Do You Have to Groom a Hairless Dog?

Hairless dogs might not need frequent brushing, but they do require periodic maintenance to prevent skin conditions.

Dec 13, 2023By Jessica Montes
do you have to groom hairless dog

When it comes to grooming dogs, most people think of brushes, shampoos, and furry pets. But what about hairless dogs with almost no or only small patches of fur? These unique canines still need regular grooming, even with their lack of fur. Learn about how grooming hairless dogs is essential for their well-being, comfort, and health.

Why Are Some Dogs Hairless?

Peruvian hairless
Photo courtesy of Dogs NSW

Hairless dogs make up only a handful of all breeds––and they’re also ancient dog breeds. The Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless), Chinese Crested dogs, and Peruvian Inca Orchids are a few unrecognizable hairless animals (to some, anyway).

While it’s not clear where the original hairless dog originated, most of the activity happened in Africa, China, and South America. Scientists have found that these dogs’ hairless bodies are a result of the FOXI3 gene mutation. Dogs without fur have a genetic disorder called “canine ectodermal dysplasias,” which affects their hair, skin, and teeth. It causes bodies with little to no fur and can lead to a few missing teeth.

Hairless Dogs Need Lotions and Moisturizers

Dog soap
Photo courtesy of Nishizuka via Pexels

Just because a dog has a hairless body or fur on certain parts doesn’t mean they can go without grooming. The Xoloitzcuintli (Xolo), Chinese Crested, and other hairless breeds have special pet care needs. These dogs need regular baths, and you might find yourself buying special lotions for moisturizing and protecting their skin. Less fur might mean less time spent combing their furry locks, but they still need pampered skincare routines.

Having a consistent grooming routine keeps your dog clean and protects their skin from both temperature extremes. Healthy bathing habits can help identify any common breed-specific skin issues and even reduce the symptoms of dog-related allergies.

How to Groom a Hairless Dog

Xolo flowers
Photo courtesy of Vanessa Pozos via Pexels

With true, hairless dog varieties like the non-coated Xolo and Peruvian Inca Orchid, you can get away with quick hair brushing. However, the coated Xolo and the Chinese Crested do have fur that needs careful combing. This will prevent matting and keep their fur silky. For the breeds with almost no fur, you can use a soft bristle brush to remove the dead skin from their bodies.

After brushing, give them an occasional bath with mild dog shampoo. You can gently brush them again once their bodies are lathered with bubbles. Rinse completely, make sure to pat dry their skin afterward, and apply a pet-safe moisturizer all over their freshly cleaned bodies. As with all dog breeds, check their ears for buildup, brush their teeth, and trim their nails regularly.

Hairless Dogs Need Sunburn Prevention

peru hairless dog two
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Believe it or not, hairless dogs can develop sunburns. This is because they don’t have fur as a barrier against the sun, and their skin is exposed to UV rays. Dogs with lighter skin are more at risk of getting sunburned, but all hairless dog owners need to be cautious. To prevent prolonged sun exposure,limit the number of outdoor activities during peak sunlight hours, and keep your hairless friend in shaded areas.

You can also protect their delicate skin by using pet-safe sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Apply generously on areas with less pigmentation, like their noses, ears, and bellies. In case your pup does become sunburned, you can pat a cold compress on their body to soothe irritated skin.

Hairless Dogs Need Protection Against Cold Temperatures

Dog sweater
Photo courtesy of Pleple2000 | Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned in the last section, hairless dogs don’t have a layer of fur for protection against the sun or for keeping themselves warm. This means breeds like the Xolo, Chinese Crested, and Peruvian Inca Orchid aren’t meant for colder climates. Dogs have an internal temperature range from 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit and must stay within this level or risk feeling chilly.

If you live in an area where temps drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (freezing), it is recommended to only go on short walks. Bundle your dog in a warm, full-length sweater and jacket with a hood. Pull on their booties to protect their paws from the cold ground. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of your pup developing hypothermia or frostbite.

While hairless dogs need exercise like any other canine, they can make do with durable chew toys. Just be sure to supervise while your dog chews; hairless dogs aren’t known for having great teeth.

Hairless Dogs Need Skin Issue Prevention

Hairless peruvian
Photo courtesy of Paradais Sphynx | Wikimedia Commons

Hairless dogs are prone to skin issues, like rashes and fungal infections. This is one of the ways regular grooming helps owners detect these conditions early on. Puppies who haven’t fully developed their “adult” skins can also develop adolescent acne. Hairless canines with acne will grow red bumps or pustules on their skin and show signs of irritation. It’s best to take your dog for a check-up and proper diagnosis. A common remedy for mild acne cases is topical benzoyl peroxide, and it should clear up with regular applications.

If you notice any unusual lumps, bumps, or skin discolorations, it's crucial to speak with a vet about your dog’s symptoms. Doing so can prevent some common doggy health concerns down the road.

Grooming and Allergies: What to Know

Chinese Crested
Photo courtesy of Frank Röhm | Wikimedia Commons

It’s often believed that hairless dog breeds are hypoallergenic and will not cause reactions. However, animal skin cells and saliva, not fur, are allergens. This means people might have symptoms, and the only way to find out is by spending time with the hairless breed you are considering.

If you already own a canine without fur, sticking to a grooming routine can help reduce allergies. Bathing your dog will reduce the saliva and cell residue on their body. Also, washing or cleaning their beds, toys, and favorite areas lowers the allergen levels in your home. Following these steps can make your allergic reactions manageable, so you can spend more time with your furry friend.

Grooming Isn’t Just Brushing; It’s Healthcare

Peruvian hairless face
Photo courtesy of gomagoti | Wikimedia Commons

Grooming is not just a matter of appearance; it's an important part of caring for hairless dogs. With regular brushing and bathing, your unique pets can lead happy, healthy lives that are free from skin issues. By understanding a hairless dog’s needs, you can create a safe and comfortable environment and a joyful life together.

Jessica Montes
By Jessica Montes

Jessica is a California-based writer, journalist, lover of animals, and vegan of 17 years. Growing up, she owned parakeets, fish, a rabbit, and a red-eared slider turtle. She currently has a black cat named Marty and a tabby named Jellybean. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, camping, and roller skating to funky tunes.