He has dandruff. He may have some hair loss. Many pet parents have dogs with skin problems, but it’s a frustrating condition with many potential causes and symptoms.
Often, one of the first avenues of attack is a simple one: bathing.
There is no lack of shampoos out there when it comes to dogs, but they aren’t all created equal. Some ingredients can be particularly helpful for dogs with skin troubles, while others should be avoided. Here’s where you can start.
The Honest Kitchen makes amazing, all natural, botanical shampoo bars. They’re hand-made from a base of organic goat’s milk, which benefits the skin by cleaning off dead skin cells and moisturizing at the same time. These "Sparkle Bars" are solid and long-lasting; they get the job done well while also having a minimal impact on the environment.
There’s a reason aloe vera is a go-to for sunburn victims. It’s a powerful moisturizer and skin soother, and can also help relieve itching. Aloe may be helpful for a variety of skin issues.
Tea tree can be very effective for itching and can also work as an anti-fungal for skin yeast problems. However it is a strong ingredient, so caution should be used in sensitive pets and it should always be diluted—which it will likely be in case of a shampoo. When using a shampoo with tea tree, research the brand and find out how much tea tree is used—“The recommended ratio is 0.1-1.0 percent strength, to be dispensed topically,” according to veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker.
If your dog suffers from dry skin, vitamin E may be helpful. Ingredients like sunflower oil may also be used as a source of the vitamin in a shampoo.
Neem oil is a handy ingredient for skin problems stemming from bug bites since it’s a well-known bug repellent and killer. Dogs with flea infestations could definitely benefit from this ingredient in their shampoo.
This is a particularly tricky ingredient because it’s often recommended as a go-to for dogs with skin issues. However, it's not recommended for dogs with yeast or allergy problems, since oatmeal is a grain and could make the problem worse.
There’s a long list of chemicals to avoid in a dog shampoo—including isopropyl alcohol and parabens. Do your research, but a quick rule of thumb is to read the ingredient label and see how much of it you can pronounce. If there are a lot of complicated, long names with numbers attached to them, put the shampoo back on the shelf. Some chemicals may cause reactions on sensitive skin. Of course, natural ingredients can do the same, so it’s always important to spot test.
Shampoos can help form an important part of your arsenal when dealing with skin problems in dogs. Pay attention to ingredients and work with your vet to find a suitable match for your dog’s sensitive skin.
Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.