What is the best dog shampoo for YOU?

Karen Helton Rhodes, DVM, DACVD

Terri Bonenberger, DVM, DACVD

 

What is the best dog shampoo for YOU?

 

There are sooooo many products to choose from.  How can you possibly make the right decision?  The answer is simple.  Be an educated consumer!  Don't fall prey to marketing hype or current internet trending. Your selection of the best dog shampoo must be tailored to the needs of your pet! Let’s explore those needs and identify the product ingredients that have the potential to be beneficial for your dog.

The best way to categorize this discussion is by addressing specific needs.  Keep in mind that your dog may fall into several different categories.  One product might be necessary at the onset of treatment while another might be helpful to prevent recurrence.  The best “OTC” (over the counter) products for the consumer are those designed to address both stages:  resolve the problem & prevent recurrence.  Think of this concept just as you would when treating acne in a person.  You want to get rid of the current acne and, at the same time, prevent any future outbreaks!  Your dog’s topical therapy (shampoo, sprays, lotions, wipes, creams, etc.) should do the same!

 

My Dog is Itchy:  My dog’s skin looks normal but still licks, bites, chews, and scratches! 

These ingredients attempt to provide relief from itchy skin.  There are a number of causes of itchy skin so any one particular ingredient is not likely to alleviate discomfort in every dog.  Providing epidermal lipid barrier repair (ceramides) may help allergy patients.  Antibacterial ingredients (NaHypochorite, benzoyl peroxide, or chlorhexidine) may help those dogs with bacterial or yeast infections.  So, you can see that the actual disorder is important when choosing a topical product!  Anti-itching ingredients typically work via a variety of different methods:  1) removing surface irritants or allergens (NaHypochlorite, chlorhexidine), 2) substituting another sensation such as heat or cold (ex- menthol or camphor), 3) anesthetizing the peripheral nerves (pramoxine, lidocaine, benzocaine, etc), 4) raising the “itch threshold” by cooling or moisturizing the skin (essential fatty acids-EFAs, glycerin, urea, oatmeal).  Remember, dry skin is itchy skin so you typically want to avoid astringents.  5) repairing the epidermal lipid barrier (ceramides, Vitamin E, allantoin, and EFAs), and 6) biochemical agents such as steroids or antihistamines.

My Dog is Itchy & has a Rash (moist, red, irritated, bumps, crusts)

Anytime the skin is damaged or abnormal (altered barrier) bacteria and yeast take advantage of the situation and overgrow causing infection.  Allergy patients are prone to secondary infections from both bacteria and yeast. 

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There are a large number of antimicrobial ingredients.  The emergence of resistant bacterial strains (MRSA, MRSP, etc) has made the use of antimicrobial topical vitally important.  Some of the topicals have also begun to be less effective while others have continued to be excellent choices.

Sodium hypochlorite (NaHypochlorite)  has remained an excellent antibacterial as well as anti-yeast ingredient.  In fact, if you are diagnosed with a MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection, our physician will recommend bleach baths!  They are highly effective, even over and above some of the more conventional ingredients such as chlorhexidine or iodines.  As such, this ingredient has become an important weapon against staph infections in both dogs and people. 

Benzoyle peroxide is another antibacterial ingredient but it can be drying and thus sometimes irritating for allergy patients.  Think of the irritation that is noted in some people with the use of acne medications that contain this ingredient.  The same holds true in the dog.  Tea Tree Oil(Melaleuca oil) has been shown to have proven yet limited antibacterial and fungicidal properties.  Exercise caution since an inappropriate or excessive use of tea tree oil on the skin can cause drooling, incoordination, weakness, low body temperature, and liver damage.

 

 

My Dog is NOT itchy & has a Rash (moist, red, irritated, bumps, crusts)

These dogs likely have a primary bacterial infection.  Some dogs can be itchy with a bacterial infection and others are not bothered at all.  They have a rash but it typically does not cause any discomfort (itchiness or pain).

Astringents are best reserved for “hot spots”:  These ingredients must be used with caution as they cause drying of the skin and may cause itching.  They are best used for acute moist focal areas like direct application to a “hot spot”.  They include:  tannic acid, witch hazel, aluminum acetate (Burow’s solution), acetic acid or vinegar, silver nitrate solution, or potassium permanganate solution.

This category of patients (non-itchy rash) is best served by products with antibacterial (or anti-yeast) ingredients.  These ingredients will actually resolve the problem rather than just applying a bandaid.   Think of these dogs as you would the acne-prone person.  There are a large number of antimicrobial ingredients.  The emergence of resistant bacterial strains (MRSA, MRSP, etc) has made the use of antimicrobial topical vitally important.  Some of the topicals have also begun to be less effective while others have continued to be excellent choices.

Sodium hypochlorite (NaHypochlorite)  has remained an excellent antibacterial as well as anti-yeast ingredient.  In fact, if you are diagnosed with a MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection, our physician will recommend bleach baths!  They are highly effective, even over and above some of the more conventional ingredients such as chlorhexidine or iodines.  As such, this ingredient has become an important weapon against staph infections in both dogs and people.  

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Benzoyle peroxide is another antibacterial ingredient but it can be drying and thus sometimes irritating for allergy patients.  Think of the irritation that is noted in some people with the use of acne medications that contain this ingredient.  The same holds true in the dog.  Tea Tree Oil(Melaleuca oil) has been shown to have proven yet limited antibacterial and fungicidal properties.  Exercise caution since an inappropriate or excessive use of tea tree oil on the skin can cause drooling, incoordination, weakness, low body temperature, and liver damage.

My Dog has Dry Scaly Skin:

Antiseborrheics:  These ingredients are best for dogs with a scaling skin disease or even ones that tend have exceptionally oily skin.  Fatty acids can be helpful in these cases as they are often keratolytic (break down scale). 

 Urea is another ingredient that can help remove scale.  Urea is most often used in a cream or ointment formulation for application to the nose or footpads.  Salicylic acid is helpful for both antimicrobial control as well as decreasing scaling.

As Veterinary Dermatologists, we understand the task of selecting the perfect topical products for your dog is daunting.  Unfortunately, there are less than reputable companies that make less than honest claims of efficacy.  Certain ingredients tend to be trending in popularity although there may be minimal to no science to back their claims.  The public is at the mercy of these marketing ploys.  Canine Skin Solutions was founded to counteract this trend and help educate pet-parents.

 

Visit our educational website to learn the best way to Unleash Your Dog’s Healthy Skin.  The Symptom Checker and the Resources tab have a vast library of veterinary dermatology information.

 

www.HealthySkin4Dogs.com