My Dog is Losing Hair…Help! Bathing & Shedding

Common questions a veterinary dermatologist receives:  My dog is losing hair…help: bathing & shedding

How often should I bathe my dog?
I often hear clients say that their breed of dog should only be bathed “X” number of times per month. These are really only simple guidelines.  Just like in people, your own dog determines the answer! The dog with “greasy” and “smelly” skin will need more bathing than the dog without skin disease! If your dog has allergies causing itchy or rashy skin, which can cause your dog to lose hair, then more frequent bathing can be helpful to remove bacteria, yeast and other products of inflammation from the skin surface. In addition- frequent bathing can be great for overall skin health & help prevent that doggy odor!  Don’t believe the old “wives tale” that frequent bathing is harmful!  The most important tip is to make sure that you use a shampoo pH balanced for your dog’s skin as well as one that contains ingredients to promote the normal protective epidermal lipid barrier. 

Does my dog shed too much? Is there anything I can do?
In general, shedding is considered a medical problem only when it causes areas of baldness (alopecia). If areas of baldness are not occurring, the shedding is likely “normal” for that dog (although inconvenient).  A variety of factors affect hair coat growth (light, temperature, diet and stress are just a few factors).  Interestingly, nervous or anxious pets will shed more than pets with calmer or “laid back” personalities!  Notice how your pet tends to shed in an “uncomfortable situation” such as the veterinary office!

Buyers beware… although a variety of products have been marketed to decrease shedding none have been shown to be effective for this.  Your best bet to decrease shedding is to routinely brush and bathe your dog-, which removes the hair that is ready to “shed” anyway.

One note regarding the Furminator:  Use with caution.  Although there are large numbers of individuals that love the tool, we are seeing an association between  bacterial skin infections and use of the Furminator.  The tool has the potential to cause small micro-abrasions in the skin resulting in a secondary superficial bacterial folliculitis.


BATHING YOUR DOG: Vitally Important Step in Treating Skin Disease

1.  The type of Dog Shampoo is crucial! Choose an appropriate and effective product; don’t judge a dog shampoo by scent alone.  Lavender or Coconut shampoos smell great but may not help with rashes, itching or bacterial & yeast infections. Not all shampoos are designed to handle the same job. Be a savvy consumer:  know when a product ingredient can deliver what the label promises (more details forthcoming in future blogs). 

2.  Saturate your dog’s hair coat and skin with lukewarm water (never hot…that may increase itching!)

3.  Apply the dog shampoo to the palms and work into the dog’s skin and hair coat….starting with the affected or “rash” areas first.

4.   Do not scrub or use a brush: that may cause small abrasions that can irritate the skin or worsen the problem.  Your fingers are best but no fingernails (that may scrape the skin!).

5.  Allow 5-10 minutes of shampoo contact time.  Yes, we know, this can seem like an eternity.  Your pet can play outside, go on a walk, or be fed during that 10-minute time if you need to occupy his/her attention.

6.  After 5-10 minutes, rinse well with lukewarm water

7.  Towel dry.  Try to avoid the use of a hairdryer….but, if necessary, use a cool setting.

8.  Repeat 2-3 times per week for active infections and then weekly or every other week as a way to prevent recurrence.

9. Bathing your dog with an effective dog shampoo can often eliminate the need for antibiotics or steroids!

10. Topical therapy is (shampoo and spray) now considered the most important aspect of any therapeutic protocol for allergy, yeast hypersensitivity and bacterial overgrowth.  We put our combined scientific knowledge and clinical experience into the formulation of our Canine Skin Solutions Recovery Shampoo and Spray.

Allergic Dogs: Can Bleach Baths help dogs like it does for people with eczema? 

Dogs with skin rashes and allergy have similarities to people with eczema. Bacterial infection often accompanies both conditions and worsens the symptoms in pets and people. In eczema patients, bleach baths are known to kill the bacteria on the skin, reducing itching, redness and scaling. And now, veterinary dermatologists are using this type of therapy in dogs with allergies to decrease bacteria numbers on the skin and subsequently reduce itching, redness and scaling! Also, the emergence of multi-drug resistant strains of bacteria (i.e. methicillin resistant staph) has increased the need for effective topical therapy.  Bleach baths and sprays are the current topical therapeutic recommendation in both human and veterinary medicine! 

A study published in Veterinary Dermatology assessed the antimicrobial efficacy of diluted commercial bleach against Staphylococcus (bacteria), Pseudomonas (bacteria), and Malassezia (yeast) organisms from dogs. 

“The results of this study confirmed excellent in vitro antimicrobial effectiveness of dilute sodium hypochlorite” …….both bacterial isolates, as well as, yeast were susceptible.

This is good news! Because of concerns about increasing bacterial resistance, doctors and veterinarians are looking effective treatments that can decrease the need (or in some cases) replace chronic antibiotic usage. In the era prior to antibiotic availability dilute bleach and Dakin’s solution were commonly used to irrigate wounds and treat skin infections. To quote songwriters Peter Allen & Carole Bayer Sager- “Everything old is new again.”

Unleash your Dog’s Healthy Skin!