Sorting Out The Confusion

There are so many shampoo products available and so much information out there, I thought this page might help sort out the mess.

Routine and occasional cleaning of the coat


First; some misinformation: except for dogs with skins sensitive and reactive to certain shampoos, most dog skins and coats are greatly improved by frequent bathing.  Yes, you might end up removing too much oil and drying out the skin, but not if you use a gentle shampoo. 

Shampoos that are NOT appropriate for frequent use on normal skin are selsun blue, coal tar and sulfur based shampoos since these are designed to remove skin oils.  I also find baby shampoos and green Prell like shampoos are quite drying and not good for frequent use.

Joy, Ivory, and Dawn dishwashing detergents are very gentle and safe if you want to use something inexpensive.

If you follow up any frequent shampooing with almost any brand of cream rinse or conditioner made for humans, this seems to be helpful in improving general skin health.

My very favorite shampoo for frequent shampooing of healthy skin is called
Hylyt by DVM pharmaceuticals. 
It's soap free,, hypoallergenic, it's designed to moisturize the skin and contains fatty acids. 
Fancy scientific reasons aside, it just works great; pets that get Hylyt shampoos every 7-10 days have really beautiful coats that make you just want to rub your face in them.

You can get it from your veterinarian.  Or you can order it online from our EBay Store.  (all profits made from our EBay store go to help fund our NO KILL Pet Shelter.)

There are many other gentle, luxurious shampoos on the market as well.

Doggy Odor:  See information on the column to your left.

Dry skin, flaky skin, and skin damaged from allergies, dry winter air, mild abrasions, hypothyroid disease, Cushing's disease, and Addison's disease

For these problems, you want a moisturizing shampoo that helps to rehydrate the skin and help it to heal.  Once again, my favorite recommendation for dry coats is DVM Pharmaceuticals Hylyt Shampoo with essential Fatty Acids. The same shampoo I recommend for routine shampooing for those wanting super luxurious coats.

For those pets, though, with greasy, scaly, or infected skin; medicated shampoos are needed and are discussed further down on this page.

Itchy, but otherwise normal skin

Skin allergies are very common in dogs and sometimes in cats.  Understand that topical treatment with shampoos may not be enough, but it certainly helps.

Before relying on shampoos to control your itchy pet, first make sure that:

You have fleas, mange, and other parasites ruled out.

Your pet doesn't have ringworm. (It's not always obvious.)

Your pet doesn't have have food allergies

That said, there are some shampoos that are quite good at reducing itching for 1-3 days as a time.  In addition, they help soothe and nurture damaged skin.

Oatmeal based shampoos are often quite soothing and helpful.  I prefer the Relief brand because it also contains a good topical antihistamine.  It comes as a shampoo, a cream rinse that I often use like a leave on lotion, and a spray which works great for areas like feet and other spots that some dogs just won't leave alone.

Most veterinarians have several different types of shampoos and sprays and lotions designe to help control itching.  In addition to gentle oatmeal based products, for the severely itchy pet, they will also have available more potent topical products containing some combination of steroids, antihistamines, and emulsifying agents.  These products are potent enough that you should discuss their appropriate use with your veterinarian. 

Greasy, gross, scabby, odorous, clogged up skin typical of bacterial and yeast infections

This is not complicated, but it's not common knowledge:

Most shampoos that are designed to kill either yeast or bacteria fail to solve the problem for two major reasons:

***The shampoo didn't have enough contact time with the bacteria or other words it wasn't left on long enough.  8 minutes apparently is the minimum length of time to get good kill rates.

***The second major reason for failure is that the shampoo doesn't penetrate deep enough into the skin.  Often this is because the skin is covered with excessive oil, dead skin, crust, and scales.  The skin pores are often too clogged for the shampoo to penetrate.

Knowing that, the solution is fairly straight forward:

1.  Use a shampoo designed to remove crust, scales, and oils first.  One of the best shampoos for this are ones containing coal tar & sulfur. Other choices include Benzoyl Peroxide based shampoos.  Both of these types of shampoos are somewhat harsh and drying but work well at removing surface crust and scales. This tends to be very soothing to the pet and allows the medicated shampoo that follows to penetrate deep enough into the skin to do an effective job.

2.  Once the skin is cleansed of scale and crust and the pores are clean, then apply a shampoo effective at killing yeast and bacteria.  Remember to leave on at least 8 minutes before rinsing.  Really work the shampoo into the skin.

My favorite shampoo for this is chlorhexidine 4%.  At this strength it will kill both staph and malassezia (yeast) well.  There are several different veterinary brands containing extra strength chlorhexidine either alone or combined with other active ingredients.

Aside: The market is swamped with different brands of medicated shampoos; many of which are ineffective, many of which are fair, and a some that are superior.  Veterinarians, of course, sell the good stuff.  We have the advantage of seeing hundreds of skin cases each year and get a lot of experience at what actually works the best.

A lot of medicated shampoos contain Benzoyl Peroxide which does a good job of killing bacteria as well as being a good degreaser, but it doesn't kill yeast well.

How often should you shampoo pets with skin disease?

It takes at least several weeks for damaged, infected skin to heal, so I recommend shampooing 2-3 times weekly for the first week or two, and then 1-2 times weekly for another 2-4 weeks until the skin is well healed.  You can skip the coal tar sulfur shampoo if you want once there isn't a crust and scale problem.  If you aren't getting good results after a few weeks, additional treatment will probably be needed such as antibiotics or internal anti-fungal medicine.  See your vet.

3.  This step may not be critical, but because these medicated shampoos are drying to the skin, it would be nice to follow up the medicated shampoos with a moisturizing shampoo.  Guess what?  My favorite is Hylyt shampoo.

On This Page:

Routine and occassional cleaning of the coat

Doggy Odor

Dry skin, flaky skin, and skin damaged from allergies, dry winter air, mild abrasions, hypothyroid disease, cushing's disease, and addison's disease

Itchy Skin

Greasy, gross, scabby, odorous, clogged up skin typical of bacterial and yeast infections

Dealing with Dog Odors:

Some individual dogs and certain breeds have a lot more body odor than others.

Hound dog breeds are notorious for having a distinctively strong odor. 

Often the odor is due to underlying skin diseases and allergies. 

Skin damaged or irritated by allergies frequently becomes infected with bacteria and/or yeast, both of which are quite odorous. 

See below right for my recommendations for medicated shampoos. 

Better yet, take your pet to the vet; without experience and a microscope, it's hard to tell the difference between different skin problems:  Mange, Ringworm, Atopic, Flea Allergic, Food allergic, Bacterial, and Yeast Dermatitis can all look similar.

Every once in a while, body odor is associated with indigestion, cheap pet foods, or certain pet food types such as fish meal.  Just something to consider.

That said, here's what I recommend for those dogs that simply have a strong odor:

Frequent shampooing is one option and usually works well.

The problem, of course, is that some dogs and cats aren't easy to bathe; it's a major ordeal for one reason or another. 

My favorite shampoo for frequent use is Hylyt, but Joy, Dawn, and Ivory dishwashing detergents are safe, and there are many fragrant shampoos available that smell nice for a few days.

I'm impressed with Hylyt Shampoo because it helps moisturize and condition the skin which often ends up reducing the need for frequent shampooing; in other words it can cure/manage the problem.

If frequent shampooing is too much trouble, Pfizer makes an enzyme spray that does a good job of removing doggy odor. 

You can use it right on the dog or on furniture etc. 

It's called Elimiodor. 

There are several other brands I've tried that work fairly well and quite a few that didn't seem to work at all. 

You can buy Elimiodor from our Ebay store if your vet doesn't have it.  Elimiodor breaks down the sulfur bond that makes the distinctive doggy smell.  It really works.

There are also "waterless shampoos" and mousses that work fairly nicely and are more convenient than regular shampoos.
They are especially convenient for shorter haired cats and dogs.

And finally, you can apply diluted cologne to pets as a cover up, but be aware that some pets may be sensitive so stop using if it causes obvious irritation.

Pay closer attention to detail:

When people complain about pet odors the problem is often NOT the skin and coat but rather:

1. Mouth odor from gum disease, dental disease, and poor oral hygiene.  Please visit our pages about oral health in pets

2. Ear allergies and infections.  Please visit our pages about ear problems

3.  Metabolic problems like thyroid disease, Cushings Disease, Addison's Disease, or Diabetes.  Please visit our pages about these problems.

4.  Vaginal or anal gland problems can cause strong odors and may need attention.

5.  Poor diet or poor digestion can cause body odor.

Feeling generous?

I've written this web site partly to share my love of my profession with you ... but also in hopes of raising money for our no kill pet shelter.

Our shelter is an honest, transparent, and 100% volunteer organization that finds homes for 200-300 pets a year for the last 15 years or so.

With a little more funding we can continue to operate and expand.

Please help:

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