The New York Times December 8, 2005 SMELLING LIKE A WET DOG DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A BAD THING By Peter Jaret In the interest of full disclosure: Animals were experimented on for the research and writing of this article. Well, one was: Zoey, 8, a black-and-white dog of uncertain parentage who is currently collapsed at a reporter's feet, worn out from four weeks of research. Being bathed and pampered, it turns out, isn't easy. When it comes to baths, Zoey seconds the notion attributed to Elizabeth I: once a month would be just fine, whether she needs it or not. Zoey's owners would happily share that view given the fuss she puts up, if it weren't for her habit of lolling in mud puddles and rolling ecstatically over dead fish on the beach. Bathing and grooming in our household are usually a no-nonsense affair: a garden hose, a bottle of basic dog shampoo, rinse and towel dry. Then the old feed-and-grain store closed its doors, an upscale pet boutique opened, and basic dog shampoo was suddenly gone, replaced by a bewildering array of "pet spa" products with names like Adventure Dog Suds, Earthbath Mediterranean Magic, Polar Pizzazz, Knotty Dog Detangler and Salon Details Tropical Twist. Pet shampoos and conditioners laced with honey, lavender, cinnamon, tea tree oil, oatmeal and even yogurt are just the beginning. There are aromatherapy spritzes, between-bath splashes, breath fresheners and even massage oils for the family pooch. More than 465 new pet care products, from shampoos and deodorizing sprays to weight loss supplements, have hit the market worldwide so far this year, according to a survey by Mintel, the international marketing research firm, up from just 291 the year before. Americans spent an estimated $8.4 billion last year on pet supplies, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, a figure that does not include the $14.2 billion forked out for pet food. None of this surprises Sherril Stone, an expert in human-animal interaction and director of research for family medicine at Oklahoma State University. "Pets provide unconditional love," she said. "In lots of households they're like surrogate children. If we're going to pamper ourselves with something like a fancy shampoo or conditioner, we want it for our pets too." Some of the newest pet grooming products come directly from the human beauty industry. Paul Mitchell, the hair products manufacturer, has spun off a line of pet grooming products marketed under the name John Paul Pet, which includes tea tree oil dog shampoo and foaming waterless shampoo for cats. Next year it plans to release nail polish for dogs in 12 colors, as well as a line of essential oils for pets. "What we're seeing is similar to the beauty industry, where high-end products are sold through stylists and salons," said Rod Loomis, chief executive of the company that develops and markets John Paul Pet products. "In our case groomers are becoming retailers." Many groomers are also scrambling to develop product lines of their own as the market for luxury pet products booms. In Los Angeles, Hollywood Grooming offers dogs a hot oil treatment with a choice of Bulgarian lavender or African sage soil. The company, which operates four mobile grooming vans that travel house to house, is currently developing its own line of organic and natural pet shampoos. Lorna Paxton, a founder of the Happytails Canine Spa Line, was in the cosmetics business for eight years before she went into pet products. Happytails makes Sparkle & Shine shampoo, which contains yogurt and honey, and Shimmering Mist, a spritz laced with bits of mica. "We got the idea from eye shadows that contain mica for that glittery look," Ms. Paxton said. "On dogs, especially black dogs, it makes their coats all glittery." Happytails products are carried by boutique pet shops like DoggyStyle NYC and Fetch, in Manhattan; Babies, in San Francisco; and Maxwell Dog, in Studio City, Calif. They're also showing up in day spas, luxury resorts and wellness centers. "The idea is, if you get to luxuriate at the day spa, shouldn't your dog also get to enjoy the home spa experience?" Ms. Paxton said. Of course she should. But is Sun-Ripened Raspberry shampoo ($7.99) or K9 Spa Pawsitively Gourmet Ginger and Citrus SportDog shampoo ($13.98) really any better than a basic dog shampoo? "That depends," said Dr. Heather Peikes, a veterinary dermatologist in Manhattan. A dog with dry skin can benefit from shampoos made with extra fatty acids or oatmeal (which has anti-itch properties and helps moisturize), she said. But pet owners should pay attention to ingredient lists. "There are products out there that claim to prevent itching, and if you read the label, you'll find they contain steroids," Dr. Peikes said. "That's not something we recommend." In general, she said, because dogs' skin has a pH level different from human skin, it's wise to use a shampoo especially formulated for them. Some human shampoos may dry out their coats. Milder shampoos are usually better, especially for dogs that are bathed frequently. "To be honest, and the manufacturers of all these products would hate me for saying it, a lot of dogs do just fine with Johnson's Baby Shampoo," Dr. Peikes said. "That's the funny thing," said Gail Miller, director of brand development for the American Kennel Club, which has begun licensing its own grooming products. "We think we're treating our beloved pet to something special when we buy a fancy shampoo or conditioner, but really we're just treating ourselves. Your dog probably doesn't care if the shampoo smells like chamomile or lavender. But if he curls up on the bed next to you, you do." Zoey, for her part, seemed just as unhappy to be bathed with K9 Spa Sundog shampoo as she was with Eqyss Micro-Tek shampoo. One of her owners liked the smell of Salon Details Tropical Twist; the other pronounced it too fruity. Zoey cast her vote by rolling in something dead at the beach. Back home Earthbath's Mediterranean Magic deodorizing spritz (with vanilla, almond and lavender) helped a little, but not enough. Hartz Mountain Whitener Shampoo really did seem to give her white patches an extra glow. Pet wipes, which are offered by a number of manufacturers, came in handier than we'd expected for those hard-to-shampoo areas, like the white stripe on her forehead, after a romp in the mud. And who knows: it may have been just our imaginations, but the week she showcased Sparkle & Shine shampoo ($17) followed by a spritz of Shimmering Mist ($17), she really did seem to hold her head and tail a little higher. Dieting Is Becoming a Dog's Life THEY look almost too delectable: fancy petits fours, elegant truffles, savory croissants, cookies decorated for the holidays with sprinkles and carob. But no nibbling please. The goodies on display at the Barkery at Canine Ranch in Manhattan -- and at a growing list of high- end pet boutiques around the country -- aren't for you. They're for Fido or Fluffy. These days it's not enough to spoil the family dog or cat with fruit- scented shampoos and designer collars. Now you can indulge them with edible treats from peanut butter waffle cones topped with carob to organic oatmeal biscuits shaped like fire hydrants. "Everything we sell is all-natural, human quality," said Lynda Kusnetz, a clerk at the Barkery. "The humans actually eat them as well as the dogs. They share." Dogs and cats share something else with their human companions: a weight problem. Between 25 percent and 40 percent of America's pets are obese, according to George Fahey, a professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois Animal Sciences Department, a big jump in just the past decade. The proportion of overweight humans is similar; 30 percent of American adults are obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Overweight owners may be more likely to have pudgy pets, although the evidence is anecdotal. "If you have trouble saying no to yourself, you may have a hard time saying no when your dog gives you that plaintive look," Dr. Fahey said. Psychology aside, there are two basic reasons pets are getting rounder. One is too little exercise. "You've got lots of working dogs out there that live in high-rise buildings and don't have any work to do," Dr. Fahey said. The second is too many treats, especially people food. "In our studies, when we've overfed beagles commercial dog food, they put on a little weight," said John E. Bauer, a professor of veterinary nutrition at Texas A&M University, in College Station. "But it wasn't until we added human food that they really began to get fat." Pets are also suffering the same consequences as overweight people, including joint problems and diabetes, Dr. Bauer said. Too many treats may even shorten their lives. A 2002 study compared Labrador retrievers on two eating plans. One group was allowed to gobble as much food as desired during 15-minute daily feedings, and that amount was measured. The other was then given 25 percent less food than that. The dogs on the restricted diet were healthier than the others and lived up to two years longer. Pet supply companies have begun marketing weight loss supplements, including products like Canine Slim Results and Vetri-Lean. But these don't work any better for pets than they do for people, veterinarians say. Dozens of companies now sell low-fat or low-calorie pet foods. Researchers in France and Belgium who recently evaluated an Atkins- like high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for obese dogs found that it worked, but not much better than diets that merely cut back on calories. Many veterinary experts say giving smaller portions of a balanced pet food is a healthier choice for weight loss. The best -- and simplest -- approach is to buy pet food from a reputable manufacturer and follow the directions, Dr. Fahey said. "Feeding instructions are very reliable," he said. "If the package says your dog should be eating a cup a day, that's what they should get. A little less if your pet needs to lose weight." Dr. Fahey admitted that it is tempting to overfeed. "We routinely have a problem with dogs in the laboratory," he said. "Technicians fill the bowls with a cup and then think: 'Oh, that's such a small amount. That can't be enough." And so they give them more." Treats like "vanilla woofers" and carob-covered fire hydrants should be reserved for special occasions. Your dog may not like that idea. But the second part of Dr. Fahey's prescription -- more exercise -- should get tails wagging.