Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Tips for Keeping Your Dog's Coat Looking Great

Pet Column for the week of May 10, 2010

Related information:

Services - Dermatology

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Ashley Mitek
Information Specialist

Source - Catherine Metry, DVM
Whether you have a curly-haired poodle or a long-haired Lhaso apso, keeping your dog's coat in good shape can keep it happy and healthy. Plus, who doesn’t want to have the best looking pet at the dog park.

Dr. Catherine Metry is a dermatology resident at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana. She recommends that, "owners bathe dogs as they need it, perhaps once to twice a year, unless they have an underlying skin disease, smell or get dirty frequently." That advice is music to the ears of dog owners across the country who end up getting a bath themselves when trying to bathe Fido. For specific concerns regarding your dog's bathing regimen, speak with your veterinarian to tailor a plan to your pet's needs.

When you do find it necessary to give your four-legged companion a "spa day," be careful what shampoo you use. Make sure to use a product manufactured specifically for pets, and not a human brand. These tend to dry out the animal's skin. Using a mild pet-specific shampoo that is oatmeal-based may also be beneficial and soothing to the skin.

If you choose to turn over the chore of bathing your dog to a groomer, choose wisely. Unlike human salons, groomers are not regulated. Dr. Metry recommends that, "you go to somebody that has strong recommendations and take the time to walk through the facility to assess cleanliness."

Most, if not all, of the upkeep your dog needs can be easily done at home. A good brushing every few days can go a long way in keeping your pet's coat looking healthy. In addition, fish oil capsules can be beneficial for coats and can help reduce mild itchiness. But you if you do use these capsules, Dr. Metry has a few words of warning.

"They can add a few pounds of body weight to a dog, and pets may develop diarrhea secondary to eating capsules since they are simply made of oil," she explains. Although over-the-counter fish oil capsules can be used, they are formulated for people rather than dogs, and may not work as well. Because the FDA does not regulate these neutraceuticals, it is best to speak with your veterinarian about what supplement is best for your pet.

On a final grooming note, as summer approaches and more dogs dive into that lake along with the kids, ear infections can become troublesome. "If your dog is doing a lot of swimming, follow that activity up with an ear cleaner that has an astringent in it to dry out the ear canals," notes Dr. Metry. Such a product can be purchased from your vet.

For more information on keeping Fido's coat healthy, contact your local veterinarian.