If you’ve ever walked along the aisles of the pet store, you’ll have noticed a huge range of shampoos. It seems that there are almost as many choices as there are for humans. There are shampoos for different coat colors, skin itches and irritations, as well as for flea control. It’s not easy to work out which one you should purchase for your pet. Here is a quick course in Shampoo Selection 101. Most of this will relate to dogs because we don’t routinely bathe cats.
The first thing to remember is that you shouldn’t use a human shampoo on your pet. Human skin is more acidic than that of a dog, and our shampoos may make their coat dry and irritated. The last thing you’d want to do is create a problem where there isn’t one.
If your pet’s skin is normal and healthy, with no irritation or itching, then a gentle shampoo that’s soap-free is a great choice for them. Bathe when you need to – that could be every week or two for an active outdoorsy dog that gets grubby frequently, or monthly or even less for an indoors pooch that stays relatively clean. Frequent bathing can remove the oil layer in the skin and lead to a dry coat, so if you’re washing your dog often, think about using a humectant or emollient afterwards to replace that oil. Follow some tips and tricks for bathing your dog here.
Perhaps your pet’s skin is normally healthy but they’re scratching a bit more than usual. There are products that can help, but first make sure that you’re using effective flea control. Many anti-itch shampoos contain oatmeal, which is recognized for its skin soothing effects. You may also like to try an oatmeal conditioner following the bath for a more residual effect.
Some shampoos are marketed as being suitable for controlling fleas on your pet. These are helpful if you have a mild flea problem but if you have a plague of these biting parasites, they just aren’t effective enough. When the lather is rinsed away, so is the insecticide, so there is no residual effect. When you consider that most of your flea problem is in your environment and they reinfest your pet quite quickly, you can see why shampoos often aren’t up to the task. If you’re going to soap up your cat to kill fleas, it’s essential that you make sure that your shampoo is registered for use on cats. They’re much more sensitive to chemicals than dogs are, so never use a dog product on your feline.
Another commonly used type of shampoo is the medicated product prescribed by your vet to manage bacterial or fungal skin infections. These are an important part of your pet’s treatment and they need to be used according to your vet’s instructions. They will usually specify how often to wash your pet, and how long to leave the lather in contact with their skin before rinsing. These aren’t suitable for pets with normal skin.
If you’re not sure what to wash your pet in, your first choice can be a gentle, soap-free, non-medicated shampoo. However, if your pet’s skin is red, irritated or they are losing hair, it would be well worth seeing your vet for advice.