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Veterinary Teaching Hospital

Bathing your dog

Rottweiler getting rinsed off.
Photo Attribution

While some dogs don’t enjoy bath time, they all need regular bathing and the occasional emergency soak after a roll in something smelly. Regularly bathing your pet is essential for maintaining the health of their skin and fur – and it can help keep odors down.

How often should I bathe my dog?

How often you bathe your dog depends on many factors, including your dog’s breed, the length of its fur, its activities, and if it has any health conditions. In general, it is safe to bathe your dog with veterinary shampoo once a week, but bathing your dog too frequently can strip its coat of protective oils.

If the veterinary shampoo you are using contains any medication or insecticide, follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Prescription shampoos treat specific problems and may necessitate bathing more or less frequently than once a week.

If your dog has longer fur, comb its coat prior to bathing. Wet fur mats more than dry fur and can be difficult to untangle. This small detail can save you time and prevent an uncomfortable brushing for your pet.

What soaps or shampoos can I use to bathe my dog?

There are many shampoo options for bathing your dog, but you should stick with products formulated for veterinary use. These products are designed to work with a dog’s body.

While dish soap or your favorite shampoo might strip away the dirt, and more importantly the odor, from your pet’s coat, it will also strip natural oils from their fur and may irritate their skin. All grooming products (human and animal) are designed to maximize cleaning and minimize irritation, but human products work best on human skin and veterinary products are designed to work best on dog skin.


This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.