Shampoo Selection Suggestions

according to Dr. Bevier

To determine the optimum shampoo for use when bathing your dog, consider what the ingredients in the shampoo are and what you are trying to accomplish. In addition to use for everyday cleanliness, shampoos can also serve as adjunct therapy, although not a cure, for combating skin disease.

A number of good shampoos are obtainable either over the counter or through veterinarians. The two largest manufacturers of prescription shampoos used by veterinarians are DVM and Alloderm. The pH of human skin is not the same as that of the dog’s skin. Consequently, when comparing formulations of human and veterinary shampoos, the pH will be adjusted to reflect these differences. Dr. Bevier does not believe that pH is a determining factor in selection of shampoos and states that some of the medicated shampoos for people work quite well for dogs.

When attempting to hydrate dry skin, it is important to realize that it is the water itself that rehydrates the skin. The oily, or humectant, rinses that are used following the bath do not increase the moisture level in the skin; rather, they seal in the moisture absorbed into the skin during the bath. The best way to increase the water level in skin is to stopper the tub and keep the skin immersed and in constant contact with the bath water for at least 10 to 15 minutes. The next best way to hydrate skin is to repeatedly expose it to water by continuous rinsing.

As an illustration of this effect, imagine the effect of putting a piece of leather in oil versus the effect of placing it in water. The water will soften the leather and make it mushy while the oil will only coat the leather. Oil keeps leather pliable by sealing in moisture. Combination products that package shampoo and rinse together deserve consideration. Using a spray or a rinse after the shampoo is a good way to keep coats in good condition.

Detergent shampoos can be a cost effective method for cleansing animals. Detergents may be particularly useful as the first sudsing on a dog that has any degree of oiliness on its skin or hair coat.

Some of the medicated shampoos don’t lather very well, and if you try to use them as your sole means of bathing an animal, you are likely to use half a bottle to give one bath. Given the cost of medicated shampoos, this can be a very costly routine. Joy dishwashing liquid is effective as a first sudsing agent to be followed by the medicated shampoo as a second sudsing. The medicated shampoo should then be left on for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes.

Anti-bacterial shampoos may contain benzoyle peroxide (found in oxydex, pyoben, and in some of the human anti-acne preparations), which is very drying. This is to be avoided in an animal that has a bacterial infection but also has dry skin and hair coat. Benzoyle peroxide products might be considered for those animals whose skin or hair coat are a little greasy or oily. In most cases, however, the preferential ingredient is chlorhexidine (nolvasan or chlorhexiderm by DVM), which has good antibacterial properties without the drying side effects associated with benzoyle peroxide.

The once popular antibacterial iodine shampoos have fallen out of favor. There are two reasons for this. One is that they tend to stain bathtubs. The other is that scientific studies have demonstrated a lower kill rate of skin bacteria by iodine shampoos than by shampoos with the two most effective bactericides. Antibacterials sometimes are combined with other ingredients. Sebalyt (DVM), which combines triclosan (a good antibacterial) with sulfur and salicylic acid, is an example of this.

Another consideration for shampoos is treatment of the scale and flake of seborrhea. This requires a shampoo that is both keratolytic to remove the scale and scurf from the surface of the skin and keratoplastic to help normalize the turnover rate of skin so less scale and scurf is produced. This class of shampoos include sulfoxidexthat contains sulfur and benzoyle peroxide, Sebolux (Alloderm) that combines sulfur and salicylic acid, and treatment packs that follow drying shampoos with oil to help decrease the amount of scaling on the skin surface by keeping moisture in.

Tar is a heavy duty anti-seborrhea agent and, in the vast majority of cases, constitutes unnecessary overkill. While tar helps normalize the turnover rate of the skin cells to reduce scaling and flaking, its side effects can include a drying tendency, contact sensitivity by some animals, and an unpleasant, residual medicinal odor. In most seborrhea cases, the recommended protocol is to use Joy first for cleansing and to follow the Joy with a sulfur, salicylic, or other medicated shampoo.

Another consideration in shampoo selection occurs when a dog’s skin becomes inflamed and sometimes greasy, which may indicate colonization with yeast. Yeast colonization also occurs in humans. Yeast on the skin surface will cause irritation and will tend to increase the odor coming from the animal’s skin. The presence of yeast can be detected by doing a swab and staining it. One of the most effective shampoos against yeast on the skin is Selsun Blue. It often is recommended that humans who get yeast on the skin bath themselves with Selsun Blue. The regular Selsun Blue tends to be a little bit drying, and although there is a new brand of selsun for dry skin, Dr. Bevier has had no experience with it. Dermazole is a very expensive veterinary shampoo for treatment of yeast.

Mild cleansing shampoos for sensitive dogs include Vet-Kem® hypoallergenic triple pac and Allerderm products. The combination of Allergroom shampoo (Allerderm) followed by Humilac spray often works well. Humilac spray is an oil-free humectant that helps maintain the moisture level in the skin. It also contains some urea, which tends to provide a little antibacterial activity. HyLyt (DVM) Hypoallergenic moisturizing shampoo is a nice product that contains EFA (essential fatty acids). There is a mist that goes along with it. At least in humans, EFA can be absorbed from the surface of the skin as well as internally.

For an itchy dog with inhallant allergies, shampoos can remove the increased number of bacteria and yeast on the skin. There is some speculation that dogs, in addition to breathing in allergens, can absorb them through the surface of the skin. If this is true, bathing can help to reduce the population of allergens in contact with the skin. For itchiness and inflammation, bathing also can help cool off the skin and rehydrate it. Hypoallergenic, as well as the new oatmeal shampoos, may be appropriate.

The idea of marketing oatmeal shampoos for dogs originated with aminal colloidal oatmeal as an ingredient in human shampoos and amino soaps. These shampoos give dogs some temporary relief for a few hours to maybe a day or two at the most. Oatmeal shampoos don’t leave dog coats in ideal condition since they tend to leave some residue. Epi-Soothe Shampoo is an example of an oatmeal shampoo. Epi-Soothe also makes a rinse that has a higher concentration of oatmeal than the shampoo. In the case of the Epi-Soothe products, perhaps it would be more effective to depend on the rinse to relieve the itching rather than the shampoo.

Relief Shampoo (DVM) is a new product for itchy dogs. In addition to being an oatmeal shampoo with Omega 6 fatty acids, it contains the local anesthetic Pramoxine. Most owners who have tried Relief Shampoo give it high marks. Pramoxine is the additive to the old-stand-by callomine lotion that is found in callodryl plus cream and is very common in human topicals for combating itching.

Another possibility to consider is shampoos containing corticosteroids. Keep in mind that anything topical will only be effective for a short period of time. Basically, for itchy dogs, a bland shampoo should be followed by a rinse or spray. Humilac is an excellent after bath spray. Alpha Keri bath oil is a good rinse when used in the proportion of 1 cap per gallon of water and left on the dog following bathing. Avon Skin So Soft can be used as a rinse, but it is not an effective flea repellent. A study at the University of Florida found that, to act as a flea-repellant rinse, Skin So Soft needed to be used at a concentration of 4 ounces per pint of water. Of course when it is used at this concentration, the dog gets so greasy that nobody would want it in the house!


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