Bathing Dogs: How Often To Bath, How To Do It

dog sponge bath

“I thought you can’t bath a dog more than once a month”. We hear this almost every day when we tell someone how the right bathing strategy can help their dog’s skin (read how to bath dogs later). This has to be the most common and widely held myth of all and it deprives dogs of a great way to soothe their itchy skin. However, there is an element of truth to it.

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Myth 25: Heelers, Kelpies and Collies are crazy

“Watch out. Those dogs are crazy, they bark and dig and destroy things.” This is what Daisy’s owner was warned when he told his friends he wanted a heeler.

Luckily for him and Daisy he didn’t listen and followed his instincts. And he is now able to enjoy one of the closest and happiest dog-owner relationships you will ever see. Read how he did it.

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Myth 24: You feed a dog by following the instructions

dog given food

hamish the cavalier king charles spaniel
Are Dog Food Instructions Accurate?

I’m going to start with an admission; my dogs have been fat. This will come as a relief (and possibly a delight) to those thousands of dog owners over the years to whom I’ve discussed their dogs’ weight. Today I’m going to explain why this happens to all of us, how to judge your dog’s weight and how to decide how much to feed them.

The guidelines written on dog foods are almost never right for your dog.

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What Causes Bad Breath?

dog dirty teeth

Do you have a friend with ‘cat breath’ or ‘dog breath’? We joke about it, sometimes tell them off for it, perhaps even suspect them of eating something foul.

The truth is that bad breath doesn’t come from the stomach and it isn’t just from the food. Instead it’s often the only sign of a painful dental problem.Thankfully, more and more owners now bring their pets in just because their breath smells bad.

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Myth 21: Tea Tree Oil is good for my dog’s skin

toyah the boxer

This is Toyah’s gift to all dogs with itchy skin. She had mild dermatitis for a while and her owners quite rightly thought a bath would help. They found a nice-looking soothing shampoo with tea tree oil and gave her a good clean. Instead of getting better, her dermatitis got dramatically worse, and three days later when she came to us her skin was looking angry and sore.

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Myth 20: My dog is too old for surgery

mia old malamute

We’ve known Mia since she came bounding in to the clinic twelve years ago and started stealing our soft toys.

These days she still has a go but though she’s a puppy at heart, she’s old and has significant arthritis. However, her quality of life is good. A few weeks ago, her owner noticed Mia being a bit unsteady and wondered if it could be the arthritis treatment. We thought that was unlikely and so did a home visit to check on her.

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Help! My Dog Has Cataracts

dog lens cataract

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ Essential Facts

If A Dog Has A Cataract

  1. Don’t panic: most of what are called ‘cataracts’ are part of normal ageing
  2. To check for true cataracts you need to see either a vet or an eye specialist
  3. Senile lenticular sclerosis does not cause blindness and needs no treatment, whereas cataracts require removal to restore vision

Now dive deeper.

Is It A Cataract?

Many owners of older dogs with hazy eyes  get told that their dog has cataracts, and then live in fear of their dogs going blind. The truth is most of these dogs have nothing of the sort.  After reading this, you can be the one to correct the next giver of bad advice.

dog lenticular sclerosis
Not a cataract By Joel Mills (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Cataracts do happen in dogs and are probably at least as common as in people. When they occur they are very important, both as common causes ofbindness and signs of other important diseases such as diabetes and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).

However, the vast majority of dogs said to have a cataract instead have ‘senile nuclear sclerosis’ (or lenticular sclerosis). This is the condition which proves to me more than any other that we are not supposed to live forever.

What Is Senile or Lenticular Sclerosis?

As we age, our lenses continue to create new layers from the inside of their capsule. This creates an onion-like effect, with older layers moving towards the centre. The problem is that despite the new lens material being produced on the edge, the lens cannot get any bigger. Therefore, the lens becomes more and more dense in its centre, or nucleus.

By about 8 years of age, this dense nucleus starts getting visible, and as the dog ages it reflects more light, giving the dog’s eyes a bluish-grey look as in the picture above.  The trick is that most light still goes straight through as normal and the dog’s sight is hardly affected if at all.

What Does A Cataract look Like?

dog eye cataracts
True cataracts in a dog

It only takes a quick visit for a vet to tell the difference by seeing if the retina is visible (as in nuclear sclerosis) or not (as in the cataracts seen here). You can also see in this picture of mature cataracts how the lens has irregularities and it much whiter than the earlier picture.

If you are concerned by advice from others about your dog’s eyes having cataracts, please don’t lose sleep as it is much more likely that they are wrong. However, do make an appointment with your vet just to be sure. Cataracts eventually cause blindness but can be removed by a vet eye specialist to restore vision. That’s what the pictured dog had after this photo.

What Happens When Dogs Go Blind?

Another myth worth tackling is that a dog going blind is a big problem. Most owners don’t notice their dog’s blindness, and the dogs don’t seem to mind as long as they can sniff their way through the day.

If all this sounds a bit blasé, try to see the world from a dog’s point of view. Unlike humans, vision is probably their third most important sense. If you really feel like messing with your mind, read more here on this concept of ‘umwelt’. It might just change how you see animals!

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet has a problem, please seek veterinary attention.
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