How to Choose a Dog Shampoo for Dry Skin
Your dog’s dry skin can be uncomfortable and disruptive. It can make you feel helpless and cover your dog in itchy dandruff. There are plenty of shampoos that can help with these conditions, though! We’ll take a look at what might cause your dog’s dry skin and what you can do to help!
What Causes Dry, Flaky Skin?
You may think that dry and flaky skin has a simple cause, but that may not be the case. Even when your dog has had issues with dry skin in the past, it’s easy to write it off as an allergy or contact dermatitis problem. The truth is, several conditions may cause dry skin.
Identifying the cause of your dog’s dry skin can help you face the problem. Here are just some of the reasons why your dog is having dry skin issues:
- Parasites. Although we most often think of fleas in this situation, there are many parasites that you cannot see or diagnose without the help of a vet. Parasites like mites, lice, scabies, or even mange-causing parasites can all leave your dog’s skin dry. If your dog has fleas, they may even be allergic to flea saliva. All of these parasites can cause dry, flaky skin.
- Infections. Ringworm and other fungal and bacterial infections can cause your dog’s skin to be dry and flaky, causing dandruff, scales, or more. Again, these conditions need to be treated by a vet, as using a moisturizing shampoo isn’t going to help all of the time.
- Allergies. Allergies (like an allergy to flea saliva, as mentioned earlier) can quickly dry out your dog’s skin and leave them itching. Whether it’s an allergy to a certain type of food, something in your environment, or pollen, dust, and other seasonal allergies – your dog could potentially be allergic to anything. Running an allergy test can identify these issues.
- Disorders. Cushing’s disease can sometimes present itself with dry skin, brittle hair, skin infections, and more. Hypothyroidism is also a disorder that can cause dry skin. Cancer and auto-immune disorders sometimes present with dry skin as a symptom.
- Environmental Issues. Your dog’s dry skin may be caused by a change in the weather, especially if they spend a lot of time outside. Cold, dry air is more likely to dry out your dog’s skin. The heater in your home can dry out the air, which can also lead to your dog’s skin drying out. Poor nutrition can also play a part.
- Excessive Bathing. Bathing your dog too much can be harmful. You may want your dog to smell great all the time, but bathing them too much can dry their skin out. Soaps aren’t great for them when you use them frequently.
- Breed Issues. Some breeds have skin conditions naturally, without any underlying cause or condition. Check your dog’s breed to see if they are known to have skin conditions before considering other conditions or problems.
What to Look for In a Dog Shampoo for Dry Skin
When you want to help your dog get relief from their dry skin symptoms, here are some of the things you should keep in mind.
How much shampoo are you getting? For certain dry skin conditions, you may have to wash your dog repeatedly to fully get rid of the condition. Your dog’s skin needs to be moisturized over time in some cases. This means you’re going to need more of the shampoo that helps treat dry skin conditions.
Keep an eye on the amount of product you’re getting. Consider the lather point of each shampoo and how much you expect to use in each watch, and make sure that you buy enough to last throughout your dog’s treatment. Keep in mind that some companies do offer bottles of multiple sizes through their websites as well.
What moisturizer does the shampoo use to help restore and hydrate your dog’s skin? Let’s take a look at some of the most common moisturizers and examine the difference.
- Oatmeal contains emollient properties. This means that it penetrates through dry skin and acts as a humectant to draw moisture down to where your dog needs it most. Colloidal oatmeal is a version of oatmeal that also acts as a skin protectant. Both are great cleansers, deodorizers, and work well with most other ingredients.
- Aloe vera is a plant-derived ingredient that works to protect your skin, coating it, and holding moisture inside. When used with a humectant moisturizer that invites moisture, aloe can help hydrate your dog’s skin and protect it from further harm. Be careful when using high concentrations of aloe in a place where your dog can lick it off, as it should not be ingested. This is only a problem if you’re using a gel or cream treatment.
- Tea tree oil is not inherently moisturizing itself, but it does help soothe irritated skin. If your dog is itching at their dry skin a lot (or their dry skin is producing a lot of dandruff), tea tree oil can help calm that itch. Shampoos containing tea tree oil should not be used on cats, and tea tree oil products shouldn’t be used where cats may consume them. In rare cases, tea tree oil can be toxic to felines.
- Coconut oil can be used in a wide variety of applications, even in cooking! There is so much coconut oil can do for you and your dog. Shampoos that use coconut oil as a base hydrate more effectively without any harmful side effects. The fatty acid composition of coconut oil helps restore dry and damaged skin and speed recovery efforts.
- Peppermint is listed on more than one moisturizing shampoo or sprays as a great moisturizer, but many experts disagree. Peppermint can cool the skin (creating an effect that is a lot like aloe vera). However, peppermint can also irritate the skin and create more problems than it solves. Steer clear of peppermint moisturizers unless they contain other moisturizing ingredients.
Other moisturizers are commonly used in shampoos, creams, and more. However, dog shampoos tend to stick with oatmeal and aloe above all others.
We all want our dogs to smell great, and scented shampoos can help in a variety of ways. They usually get rid of the ‘wet dog’ smell and replace it with something you won’t mind lingering around. Choose a scent that is close to what you already like.
Also, be aware of how the scent makes it into the shampoo. Is it a natural scent that is provided by extracts and oils? These natural fragrances generally don’t irritate your dog’s skin as much as synthetic perfumes. Shampoos with synthetic perfumes can be okay if your dog isn’t particularly sensitive to them. However, if your dog’s skin is already dry and irritated, synthetic perfume may make the problem worse.
Medicated shampoos can help get rid of your dog’s dry skin faster in some cases. For the most part, you should only use medicated shampoos that are recommended by your veterinarian. This is especially important if you don’t know the underlying cause of your dog’s dry skin.
You don’t want to subject your dog’s skin to medication that it doesn’t need, whether it’s dry nor not. Above, we discussed some of the reasons your dog’s skin might be dry. Choosing a medicated shampoo that targets the cause of your dog’s dry skin is ideal, but you must know the cause first.
For that reason, hold off on purchasing a shampoo with specific chemicals or medical ingredients until you know that they will be beneficial.
Do you know what’s in your dog’s shampoo? You should take a look, as there may be some chemicals and ingredients that aren’t great for your dog’s skin or general health.
Especially if your dog has a skin condition, taking a look at the ingredients can be a good thing. Check out the back of the bottle and make sure that there are no chemicals that may be causing a reaction. Further, if you know that your dog is allergic to something or has had a reaction to a certain chemical in the past, look for that ingredient in shampoo before you purchase.
Taking the time to check can make your dog’s first bath with a new dry skin shampoo a lot more comfortable.
Soaps are good, right? Don’t we want soap in our shampoo? You’d think so, but the answer is no for most people. Soap can dry out your dog’s skin. Many soaps present in dog shampoos can lead to allergic reactions in some dogs, rashes, or further skin problems in others. If your dog has a problem with soap or has had reactions to multiple other types of dog shampoo, try a soap-free shampoo.
Usually, these shampoos clean with a natural cleanser or cleaning agent that doesn’t contain a drying or harsh soap.
What does it mean when a shampoo is listed as paraben free? Parabens are chemicals that are added to consumable and personal health products that help preserve them, reducing the buildup and growth of bacteria over time, and more. This may not seem like a bad thing, but they can easily penetrate your dog’s skin barrier and lead to certain developmental and reproductive issues. Parabens may even cause cancer.
If that’s not a risk you’re willing to make for your pup, consider choosing a shampoo that is free of parabens.
Sulfates are ingredients in a multitude of soaps. They achieve that soapy lather and help strip oils and dirt out of your hair, off of your skin, and out of your dog’s fur. However, too many sulfates (or in too high a concentration) can also strip away the natural oils you need for healthy skin.
You don’t want sulfates in your dog’s dry-skin shampoo, as it can further damage already fragile skin. If you aren’t willing to take that risk, keep an eye out for sulfates in your shampoo selection.
What species is the shampoo safe for? This is useful if you are looking for dry skin shampoo that will work for your other pets as well. Most dog-friendly shampoos can work on cats, horses, and even ferrets. However, look out for labels that specifically say that shampoos can be used on multiple different species just to be safe.
Most dry skin shampoos for dogs treat other conditions as well. Some have flea and tick deterrents, some can be used as an antifungal treatment, and more. The thing to remember is this: more uses are not always a good thing.
For example, would you buy an antifungal shampoo if you knew your dog didn’t have a fungal infection? Probably not, unless you were trying to prevent them from occurring. Some treatments for these conditions have harsh chemicals or medications.
A good rule of thumb is to purchase just what your dog needs and not more. If you only have dry skin, look for dry skin or anti-itch shampoo that doesn’t bother with other conditions. If your dog has a skin condition or infection, it’s going to be fine to use a shampoo that covers both that condition and dry skin.