Shampoo therapy for dogs

Saturday morning and it’s time to bathe the pooch! What are you going to bathe it in? While that sounds like a simple question, it can be quite complex. It really depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you just want to clean the dog, that’s easy, but what about the spot-on-the-neck insecticide you used a short while ago? Will that be washed off? What if your pooch or puss-cat has a skin condition – will a shampoo help that? Oh – it’s all too complicated but maybe the following will assist.

How Often Should I Bath My Pet?

Pets with a normal coat and skin should need bathing no more than once per week. Once a fortnight will probably suffice. However, if your pet has a skin condition such as an allergy or infection, then it may need bathing twice a week to control the problem.

Bathing your pet in a tub or in your own bath makes the job much easier. The ordeal will also be a lot more comfortable for the pet if you use warm water. Apart from the comfort factor, warm water will also ensure a more effective cleaning process as the warmth will mobilise unwanted grease and scales.

Following the instructions on the pack regarding the correct use of the shampoos is important. For instance, many shampoos contain medications in one form or another. To be effective, most medicated shampoos need to stay in contact with the pet’s coat for five to ten minutes before being rinsed off.

To make it easier to bathe your pet, many veterinarians and animal welfare agencies are now operating hydrobaths at their centres. A hydrobath is a ‘walk in’ bath, equipped with a high pressure hose. The pressure gently massages the dirt and debris out of the pet’s coat. If you cannot get your pet to the vet, then another option is to enlist the services of one of several mobile hydrobath companies that will conveniently visit your home and do an excellent job for you.

What Should I Bath My Pet With?

Deciding which pet shampoo to use is not that easy. If you look at the active ingredients, you will become quite bewildered. Some are designed only to clean your pet while others will help with flea control. Some are conditioning and de-tangling shampoos, while others are designed to help solve skin conditions where grease, scale or crusts appear in the coat. There are even conditioners available, just as there are for humans!

For the routine bathing of pets, shampoos containing gentle flea control compounds make sense to me. There are a variety of these shampoos on the market such as Fido’s Fre-Itch Shampoo, and Di-Flea Dog and Cat Insecticidal Shampoo. These products leave the coat clean and shiny and kill fleas that are present at the time of bathing. However, they have no residual flea killing effect.

If your pet seems to have sensitive skin, then a hypo-allergenic shampoo could be just what is needed. Such shampoos are soap free and usually contain moisturising agents such as glycerine or coconut oil. The products, Natural Shampoo by Dermcare Vet, and Fido’s Everyday Shampoo are readily available from your veterinary surgeon but there are many others.

There is another reason for using a soap free shampoo. If you are using any of the ‘spot-on-the-neck’ insecticides, a soap-based shampoo may remove the insecticide. However, the hypo-allergenic shampoos are much less likely to do this.

My Pet Has a Skin Condition. What Shampoo Should I use?

A medicated shampoo will be useful if your pet has an oily or greasy coat or has scales or dandruff present. Problems like this are often seen around the base of the tail and along the spine and are often related to flea bite allergic dermatitis or other skin conditions.

For instance, if your pet has dry, itchy skin, shampoos containing colloidal oatmeal, such as Aloveen or Epi-Soothe are useful. The oatmeal is a soap substitute that breaks up particles of dirt in the coat. Also, particles of oatmeal remain in the skin and promote the flow of moisture into the dry skin surface.

Recently ‘residual conditioners’ have been introduced to help with such conditions. These conditioners are left on the coat rather than being rinsed away. They condition the damaged hair and contain emollients which re-hydrate the skin, prolonging the effect of the oatmeal in the shampoo used just prior to the conditioner.

Dogs with smelly, greasy skin need a different approach. Many have a bacterial or yeast infection present. Some also have a fungal skin infection. For such animals, shampoos containing an antiseptic compound such as chlorhexidine or triclosan are useful. One shampoo that contains a combination of effective compounds is Malaseb. This is often prescribed by vets as it contains chlorhexidine to kill bacteria, miconazole to kill any fungal infection and a therapeutic base that helps to descale the coat and remove dandruff that has accumulated.

Should I Use Human Shampoos on My Pets?

Lastly, a word about human shampoos is needed. While many do use human shampoos on their dogs, it is better not to. Human skin is more acidic than dog skin, and dog and cat skins are much thinner than that of a human. Other differences exist too, all of which means that for the optimum health of your pet’s skin, you should use shampoos designed for pets, not humans, when bathing your pets.


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Dr Cam Day

Dr Cam Day

Vet Behavioralist

Dr Cam Day is a Veterinarian consulting full-time in pet behaviour in South-East Queensland, Australia.