Bathing Requirements for Rat Terriers

Bathing Requirements for Rat Terriers

Rat Terriers normally don't require bathing more than once per month. Learn more about their grooming needs.

The rat terrier is an easy-care dog whose short coat needs little attention beyond brushing as needed to remove dust and shed hairs. Rat terriers normally don't require bathing more than once per month, if that often. Bathing removes important oils from a dog's coat. Frequent bathing can cause dryness and lead to problems with this breed's sensitive skin.

Reasons to Bathe

Outdoors, rat terriers are active dogs that enjoy digging. After spending some time at this favored pursuit, your rat terrier may need to be bathed before resuming the role of cuddly house dog. More frequent bathing is required if your rat terrier is a show dog. Whatever the reason, it's best not to bathe a rat terrier more often than once per week, as frequent bathing can cause irritation, itching and flaking of the skin. Severely dry skin can lead to scabbing and bacterial skin infections.

Shampoos and Chemicals

Rat terriers may suffer from a variety of allergies. Among them are contact and inhalant allergies to various chemicals, including perfumes and some soaps, according to the Continental Kennel Club. Contact with these chemicals can cause itchy hives, swelling and redness of the skin in an allergic dog. If you know your rat terrier has allergy problems, select a fragrance-free shampoo and conditioner. Gentle, soap-free shampoos won't strip the coat and skin of their natural oils. Shampoos that contain oatmeal work well with rat terriers, because they help soothe irritated skin. Consult your veterinarian before using insecticide-based shampoos, as the chemicals in such shampoos may cause skin problems in some individuals of this breed, according to the Rat Terrier Club of America.


Use a small amount of shampoo on your rat terrier's coat. Bathe the dog in warm water, gently massaging the shampoo into the coat. Avoid the dog's face when bathing so you don't get any soap in the eyes or nose. Rinse your dog with warm water to remove all of the soap. Rub a small amount of conditioner into the fur after shampooing, to keep your rat terrier's skin and coat moisturized. Follow directions on the conditioner bottle. Take care to thoroughly rinse the coat to remove all traces of shampoo and conditioner, as residues can cause skin irritation. Towel-dry your dog, then brush the coat to smooth it. Clean the area around your rat terrier's eyes with a damp washcloth. Gently clean the inside of your dog's ears, using cotton balls moistened with a pet ear-cleaning solution.

Grooming between Baths

You can freshen your dog's coat between baths by wiping them down with unscented, pre-moistened, pet-cleaning wipes or a damp washcloth. Brush the coat every few days with a soft, natural-bristle brush. This will remove debris and loosened hair, and help distribute the dog's natural oils throughout the coat, keeping it clean and shiny.

Skin Health

During bath time, inspect your rat terrier's skin for any signs of redness or hair loss to check that your dog doesn't suffer from either skin allergies or demodectic mange. According to a 2004 survey of 338,919 rat terriers conducted by the National Rat Terrier Association, the breed has high rates of both contact allergies and demodectic mange. Affecting 12.3 percent of dogs, demodectic mange was the top-ranking problem. This non-transmittable mange occurs when the immune system is weak, either genetically or in response to some kind of stress. Proper treatment of either demodectic mange or inflamed, dry skin requires the help of a veterinarian. Your veterinarian may recommend medicated dips and salves to help alleviate these conditions.

References & Resources

Rat Terrier Club of America: Rat Facts -- Answers to Questions
Rat Terrier Club of America: About Rat Terriers -- Questions About the Breed
Continental Kennel Club: Rat Terrier
American Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds: Rat Terrier
National Rat Terrier Association: Rat Terrier Statistics and Health Survey -- March 2004
National Rat Terrier Association: General Care & Training Tips
National Rat Terrier Association: General Care & Training Tips
National Rat Terrier Association: General Care & Training Tips

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Pruritus (Scratching/Itching) Pyoderma (Skin Infection) Contact Dermatits Rat Terrier Short Hair
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