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The Health Benefits of Professional Baths and Haircuts for Dogs

Did you know that dog grooming is not just a service for looking good but feeling good, too? Not only is a good-smelling pampered pooch especially nice to have around, but proper pet grooming can also improve their physical health.

While at-home baths and haircuts can go great, visiting a professional dog groomer has some wellness benefits. A groomer’s trained eye can catch some health problems early on, for example, allowing you to seek treatment as quickly as possible.

“We know that dog parents are looking for ways to give their pet the best care and keep their health on track,” says Petco chief veterinarian Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM. “Regular baths and haircuts, along with routine vet exams, can help keep your dog healthy in the long run.”

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The Importance of Dog Baths

Both long- and short-haired dogs can benefit from professional baths. While short-haired dogs might not need a haircut, a professional pet groomer will get a close look at your pet’s skin and coat during bath time and will alert you to any concerns. Short-haired dogs may seem a little lower maintenance in the bath department, but they have similar  health risks as their furrier counterparts.  

“Pet parents should talk to their veterinarian and groomer to determine the specific schedule of bathing and haircuts, but most breeds will need a bath every four to eight weeks and a groom every six to 12 weeks,” says Dr. Miller.

Professional baths come with a number of health benefits, including, but not limited to:

Dry or flaky skin? Itchiness? Skin a little too pink? During a bath, a groomer will look for abnormal skin and coat conditions and make the owner aware of their findings, says Dr. John Giannone, DVM, of Newport Animal Hospital in Newport Beach, CA. This not only helps pet parents stay on top of their dog’s wellness needs, but they’ll also have a better understanding of when a visit to the vet is warranted.

External parasites such as fleas are more easily spotted on a dog during bath time when the wet hair lays down flat against the skin, notes  Dr. Giannone. If you have a dog who doesn’t like to cooperate during baths, you might be too distracted to catch sight of parasites. Or, like many dog parents, you may not consider yourself an expert in the pest department, which is why a groomer can be of great help.  

There are also many shampoos and even conditioners to choose from, and picking the right one can be challenging. “Just like for people, there is a shampoo for dry skin and coat, oily coat, yeasty skin and bacterial-infected skin,” says Dr. Giannone. A professional groomer will be able to tell you which option is the best one for your pooch.  

Anal gland expression may be messy, but it is important as it can help prevent anal sac disease. Doing it at home can be tricky, and you could cause an inflammatory reaction or even pain, says Dr.Giannone. Having a groomer do this right before a bath is cleaner and a great option if you want to skip a visit to the vet for that one procedure. “Many times a groomer can uncover infections or irritations when expressing the anal glands and can notify the owner so they can seek vet care,” Dr. Giannone says.  

The Importance of Dog Haircuts

Short-haired dogs can do with a nice regular brushing at home every couple of days, but pups with long coats will need a bit more help in the hair department.

Long-haired dogs might need professional pet grooming as often as every six weeks. Routine grooming can help prevent matting and reduce shedding. “They also distribute natural oils in the dog’s skin to support healthy skin and coat,” adds Dr. Miller. This is especially true if you have an active dog who likes to swim or one who objects to daily brushings. Also, if a mat becomes too tight, it could tear the skin or cut off blood circulation.

It’s not just tangled fur that makes mats problematic. A matted coat will inevitably lead to scratching and biting at the site and can cause a skin rash known as acute moist dermatitis, says Dr. Giannone. “Dogs never know when to stop or limit their scratching or biting at a certain spot and can cause what was once a small lesion to turn into a much larger, more involved area,” he adds. 

Routine combing, removing of the undercoat and brushing help keep a long-haired dog more comfortable, especially during warm summer months, says Dr. Giannone.  This is especially important for dogs with a double coat, who shouldn’t be shaved or have their hair cut short (the undercoat is there for a reason). For those dogs, taking proper care of the undercoat is essential so they can still keep their insulation but be more comfortable during shedding and hot seasons.

Groomers will typically trim nails during a haircut appointment, so long-haired dogs can expect that when they visit the salon. “If the nail is cut too short, it will be painful and bleed readily,” Dr. Giannone notes.“Very long nails will cause the digits to bend sideways, causing an abnormal gait.” He adds that neglected nail trims can result in the nail bending around and penetrating into the pad and requiring veterinary attention. 

If your dog has dark nails, cutting them without causing pain and bleeding can be difficult. “Groomers have different types of nail trimmers and spinning burrs that offer a variety of choices and make nail trimming much easier,” says Dr. Giannone.   

Have a dog in need of regular nail trimmings? Or need help with routine care, including baths, haircuts and convenient access to vet exams? Services like Petco’s Vital Care provide pet parents with affordable routine care to help keep their dogs healthy and happy.

Making Baths and Haircuts a Routine

Dogs not only need a lot of love and exercise to keep them healthy -- they also need regular grooming. With budgets and schedules, it can be difficult to fit in another routine. Luckily, there are now programs such as Petco's Vital Care that provide lower cost comprehensive services through an annual plan.

Check out Vital care to learn more about how you can cover your dog’s routine health with grooming services, vet exams and receive Pals rewards each month.

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