The Washcloth: Huge Boon In Canine and Feline Dermatology?

For some people this could be a very important article, because they cope with dogs that are quite itchy. I have come to believe that most of the dogs with severe itching that is distributed all over the body are suffering with a combination of Atopy and dry skin. The Washcloth: Huge Boon In Canine and Feline Dermatology.

I think we have gotten caught in another situation where we transfer human technologies and behaviors on to animals and that is, the use of shampoo to cleanse a coat of hair. That’s just how we do it, it’s not the best for dogs. They depend on natural oils in their coat for waterproofing and protection from irritants as well as maintaining moisture in their skin. Keep in mind they do not have a consequential number of sweat glands so their skin moisture is completely dependent on the residence of their oils in their coat.

So my proposal is that shampoos are probably not the best way to go when keeping a dog clean and beautiful.

how to keep a dog's coat healthyI have found that, equally effective is just a damp washcloth. It tends to spare the oils the pet needs for a healthy coat but removes ground level micro pollution and even a modicum of dirt and grime. That’s not to say that dog or cat will never need a bath. If the dog gets covered in something disgusting obviously it is going to require something more aggressive than a wet washcloth!

As I was contemplating the use of a wet wash cloth as the primary means of managing a dogs coat, I realized that we had to find a way to exfoliate the skin or at least potentially address that issue. Not all dogs need to be exfoliated, up to a certain age they are excellent naturally, and their skins are beautiful under their furry coat.

Back in the olden days people barely ever bathed their dogs at all, choosing instead to brush them. On reflection, there would be no better way to naturally exfoliate a dog then brushing!

Far more effective than a shampoo, stimulating blood flow to the skin, removing dead hair, and then after brushing, simply remove the dander and exfoliated skin with a wet washcloth, under all of the above circumstances you have completely spared the natural oils in the coat.

You can consider this the ravings of a dog dermatology mad man or somebody who has been looking at dog skin for a long time and constantly looking at dry brittle coats. And a believer that moisturizing an animals coat and respecting the oils in the coat, is paramount to a healthy skin and less itching.

I’d like to add a thought about how we actually moisturize a dog’s coat. I have seen a lot of clients using coconut oil on their dogs skins. Results are entirely disappointing, according to the majority of them, and I am very surprised at that. Certainly coconut oil works as well as Pantene conditioner sprayed on, and neither seems to ameliorate itching.

So I think back to a case many years ago where and owner treated her dachshund skin with MINK OIL she found in it’s pure four in a tin of Kiwi shoe polish no less.

What was interesting was that it worked for that dog’s generalized itching. However, the dog smelled like taxidermy. For that reason I never gave it another thought.
Then, recently, several of my clients came in with dogs that had been itchy and mentioned that they had used liquid lanolin oil (Click) on their dogs coat and that it made a substantial difference to their itching.

I have three points to make about that.

First, I tried it, and it’s REALLY, REALLY sticky.

The second is, the Mink Oil and the liquid lanolin are both animal oils being applied to animal skin. There may be a crucial difference in effectiveness as far as soothing and moisturizing the skin because Mink Oil and liquid Lanolin are naturally engineered to work on mammal skin.

I also think that perhaps liquid Lanolin and Mink Oil provide a better barrier on the skin and coat to ground level micro pollution.

In any event, if given a choice between using coconut oil and lanolin oil (not the balms, creams, or other perfumed and thickened poultices (but the liquid, pure, oil and it’s available on, in a very thin layer on the coat. I think the lanolin would be the better choice.

So if you have picked up what I am saying, I think most dog skins would be far better off if you used a wet washcloth and a brush for the coats maintenance, and a thin film of liquid Lanolin for the coats protection and moisturizing. To make Lanolin a bit less sticky, I tried diluting it in rubbing alcohol with little benefit. I’m not sure how to make it less sticky and I wonder if Mink Oil would be thinner.

Something I forgot to mention, is that all *itchy* dogs have healthier skin if you take the coat down to where the skin gets more air, maybe a little bit of sun, and the skin can epilate more easily. I know that you do not want to give your Sheltie or Pomeranian a crewcut, but it does not change the simple fact that their skins are healthier and easier to manage for itching.

The suggestion for crewcut does not apply to pets that have no dermatological need for it.




Dr Erik Johnson is a Marietta, Georgia Veterinarian with a practice in small animal medicine. He graduated from University of Georgia with his Doctorate in 1991. Dr Johnson is the author of several texts on Koi and Pond Fish Health and Disease as well as numerous articles on dog and cat health topics.