How to bathe your dog without irritating his skin

                                                      bathing-a-dog-can-be-fun

It can be a real chore to bathe your pet. Especially when your dog doesn’t like water and you try to keep the soap out of his eyes. If it is a dog with long and thick hair, it takes time to clean him thoroughly, and instead of standing still, your pet will wiggle around and try to jump out of the bathtub. But this is part of the fun!

The good news is, dogs don’t have to be bathed every week. This is not really recommended, because the animal’s skin is naturally oily and helps to keep his hair and coat healthy.

It is important to choose a shampoo that does not dry out your pet’s skin. A shampoo that contains harsh ingredients can harm the natural balance of oils on your dog’s skin and can lead to skin irritations.

How often do you give your dog a bath?

That depends on several factors. First of all, it makes a difference if your dog mostly lives outside or if it is an inside dog.

If you have a very active dog that likes to jump into puddles or roll around in chicken poop (like our dogs sometimes do) and then comes into the house, walks on the carpet and climbs on the sofa …. well, then it might be time to put him in the bathtub. Usually, we bathe our inside dogs about once a month.

The time of the year also makes a difference. We like to wash our dogs more often in summer. It’s just easier to air-dry a dog outside on the porch when it’s warm or even soap him in outside and rinse him off with the hose.                                                  bulldog-in-garden-tub

Summer is also when fleas and other insects proliferate. You might treat your dog regularly with a special shampoo that fights fleas and ticks.

We have 2 dogs that mostly stay outside in the yard and around the porch. They get bathed mostly in summer when it’s hot, that’s just easier on them. Also, it wouldn’t be a good idea to remove the natural oils from their skin and hair since a healthy coat protects them from harsh weather.

 

There are various types of dog coats

Just by looking at different dog breeds you will notice that their fur can vary in length and thickness. Each type of fur also requires specific care, because not all dogs need the same amount of grooming.

Dogs with a smooth (and short) coat, like bull terrier or dachshund, are very easy to keep clean. They don’t need a lot of grooming, and after bathing, dry him with a towel and then he just air-dries on his own.

Some dogs have a double coat. It means they have a dense and soft undercoat and an outer coat with coarse, longer hair. Examples are collies, golden retrievers, huskies, Newfoundland dogs. This coat, combined with the oil their skin produces, protects the dog against harsh weather. Needless to say, this type of fur requires more grooming and every day brushing. When he gets a bath, detangler and conditioner may be necessary.

Wirehaired dogs have a coat with a coarse texture that feels kind of rough to the touch. These breeds are relatively low maintenance and they don’t need to be brushed on a regular basis. Examples of wirehaired dogs are German pointers, Scottish terrier, Fox terrier and wirehaired dachshund.

Dogs with a curly or wavy coat do not need a lot of brushing but their curls need to be clipped regularly. This type of dog hair does not develop a lot of mats or tangles, but after shampooing the dog it is recommended to use a conditioner or cream rinse to hydrate his coat. Examples are poodles, bichon frise.

Longhaired dogs can either have a coarse or a silky coat. Long hair requires regular brushing and a detangler might be necessary to get out the tangles. Besides shampoo, a conditioner is recommended. Some people recommend using a hair dryer after bathing a dog with long hair (even though I am not sure if this is really the right way to dry a dog’s hair). Examples of long haired dogs are Maltese, Yorkshire terrier, Shi Tzu.

The last category: dogs with a hairless coat. Yes, they really exist, for example the Chinese Crested, Peruvian Inca Orchid or the American hairless terrier. All they really need for bathing is soap and a soft sponge!

chinese-crested-puppy

What shampoo to choose?

The most important thing is to keep in mind that a dog or cat cannot be washed with soap and conditioner that is destined for humans.

A dog’s or cat’s skin does not have the same pH balance than human skin, not to mention that the natural oils on our pet’s skin and coat protect them from harsh weather conditions. So, we don’t want to irritate their sensitive skin by using products that have too many harmful ingredients like sulfates, phosphates, colorants or other chemicals.

Also, we don’t want to dry out our pet’s skin because we have to bathe him, so choosing a shampoo that hydrates and nourishes his skin and coat while cleaning it at the same time is another important aspect.

Natural and organic dog shampoos and soaps are usually specifically formulated for your pet’s skin condition.

One of them is BURT’S BEES OATMEAL SHAMPOO for dogs. Its main ingredients are colloidal oat flour, honey and beeswax. Colloidal oatmeal is known to improve dry skin and soothe eczema and honey helps to hydrate hair and skin.

It’s unscented and it foams less than some other commercial products.

This shampoo is about 97 % natural, does not contain harsh chemicals and it’s cruelty- free.

If you are looking for a completely natural dog shampoo consider the line of pet shampoo made by EARTHBATH, for example EARTHBATH OATMEAL & ALOE or EARTHBATH TEA TREE OIL & ALOE VERA, formulated for dogs and cats.

These products do not contain any kind of toxins or chemicals and claim to be 100% biodegradable.

EARTHBATH shampoos work wonders on your pet’s itchy skin and I also like the fact that each variety has it’s own natural fragrance, for example a fresh citrus scent if you go with EARTHBATH DIRTY DOG SWEET ORANGE OIL or vanilla and almond scent for EARTHBATH OATMEAL & ALOE.                                puppy-in-yellow-bath-tub

Flea shampoos

Even if you are treating your pet for fleas, sometimes you still find those pesty little critters in your dog’s or cat’s fur. Then bathing your dog with a special formulated shampoo can help to get rid of insects fairly quick.

If you are worried about DEET or other synthetic pesticides on your pet’s skin and coat opt for flea shampoos that repel fleas with natural ingredients, safe for adult dogs and cats and safe for puppies and kitten.

If you are more hand-on and you don’t like shampoo bottles, then DERMAGIC SHAMPOO BARS might the right thing for you and your pup.

DERMAGIC are handcrafted shampoo bars with all natural ingredients like a variety of essential oils. Choose the one with DIATOMACEOUS EARTH in it, a natural powder that eliminates fleas (if you want to know more about the wonderful properties of diatomaceous earth see my article “Natural ways to repel fleas and ticks“).

Besides getting rid of fleas and providing some anti-microbial protection this soap is gentle and soothing on your dog’s skin and also has a pleasant smell.

DERMagic Certified Organic Shampoo Bars                                                          click here         

                                       

NATURAL CHEMISTRY NATURAL FLEA & TICK SHAMPOO WITH OATMEAL is another great product that uses essential oils like cinnamon, clove oil and cedar oil. It not only nourishes and hydrates your dog’s skin and coat, it also kills fleas and ticks and is supposed to be effective for up to 7 days.

These are just two examples of flea shampoos made with natural ingredients, but of course there are more great products out there. By the way, most of these flea shampoos can be applied if even your dog has been treated with a topical flea product.

                                  adorable-springer-spaniel-in-bathtub

Waterless shampoo

For the days when you are on a tight schedule and you don’t feel like going through the ordeal of giving your pet a bath, there is “bath in a bottle” waterless shampoo. This is for spot-cleaning only and of course does not replace the more thorough ritual of bathing with water and soap.                                                                                                          

SHOW SHEEN waterless shampoo by ABSORBINE does not only clean without rinsing, it also helps to condition and detangle long and short hair such as horses, llamas or dogs.

ABSORBINE is a well-known company that started out with making tinctures with blended herbs and essential oils to relieve joint and muscle pain in horses. Since then, this company has developed many innovative products not only for horses.

ABSORBINE waterless shampoo is fortified with vitamin E to keep the animal’s coat shiny. Otherwise, I am not sure which the exact ingredients are, since there is nothing listed on the label. It does say that the product is combustible, that makes me think that it may contain alcohol.

Nevertheless, we love ABSORBINE products and we always have them in the house, and not only because we own horses.

If you prefer something 100% natural and alcohol-free, try BODHI DOG WATERLESS SHAMPOO. It’s non-toxic and gentle and works for very sensitive pups, cats, kittens, guinea pigs … for all kinds of animal fur.

This product comes in different scents like lemongrass or lavender and besides putting it on your dog’s coat it can also be sprayed on upholstery and bedding to freshen up.

 

Wash your dog, yes, but only when necessary

If you own a longharired dog or one with curly hair, it is important to brush him every day, because this helps getting the tangles out of his coat and get rid of dust and loose dirt.

When you clean your pet, don’t use detergent, shampoo or conditioner made for humans. It’s ingredients can damage the sensitive balance of oils on your pet’s skin and dry it out. In general, I recommend using a gentle soap/shampoo with natural ingredients, one that can sooth and relieve dry and itchy skin and keep your dog’s coat soft and shiny at the same time.

If you are on the go and you need to freshen up your dog, a waterless shampoo will do the job temporarily.

                                                      dog-in-bathtub-being-shampooed

                                           Otherwise: Happy bathing!

 

Affiliate disclosure – I am an affiliate of many products promoted on this website and may earn a commission if you purchase something.

My dog and cat are afraid of thunder and how I can keep them calm

 

storm-clouds

It’s summer, and here in Mississippi it’s hot and muggy. That means thunderstorms almost every day, especially in the evening time. Dark clouds are forming out of nowhere, booming sounds in the distance, the first rain drops are falling.

My little dog can sense bad weather coming, as soon as the first rain clouds start to show up, she looks at the sky and gets seemingly nervous. She hears thunder rolling and it’s still far away, but she refuses to go outside, she puts her tail in between her legs and looks for a place to hide.

She is panicking when it comes to thunderstorms, but in general she dislikes very loud noises. She gets anxious when we turn on the vacuum cleaner and hides under the bed, or she runs off when my husband starts using his power tools.

Loud noises cause stress

Are dogs and cats really that noise sensitive?                                           cat-under-sofa

As a matter of fact, our pets do not only have an extraordinary sense of smell, they also have a very fine hearing. Cats have a hearing range of 40 -64,000 Hz, dogs 40-60,000 (human range 20-20,000 Hz). That means they can detect very high-pitched sounds as well as sounds in the low frequency range and of course they can detect noise from a far distance before the human ear can hear it.

Due to their sensitive hearing cats and dogs may react differently to loud noises, and the sounds of fireworks, thunder and vacuum cleaners are mostly uncomfortable to them. Especially dogs like to act out their stress and anxiety and can become quite agitated when it comes to loud noises.

Cats can get anxious also but usually they don’t get as frantic and self-destructive as dogs. Cats jut like to hide somewhere.

I also want to mention that especially in older dogs noise sensitivity can be accompanied by musculoskeletal pain. I ran across an article on phys.org which points out that the cause for the physical pain that a dog might experience while hearing loud noises could be due to an underlying medical problem. The connection between noise and pain makes the dog even more anxious of explosive sounds.

cat-in-blanket

Common drugs for anxiety in pets

For milder forms of dog anxiety an over the counter medication like Benadryl for dogs can be used. It causes drowsiness but it can help to calm your pet during a noisy event.

For more severe cases of noise phobia a veterinarian can prescribe certain sedatives or anti psychotic drugs like acepromazine in pill form that have to be administered before the thunderstorm or fireworks start. Some anti-anxiety drugs prescribed have to be taken for several weeks to be more effective and the animal has to be weaned off slowly.   blue-pill-bottle

Some medications work by altering serotonin levels (responsible for mood) in the brain, and in that case the pet owner has to be very careful not to give his dog certain types of food that contain l-tryptophan (in peanut butter, turkey meat) since this can cause serious side effects.

About SILEO

SILEO is a new pharmaceutical anti-anxiety drug for dogs that works by blocking the chemical norepinephrine in the brain. It is administered with a syringe into the dog’s cheeks, which is supposed to be easier than giving pills to a dog. Lot of veterinarians and pet owners like the drug because it seems to be very effective in cases of severe anxiety. I have read several testimonials from pet owners stating that after taking the drug their dog was visibly calm.

Even though SILEO seems to have only minor side effects and it its hailed by many pet owners, the drug is still somewhat controversial and there are certain risks that need to be addressed:

  • The dog stays drowsy for several hours.
  • There is always a risk of overdosing because most pet owners are inexperienced in administering drugs. If that happens, the animal’s blood pressure can drop and his breathing and heart rate may slow downing and possibly leading to cardiac arrest.
  • The medicine’s instructions recommend that the person administering the drug should wear disposable gloves to prevent the drug from touching the skin. Does this precaution suggest that the drug may contains toxic ingredients not safe for humans and animals?

anxious-dog-in-blanket

Calming your pet without drugs

For moderately stressed pets I would definitely try alternative methods first. One way is to use an “anxiety wrap” in form of a vest called thundershirt. It’s an anti-static vest that provides comfort to dogs during noisy events by applying pressure. By the way, thundershirts also work on anxious cats.

There is also a calming collar available which is less costly. It’s drug free and works by imitating calming pheromones that naturally occur between mother and puppy.

Electric dog diffusers (plug-in) use the same concept of releasing calming pheromones when your pet is in a stressful situation.              aromatherapy

Natural supplements

There are different types of nutritional supplements that work as anxiety relief and that you should try out without having to expose your pet to strong pharmaceutical drugs.

One supplement is Melatonin for dogs, a hormone that exists in human and animal bodies. People take Melatonin as a sleeping aid, but for dogs it has a stress-relieving and calming effect besides making them drowsy. It is always a good idea to check with the veterinarian which brand to use because some of them use the ingredient xylitol harmful to dogs.

Homeopathic remedies are always a good option to try when it comes to natural treatments. There is a variety of anxiety relief remedies on the market, mostly in form of drops that are added to your pet’s food or water.

A popular brand is Bach  Rescue Remedy for noise sensitive pets  (or pets who are anxious in general), works for cats and dogs and is also approved by veterinarians. Besides adding the medicine to your pet’s food it can be applied topically by rubbing it on your pet’s ears or paws. The great thing about homeopathic remedies is the fact that they don’t leave your pet loopy or drowsy.

essential-oils-bottle

Calming with essential oils

The aroma, that is the specific fragrance of each essential oil triggers certain feelings in the human and animal brain. This is why aromatherapy has been used for ages to help us relax and keep calm when we are stressed.

When using essential oils on pets always be aware that what works for humans does not necessarily work for your pets. They can be very therapeutic but only in small amounts. Remember that dogs have a strong sense of smell and when it comes to cats, some essential oils are harmful. If an animal cannot handle the aroma of a certain oil, don’t force it on him.

chihuahua-in-bed

Aromatherapy for pets is available in various forms:

  • In spray form: Spray bottles can be used when you mix your own oils and diluted with water. There are also dog and cat calming sprays (referred to as “calming mist”) on the market to choose from. When it comes to cat safety, consider getting a so called hydrosol spray, a non alcoholic steam distillate drawn from the aromatherapy still.
  • As topicals: For example calming oils as roll-ons behind ears, paws, belly.
  • Essential oil diffuser: If you have pets in the house, use a high quality one to regulate the amount of fragrance. If you have cats, be especially careful and make sure essential oils are heavily diluted.

If you choose to blend your own mixture of essential oils, make sure to only use high quality therapeutic grade oils, organic if possible. It is also recommended to use carrier oils like sweet almond or jojoba oil because you do not want to put undiluted essential oils on a pet’s skin. If you do dab them on your pet’s body, don’t apply them around the animal’s nose, ears and genitals.

The best essential oils for noise sensitive and anxious dogs:

Citrus oils (for mood improvement), Ylang Ylang for anxiety, lavender oil, neroli and melissa oil for calming.

Calming oils for anxious cats:

Lavender, rose oil, neroli, scented geranium oil.

Note: There are different opinions on the safety of lavender oil for cats, also see my article “How to repel fleas and ticks naturally”.

Final thoughts

When choosing the right way to relax your pet in a stressful situation you have to determine if your cat or dog suffers from moderate anxiety or a severe phobia that’s very hard to manage. If your pet shows general signs of noise sensitivity I would try to soothe him with essential oils or homeopathic drops for pets, get a calming collar or a thunder vest. In case of extreme panicky behavior and after everything else fails to calm your pet, I would definitely consult a veterinarian and get help with conventional methods. After all, it’s a personal choice : Do I like to be knocked out with drugs and do the same to my pet?

dog-wearing-ear-phones

 

 

Affiliate disclosure – I am an affiliate of many products promoted on this website and may earn a commission if you make a purchase.

 

 

Natural ways to repel fleas and ticks

cat-scratching

When you have a dog or a cat living with you inside the house, they can spend a good amount of time scratching themselves. And not only that, they might lick parts of their body intensely and chew on certain spots. Having a dog around you that can’t stop scratching can be very noisy and the constant rattling and jolting can be very annoying. And because you want a healthy pet, you want to got to the root of the problem. In this post I am looking at some natural and non-toxic ways to fight external parasites.

Why is my dog or cat scratching?

Scratching in dogs and cats can have different reasons:

  • Psychological reasons like boredom or anxiety. Especially young dogs need to be kept busy, give them a bone to chew on for distraction!
  • Hormonal imbalances such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. If your pet’s body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone it can cause skin irritations and bald spots.
  • Allergic reactions to plants and pollen your pet comes in contact with. Or your pet might be allergic to the shampoo you are using to bathe him with. Food allergies caused by the ingredients in pet food can also be a reason why your dog or cat has itchy skin.
  • Your dog or cat might have ringworm. This is a fungal infection that causes round lesions on the skin and is transmitted by fungal spores. Common symptoms are a ring-like red skin irritation with and crusty and scaly skin, this may or may not cause itching. Your veterinarian will prescribe topical and oral fungus medication. If you suspect ringworm, have your pet treated immediately since this fungus is very contagious to humans.
  • Your dog or cat has external parasites like ticks, mites and fleas and this is the most common cause for your pet’s constant scratching.

How do fleas affect your pets?

I think that fleas are the main reason as to why a dog or cat may be constantly scratching. Fleas thrive outside in grass or sandy areas and inside the house in carpet. Fleas can lay about 40 – 50 eggs a day. Besides itchy skin, there are more signs that your dog might have fleas:

  • Fleas can cause skin irritations with hair loss.
  • Flea bites can cause allergic reactions in some animals and they develop a skin condition called allergic dermatitis. That means severe itching and scratching with red skin and scabs. Even after flea medication is given, some symptoms still persist.
  • Flea infestation is even more harmful to puppies. Besides infected skin with hot spots, puppies may develop anemia, pale gums and weight loss.

Natural flea and tick prevention in your yard             basket-with-herbs

It makes sense to fight fleas and ticks before they even get to pets and humans. If you do not want to spray the usual pesticides in your yard you can opt for more natural and proven ways to deter pest:

  • There are certain plants you can grow that are supposed to keep fleas away, but be careful what you choose because they might be toxic to cats and dogs. Some safer plants to grow as natural flea repellents are mint, catnip, rosemary (the actual rosemary herb), chamomile, lemongrass, lavender, says Linda Cole in her blog on canidae.com.
  • A chemical-free way of treating your yard is using nematodes. They are worm like microscopic parasites that live in soil and kill fleas and their larvae and other bugs like termites. Nematodes are available as a solution that can be sprayed in your yard and garden and it is safe for pets.
  • Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is also effective in killing fleas and ticks. It’s a powder like natural substance made of microscopic particles. It can be sprinkled on your pet’s bedding or outside on your porch. It can also be sprinkled on your dog or cat, just be careful not to inhale the dust. It is a very dusty product so keep that in mind if your pet likes to sleep on your bed or sofa.

Conventional flea and tick repellents

The simplest way is to go through your pets fur with a flea comb and remove the fleas. This gets harder though when your dog or cat has very thick and long hair. I would recommend this method in combination with an additional treatment.

Popular are tick/flea collars and can be bought anywhere. They work for dogs and cats, but if you use them for your cat be sure to buy a break-away collar so she doesn’t get stuck anywhere. There are different types of flea collars used to kill fleas/ticks or to repel them. If you opt for a conventional flea collar, you should know that they are treated with toxic substances like insecticides to be effective (and this can be worrisome to some pet owners).

Often recommended, and instead of using a flea collar, is flea medication taken orally in form of tablets or pills. Some of them can only be bought through a veterinarian or need a prescription. There are quite a few types on the market, for example daily pills to kill fleas fast and long term pills (like monthly pills) to prevent flea eggs from hatching.                                                                                                             veterinarian-giving-flea-medicine

Dogs are more affected by ticks than are cats, but cats can get ticks as well. The majority of the tick/flea prevention pills (like the monthly pills) are made for dogs, so if you want to get one for your cat, look for medication that’s made for small dogs. When it comes to cats, it’s important to watch the dosage.

Different types of topical flea repellents are also available in abundance, from flea shampoos, soaps to sprays. Sprays are usually spot-on skin treatments which contain neurotoxins that kill fleas. These chemicals, if used in small doses, are considered as safe for pets, but be cautious with spot-on sprays, they can be harmful to people (and children!) when inhaled. Also, small dogs and cats don’t need large doses, and what is safe dogs might not be safe for cats.

Natural and non-toxic flea repellents

Like I mentioned before, conventional medications and topical products used to kill fleas and ticks contain harmful substances like DEET and other chemicals. You don’t only expose your pets, it’s also not safe if you have small children in the house (because small children like to put their hands on a pet that has been sprayed).

Not all natural methods work equally well and it’s recommended to combine several methods for them to be effective. There is a lot of literature on the use and effectiveness of essential oils on pets to deter fleas and ticks. Essential oils can be controversial, especially when it comes to cats. Cats don’t have the liver enzymes to break down the substances present in essential oils which makes them more harmful to cats than to dogs.

Neem oil

It’s a natural pesticide gained from the seeds of the neem tree which has gained in popularity. It is a potent anti fungal and antibacterial and used in a lot of cosmetics, hair products and pet shampoo. It has a garlic/sulfur smell and is therefore often combined with other essential oils. While neem oil is safe for dogs and humans, a lot of sources warn to use neem oil on cats. One of the reasons maybe that products containing neem oil also contain other essential oils harmful to cats.

essential-oils

Other essential oils

They can be used in form of sprays mixed with other ingredients like water and vinegar and applied on the animal (but be careful with cats when applying directly on skin) or the can be sprayed around the house. The fragrance of the oils is supposed to deter fleas and ticks. There are many types of natural sprays on the market, but the good thing about essential oils is that they can be mixed easily at home. Especially lavender oil, citronella or lemon oil are popular due to their fresh fragrance and are safe to use for dogs.

Collars dipped in essential oils are also available as flea and tick repellents and you can even make your own dog collar by dipping a scarf in lavender, rosemary or cedar oil.

There are conflicting opinions on the use of certain oils on cats but if you are trying to protect your cat from fleas and ticks, the safest essential oils to use are products that contain catnip oil (often diluted with a carrier oil), peppermint oil, rosemary and cedar wood.

All citrus oils like lemongrass (citronella), lemon and lavender oil can be toxic to cats, same with tea tree oil and several other essential oils  (christinedemerchant.com).

Note: Opinions on lavender oil for cats are conflicting. I have read articles on aromatherapy for cats recomending lavender as a calming oil.

Brewer’s yeast for dogs and cats

This is another natural method to repel fleas, ticks and other biting insects. It is somewhat controversial and not scientifically proven but many sources claim it works. It might be the smell of the regular use of the yeast or the changes in the taste of the blood that keeps parasites away.

Brewer’s yeast, used in bread and in beer, is rich in vitamins and minerals and has many health benefits if taken as a supplement. It can improve your pet’s coat and keeps your dog’s or cat’s skin healthy and less itchy. I think it is worth giving brewer’s yeast a try to see if it keeps parasites away, the only drawback is it stimulates your pet’s appetite and he might gain weight.

Apple cider vinegar                                                                 dog-with-apple-cider-vinegar-and-lemons

Apple cider vinegar is good for so many things and yes, it’s supposed to help prevent fleas on pets. It can be mixed with other essential oils like geranium oil or citronella oil and sprayed on dogs as flea repellent. Or, it can be added to your pet’s drinking water: 1 teaspoon of vinegar for one quart of water and for cats just half a teaspoon of vinegar. I am currently trying this to see how it works in the long run.

In my opinion

If your dog suffers from a bad infestation of fleas and his skin is irritated I would seek the advice of a veterinarian and treat him with conventional medication to kill the fleas quickly. But as follow-up treatment to keep fleas and ticks away I like the idea of using natural products to avoid exposing my pets to harsh substances.

When it comes to natural flea repellents keep in mind that they work best and more efficiently when combined. For example, use a collar dipped with essential oils but also use a natural flea repellent spray on your dog regularly.

I also want to mention that a healthy cat is able to control fleas much better than dogs. Cats groom themselves extensively and are able to get rid of fleas that way. This also means that if you use chemicals on cats these substances get easier into their system. On the other hand, when it comes to products with essential oils be aware that cats are much more sensitive and what works for dogs does not necessarily work for cats.

puppy-being-bathed