how to clean your dogGrooming your dog is one of the most basic functions of pet care. Regularly grooming your dog enables you to check for lumps, bumps, scrapes, scabs or anything else out of the ordinary that may require attention or a veterinary examination. It can also help keep flea infestations and dandruff under control.

But what about the one area of the body that is frequently overlooked: your dog’s face? Certainly it needs to be cleaned, too, but how do we do that while keeping the suds out of their ears and eyes? Here are some tips on how to clean your dog's face.

During Bathtime

If you decide to wash your dog’s face while giving him a regular bath, start out the same way you would with any other bath time. Make sure the water is warm — not too hot and not too cold — and start the bathing process up by the neck and work your way back to the tail. recommends washing around your dog’s ears and face with a damp cloth before the water gets too dirty, warning, “Be careful not to get shampoo in the dog’s eyes.”

There are other benefits to starting the bathing process around the neck, most notably if your dog has fleas. “By starting around the neck and head area first the fleas will run away from the shampoo and move to the back end of the dog,” reports “Then wash towards the back end of the dog. This is where the fleas usually congregate—around the tail and anal area and under the tummy.”

Snub-nosed (Brachycephalic) Dogs

Simple enough, but what about dogs with special face-washing needs? As unusual as it may sound at first, certain dog breeds may require more maintenance than others. Short-muzzled or flat-faced dogs, for example, require a little extra help.

Part of what makes these breeds adorable to their many fans is the wrinkles and nose rolls that define their faces. They make dogs look adorable, but they need regular cleaning for optimal grooming and health.

Dirt, moisture, food, yeast and whatever dogs can get into can get trapped in their skin folds, potentially causing odor, itchiness, inflammation or pyoderma (bacterial infection), reports

Fortunately, keeping those skin folds clean is fairly easy and really just a matter of wiping them out.

Gently spread the skin folds apart so you can wipe them clean with a clean, slightly moistened washcloth or soft tissue, recommends.

Work your way down your dog’s face, “being sure not to wipe too close to the eyes or nose,” writes

Also, clean every bit of skin thoroughly and “be on the lookout for areas have crusted over,” the reports. “If you find any, you may need to moisten the tissue or washcloth more to help loosen the crusty spot. Once loosened, be sure to wipe whatever is there away completely.” also notes that some people prefer baby wipes for wrinkle duty, but advises to use hypoallergenic brands. Finally, use a soft tissue to make sure the freshly cleaned areas are dry to prevent further moisture from entering the folds.

“Rub the tissue in and out of the wrinkles, the same way you did with the cloth,” recommends

Tear Stains

Although flat-faced dogs require a little more facial grooming than some other breeds, they’re not the only ones that need help. Many dogs tear excessively, darkening the hair around their eyes and causing unsightly stains, a condition most noticeable in lighter-colored animals.

“In both dogs and cats, this is a common cosmetic problem caused by an overflow of tears onto the cheeks,” reports “The color change of the hair and skin occurs when the normal bacteria on the hair and skin react with the clear tears. In normal animals, tears are constantly produced and drain out through small ducts in the eyelids. The ducts empty to the nose. (That is why your nose runs when you cry.) In animals with blocked ducts, the tears overflow the lids and run down the face.”

Some easy preventive measures can help in this area, such as keeping hair trimmed if it’s irritating the eyes. (Use special blunted scissors for this or, even better, seek the services of a professional groomer.)

Or just keeping that hair around the eyes dry can help, but there are also commercial products formulated specifically for the tough stains around a dog’s eyes. Be careful about whether or not they irritate your dog’s eyes and never use them directly in their eyes.

Some people use home remedies with such ingredients as milk of magnesia, corn starch and peroxide, or bleach used for human hair but, as points out, “if you were not to mix these properly, use precisely the right strength of each ingredient, and apply them safely, you could potentially harm your dog.”

It’s best to stick with commercial formulas and to seek the advice of professionals.

With regular grooming and proper veterinary care your pup’s face can stay clean and healthy. Supplementing your dog's diet with a multivitamin containing omega-6 can also help keep his face fur and skin healthy.

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HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.

PHOTO: Katherine


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