Everything You Need To Know About Dog Shampoo - The Complete Guide
Updated: Feb 1
When you decided to get a dog, you probably didn’t think about just how many new things you’d have to research and learn about- and finding the best dog shampoo and conditioner for your dog is just one of the new things you’ll need to know. What is the best dog shampoo? Well, all dogs are different, and no two shampoos are the same- so finding one that suits your dog, their coat, and their skin is not easy. However, there are some key things you should be aware of when you’re looking for a new dog shampoo.
Types Of Dog Shampoo
Just as human shampoos come in different formulations for different hair types, there are lots of different dog shampoos for different coats, as well as some that are semi-medical or fully medicated for dogs with skin diseases. There is a lot to learn about types of shampoos used in pet grooming, but we’ve covered the basics here:
Medicated Dog Shampoos
Medicated dog shampoos contain ‘active ingredient’ drugs such as chlorhexidine (an antiseptic) or miconazole (an antifungal) and are designed to help with specific medical conditions. Antibacterial dog shampoos are a type of medicated shampoo- preparations containing chlorhexidine and miconazole help with allergies and skin problems by killing bacteria and yeasts living on the surface of the skin. Dog flea shampoos also contain active ingredients, although these often work by depositing a scent or chemical on the skin and fur to repel fleas.
Itchiness is one of the most common symptoms dogs suffer with, so soothing shampoos are very popular. Soothing shampoos aim to help your dog by removing dead skin and fur and applying soothing compounds such as aloe and oatmeal. They may also contain omega-3s for better skin conditioning. They often combine a dog shampoo and conditioner to ensure your dog’s skin is completely looked after. Soothing shampoos are a good dog itchy skin treatment, especially for dogs with environmental allergies.
Dogs can be a little smelly- especially if they roll in something they shouldn’t. Deodorising shampoos are the best dog shampoo for smelly dogs- they set out to remove any nasty smells left by fox faeces or other unpleasant favourites. They may be highly scented, but many just provide a really deep clean with deodorising compounds.
Colour Correction Shampoo
For pet grooming of show dogs and posh dogs, colour correction shampoo helps a dog’s coat colour to shine. There is black shampoo, for black dogs, and purple shampoo for white dogs, and shampoo that contains optical enhancers to add shine and bring out your dog’s natural colour.
And then there are normal, everyday shampoos- for the vast majority of dogs who aren’t infested, itchy, smelly, or posh enough to need a colour correction option. There are lots of different standard shampoos, from ones with calming essential oils to those with special scents, but all of them contain similar ingredients and set out to cater to the vast majority of dogs.
Not to be confused with soothing shampoo, although in reality often similar- hypoallergenic shampoos usually contain natural ingredients that rarely cause reactions, for those dogs with sensitive skin. Finding a sensitive dog shampoo is important for dogs that are prone to allergic reactions.
Specially designed for puppies, puppy shampoo is gentle on sensitive skin. Many formulations are ‘tearless’, in case your pup wriggles, and they rarely contain perfumes that can irritate their sensitive noses and throats.
Which Dog Shampoo Is Best For My Breed?
Finding the right shampoo for your dog breed can be difficult. This is especially true if you have a modern ‘designer’ crossbreed such as a Cockapoo or a Labradoodle- who can have a whole range of coats depending on their lineage!
Breeds With A Curly Coat
Curly-coated breeds such as poodles and poodle-crosses should use a shampoo with added conditioner to reduce tangles. Many of these dogs also suffer from allergies, so a hypoallergenic option may be a good idea.
Breeds With A Long Or Double Coat
Breeds with a thick double coat like the German Shepherd and Husky need shampoos that don’t strip away too many oils. In addition, these dogs can be prone to getting a bit hot and smelly in the summer, so a deodorising component would be a good idea. Some shampoos help to reduce shedding, which may help with the huge amount of fur these guys can produce.
Whilst colour-correction isn’t necessary for many dogs, it can be really useful for those white dogs who like to get muddy, like West Highland White Terriers and Jack Russel Terriers. Keeping their fur the right colour and shiny is easiest with a colour-correction shampoo. Having said this, Westies are particularly prone to allergic skin disease, so your vet might prescribe you a medicated shampoo or soothing shampoo.
Short-coated breeds such as Labrador Retrievers and Boston Terriers often have the easiest coats to look after. A shampoo with high-shine formula can really make that coat look great! However, these dogs can be prone to scurf (dandruff) too, so you may find that a dog shampoo and conditioner with added oatmeal is a good match.
If your breed is brachycephalic (short-snouted), getting a puppy shampoo is a good idea. These dogs are very prone to eye problems and you’ll need something that will be very gentle if they were to get any splashed into their eyes. You may also need a medicated shampoo for their facial folds or tail folds, as these areas can trap moisture and encourage growth of harmful yeasts.
Which Ingredients Should I look For In A Dog Shampoo?
Of course, even once you’ve decided that your dog needs a deodorising, conditioning shampoo, you will still be faced with a lot of choice. In this section, we’ll go through some ingredients to look for- and some to avoid.
Oatmeal is made by processing oats into a fine powder. The resulting oatmeal has effective anti-inflammatory properties thanks to Avenanthramides, a compound found in the oat plant. It also forms a barrier on the skin surface that conditions and moisturises. It’s a completely natural product that performs many functions in shampoo, and shampoos containing oatmeal are definitely worth adding to your dog’s beauty regime!
Aloe Vera, when properly prepared, is safe for dogs. The soothing properties of this plant extract are well known and have been used in medicine for generations. Not only is it soothing and moisturising, it also boasts anti-microbial properties to keep the microorganisms living on your dog’s skin under control.
Omega 3 and 6
Omega 3 and 6 are two types of essential fatty acid, which have important roles in skin and coat care. Whilst most sources of omega 3 and 6 are in the diet, research has shown that topical application of omegas helps the skin barrier and works as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Tea Tree Oils
Tea Tree Oil is known for its topical healer capabilities and anti-inflammatory benefits aiding a healthy immune function. Tea Tree oil is known to soothe dermatitis, yeast/bacterial infections and moisturise dry sensitive skin.
Which Ingredients Should I Avoid?
Of course, there are some shampoo ingredients you definitely want to avoid.
Harsh chemicals, allergens and ‘artificial colouring’ added just for the look of the thing can all cause your dog harm. Even natural ingredients can cause problems if used incorrectly!
We’d definitely look out for parabens, a type of preservative. They were very commonly used in human shampoos until recently, when evidence started to emerge that they caused hormone disruption and cancer risks.
Other chemicals to keep an eye out for include Sodium Laureth Sulfate, aka SLS, which is thought to be too harsh for dog’s skin- especially if you have a breed with sensitivities. It’s also sensible to reduce the number of artificial colours and fragrances in a bottle- after all, the colour of the shampoo makes no difference to your dog, so why deposit extra chemicals on their skin?
Lastly, you should keep a close eye on the concentration of some essential oils such as Tea Tree. Whist small doses of most essential oils are perfectly fine, there are some that are toxic to dogs. Tea tree is a common ingredient in dog shampoos but pet parents should take care to follow the directions on the bottle and ensure they choose a dog shampoo which contains 0.1% - 1% of Tea Tree Oil. Be careful not to allow dogs to lick any shampoo from themselves.
Why Is Oatmeal Dog Shampoo Becoming So Popular?
When you look at the benefits of oatmeal dog shampoo, it isn’t hard to see why it’s becoming so popular. After all, there aren’t many natural products that can boast so many wonderful properties for skin.
Oatmeal reduces skin inflammation and itchiness thanks to the natural avenanthramides found in the oat plant. Oatmeal is also an effective emollient- meaning it forms a protective barrier layer on the skin to promote healing and stop it from drying out. This emollient property stops water loss, and also helps to soften tough skin.
Lastly, plant saponins found in oatmeal have antimicrobial properties, helping to keep your dog’s skin in a natural balance. They also help the shampoo to foam, causing a gentle cleansing action to loosen dead skin and scurf. In other words, oatmeal dog shampoo is popular because it’s gentle on sensitive skin whilst still moisturising, cleansing and balancing your dog’s skin!
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Finding the best dog shampoo for your dog can seem a little overwhelming. There are lots of shampoos out there, and they’re all fighting for your purchase. For most dogs, a ‘standard’ dog shampoo that’s gentle on skin and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals is sufficient.
For some breeds or for dogs with a medical condition, you might want to find a shampoo that’s going to go the extra mile to help you keep your dog’s coat shiny. Either way, looking for a shampoo containing oatmeal is a good start- this natural ingredient is a powerhouse when it comes to benefits for your dog