Skin makes up to 24% of your pooch’s body weight, acting as a protective barrier, skin plays a role in temperature regulation, environmental protection and producing important substances including vitamin D. Skin is exposed to challenges daily including temperature and moisture extremes, particularly in Winter months when it’s cold and wet outdoors, while us humans have indoor heating which can dry out your pet’s skin.
If your dog is scratching more than normal, fleas tend to be the first thing on your mind. While parasites are a common cause of dermatitis and frantic itching in pooches, there are some other factors which can be serious. Intense itching is also known as pruritus. Intense scratching or chewing, red skin patches or hair loss are all reasons to take your fur-baby to the vet to investigate the cause. Causes include infections and allergies or if your pup is lucky, it may just be sensitive skin.
If your pup has dry and sensitive skin, your vet may advise that you use a hydrating shampoo to soothe your pup’s skin. Choosing the right shampoo can be frustrating if your fur-baby has allergies or inflamed skin as you don’t want to irritate them further. Here we review some popular shampoos to help you determine what’s the best dog shampoo for itchy skin.
Synergy Labs have developed this shampoo with active ingredients such as salicylic acid, coal tar, colloidal oatmeal and allantoin to soothe a variety of skin complaints.
TropiClean Shampoos for Pets
HONEYDEW Natural Dog Shampoo with Colloidal Oatmeal
Oatmeal Pet Wash Shampoo + Conditioner
Wahl have developed this concentrated, coconut-derived shampoo to give itchy pups with dry skin some relief while moisturizing their skin deeply.
Paws & Pals 5-In-1 Oatmeal Dog Shampoo, Conditions, Detangles, Moisturizes, Anti Itch, Odor Control
Oliver's Choice Pet Shampoo
4-Legger USDA Certified Organic Dog Shampoo
Vet's Best Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo for Dogs
Vet's Best Allergy Itch Relief Shampoo for Dogs
Pet Heads Feeling Flaky Strawberry Yogurt Dry Sensitive Skin Shampoo
Buddy's Best, Natural Dog Shampoo and Conditioner in One
Veterinary Formula Solutions Soothing Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs
Top Reasons Why your Dog has Itchy Skin
As a veterinarian, skin problems are possibly the most common reasons for my patients’ appointments. One of the signs owners often notice is dry flakes in their pet’s coat that leads to itchiness which can cause your dog to traumatize their skin and exacerbate the problem, while also being distressing for owners to watch.
Your veterinarian is best placed to advise you about your pet’s specific concerns, but here’s a rundown of some of the main causes of itchy skin in dogs.
There’s many reasons your pooch may suffer from dry and itchy skin including diet, harsh weather conditions and irritation due to harsh grooming products or over washing. Dry skin is really a symptom of an underlying issue with pets.
Environmental allergens (aka Atopic Dermatitis). are a common cause of itching, chewing and licking in pooches. These can be seasonal such as pollens or may be present year round such as dust mites. Skin allergies are generally chronic and lifelong management is necessary. If your pet has skin allergies, you tend to see irritation around their face, ears, paws, under elbows, along the belly and around the groin and base of their tail.
True food allergies are relatively rare in dogs, but we do see them occasionally. Skin signs of a food intolerance tend to be similar to those seen in atopic dermatitis.
Fleas: As well as causing the typical irritation, some pets are allergic to flea saliva and only a single bite can cause a flare-up.
Mites: Mites such as sarcoptic mange can cause intense itching in pets.
Infections (Bacterial and yeast)
The majority of skin infections are secondary to trauma, often because of intense scratching and chewing in pets suffering with allergies. These infections tend to be recurring and can make the itching even more intense leading to further damage. Once infection has developed, antibiotics and anti-yeast treatments are needed alongside tackling the underlying issue.
There are a number of hormone disorders that cause skin changes including hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism. Hypothyroidism tends to cause hair loss with dry, thickened and scaly skin. Hyperadrenocorticism is also known as Cushing’s disease which darkens the skin, produces oily dandruff (seborrhea) and secondary bacterial infections.
Luckily, autoimmune disorders are rare in dogs; these are diseases where the animal’s own immune system starts to attack the body. Pemphigus complex is one group of these diseases that causes blistering, pustules and ulcers.
Thankfully nutritional deficiencies are rare due to modern, balanced diets. Nutritional support does play a role in supporting your pup’s skin health. Essential fatty acids and diets fortified with vitamin B complex can help to improve coat quality and skin health.
How Can Dog Shampoos Help in Case of Itching?
Depending on the cause of your pooch’s itch, there are many shampoos on the market. Most human shampoos have a slightly more acidic pH than is suitable for canine skin, specially formulated pet shampoo should be used instead.
Shampoos that contain conditioning ingredients help to de-tangle hair to allow ease of grooming while also providing a barrier to help the skin retain moisture. Using a suitable shampoo, thoroughly rinsing and not overbathing your pup will all help to relieve itching. Bathing your pet with shampoo once a month should be sufficient for most pets without dehydration though if you live in a more humid region you may be able to bathe your pet up to once per week without causing excessive dryness.
How to Pick a dog shampoo for itchy skin: Things to Look For?
There are so many shampoo formulations it could make your head spin when searching for the best one to relieve your itchy pooch. Here’s a rundown on what to look for when purchasing shampoo for your dog.
Active Ingredients: Choosing a shampoo will depend on what type of skin your pup has alongside the cause of their itchiness. You should select active ingredients that will soothe and moisturize your dog’s skin.
Hypoallergenic Formula: dogs with itchy skin or allergies tend to have sensitive skin so select a shampoo that is suitable for the most sensitive of pooches. This is particularly important if your dog has any skin conditions causing redness or flaking.
Natural Ingredients: Artificial fragrances can irritate sensitive skin so selecting a product with natural ingredients is a better bet.
Medicated: Shampoos infused with medications are designed to treat more severe skin issues and the majority are prescription only. There are some over-the-counter medicated shampoos available that may be appropriate after your pet has been diagnosed by your veterinarian.
pH Balanced: As we mentioned before, canine skin is slightly more alkaline than human skin. Ensure that your pup shampoo is pH balanced for their skin to help soothe their skin and prevent further irritation.
Conditioners: You can choose a separate conditioner designed for canine coats to help restore moisture and natural oils following a deep clean. Many skin soothing shampoos have conditioners and emollients incorporated within.
Deodorizers: Most doggos love to get muddy and roll in questionable content so deodorizing shampoo is almost an essential in your pup’s grooming regime.
Anti-parasitics: Over-the-counter anti-parasitic shampoos may help with parasite infestations but they won’t completely eliminate these tiny passengers so your veterinarian will prescribe appropriate treatments too.
Safe for puppies: Puppy baths can get messy and fur-babies tend to taste anything that smells good so you need a shampoo safe for their little tummies, noses and eyes if they get splashed.
How Frequently & for How Long Can You Use Anti-itch Shampoos on Dogs?
Anti-itch shampoos can be used long term in pets once they don’t have any adverse reactions but frequency will depend on the individual shampoo and your dog’s underlying skin condition. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Human Shampoo On Dogs?
The primary reason is pH as mentioned before, canine skin has a pH of around 7 while human skin is around 5.5. Disrupting the pH balance can leave your pooch’s skin more vulnerable to injury while drying it out. Canine skin is also a lot thinner and more sensitive than us humans so any harsh chemicals or dyes in a human shampoo can irritate sensitive doggy skin.
Q: What to wash a dog in to stop itching?
A: There are a lot of shampoos available, but you should aim to choose one that is soothing, hypoallergenic and ideally contains no artificial dyes or fragrances.
Q: Can you give a dog Benadryl to stop itching?
A: Benadryl is not licensed for use in dogs, though your veterinarian may advise you to give your pet Benadryl in certain situations. As this is a human medication, it can be very easy to overdose your pooch so you should always contact your veterinarian or emergency clinic before giving ANY human medication to your pet.
Q: Why does my dog itch at night?
A: If your dog has itchy skin or allergies they are likely scratching almost constantly but it can often feel like it’s worse at night. This is usually because we notice it more when the house is quiet and we’re spending more time with our dog.
The Final Analysis – Our Top Pick
There are a huge number of shampoos available to soothe itchy skin but not all are created equal and we’ve done the legwork to help you select the best dog shampoo for itchy skin for your pooch.
Synergy Labs developed a veterinary formula shampoo specifically for itchy pets. Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Antiparasitic and Antiseborrheic Medicated Shampoo for Dogs contains a range of quality, active ingredients to soothe, moisturize and heal inflamed skin. This shampoo is budget friendly and suitable for puppies over 12 weeks making it a versatile choice for sensitive skinned pooches.