protection from wind, rain, sun, and flying predators. Birds’ ability to fly relies on the strength and flexibility of their wings. Feathers provide support for strong flight muscles.

Because birds are small, lightweight, and fragile, they cannot tolerate being submerged for long periods of time. When you bathe your bird, try to limit the time spent underwater to no more than 15 minutes. For this reason, you should always bring along a friend to hold your bird during a bath.

Aquatic bird enthusiasts recommend keeping birds in shallow ponds rather than deep tanks. This minimizes the risk of injury due to falling and reduces the likelihood that your bird will drown in the event of a power failure. Birdbaths should be kept free of floating objects, like leaf piles and toys.

Avoid putting your bird’s cage near a radiator or space heater. Heat and humidity radiated from these sources can harm your bird’s delicate feathers. Heating pads are OK to place underneath, but only when the temperature in the room stays below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make sure your bird’s bathwater is tepid or lukewarm. Temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit can burn your bird’s tender feet and eyelids. Remember that birds shouldn’t drink alcohol or eat within 24 hours prior to bathing. Alcohol dehydrates birds and makes them vulnerable to bacterial infections. Water containing traces of yeast, brewer’s yeast, vinegar or perfume can also upset your bird’s digestive system.

Large Animals (Horses)

Equine bathing presents unique challenges. First, horses don’t sweat, so they can’t regulate their own temperatures. Second, horses need ample time to recover from a bath. Finally, horses are stubborn creatures whose sense of smell is keenly attuned to their surroundings.

As a result, equine practitioners say that horse baths should last no longer than 20 minutes and occur only twice weekly. Horses should never be left unattended in a stall or paddock for extended periods of time.

During the bath, soak your horse’s muzzle and legs in warm, sudsy water. Gently scrub with a sponge moistened with mild soap. Rinse the mouth area with clear water. Pat dry with a soft cloth. Never apply human shampoo directly to your horse’s mane and tail. Instead, wet a rag with cool water and wipe the shampoo across your horse’s neck and shoulders.

After the bath, clip your horse’s mane and tail closely. Do not cut or shorten these areas unless you’re going to show your horse. Trimming or cutting your horse’s hair can compromise its physical integrity and increase the chance of injury.