If your dog has recently been diagnosed with an allergy, you might have been advised that bathing them regularly can help them to feel more comfortable. Bathing is sadly not a cure for allergies, but it can help to soothe your pet’s itchy and irritated skin and reduce their urge to scratch.
Since allergies in dogs are commonly diagnosed, there are many options when it comes to care products. With so much choice, knowing which shampoo to use in an allergic dog can be tricky, so we’ve created a guide to answer the following questions:
- What shampoo is best for a dog with allergies?
- Can you get dog shampoo to prevent dog allergies?
- Can a dog be allergic to shampoo?
- What other methods can be used to help a dog with allergies?
Disclaimer: Please refer to the information in this article as a guide only. If you think your dog may have allergies, it’s best to contact your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and advice regarding treatment and care.
What shampoo is best for a dog with allergies?
If your dog has allergies, then the best shampoo to use depends on:
- Whether they have secondary bacterial infections – persistent scratching can both alter the composition of your dog’s skin microflora and provide entry points for unwanted bacteria.
- The intensity of their symptoms – veterinarians will often ask you to grade this on a scale from 0 (not itching at all) to 10 (uncontrollably itchy).
If your four-legged friend has developed secondary bacterial infections, then they’ll most likely need a medicated shampoo. Medicated shampoos contain special ingredients, designed to control overgrowths of bacteria or fungi, associated with an imbalance of a dog’s natural skin flora.
A common microorganism seen in allergic dogs is Malassezia pachydermatis. This species of fungus is a normal part of your dog’s skin microflora, however, in some situations, such as in allergies or if your dog is immunosuppressed, their populations become too high. Malassezia species can also be found in your dog’s ears.
Medicated shampoos are usually prescribed by a veterinarian, following a microscopic examination of a swab from your pet’s skin. These types of products tend to contain a special disinfectant called ‘chlorhexidine’ which helps eliminate unwanted microorganisms.
In extreme cases, veterinarians can also prescribe shampoos containing corticosteroids or antihistamines to help calm down extremely irritated skin.
When bathing your dog with a medicated shampoo, it’s important to remember that it usually needs to stay on the skin for a minimum of 10 minutes. Bringing your four-legged friend’s favorite snacks and waterproof toys with them during bathtime can help them stay entertained in the meantime.
However, if your dog’s itchy skin isn’t infected, you’re most likely just looking for something to soothe it. Some soothing ingredients to look for on shampoo labels include:
Aside from these ingredients, try to look for something that is veterinarian-approved, with natural ingredients, and without perfume or harsh chemicals.
Can you get dog shampoo to prevent dog allergies?
It may be frustrating, but sadly, shampoo can’t be used to ‘prevent’ dog allergies. Bathing your dog helps them manage their itchiness, but it won’t make it go away altogether.
Since managing allergies in dogs often includes a multimodal approach, we’ll go into this topic in more detail later.
Whilst shampooing won’t prevent your dog from suffering from allergies, there is another option if your pet suffers from environmental allergies. Allergen-specific desensitization therapy involves injecting your pet with extracts of a confirmed allergen. It is usually performed after an environmental allergen has been confirmed by intradermal skin testing.
Allergen-specific desensitization can be a great option for unavoidable environmental allergies such as dust mites however it is expensive and can only be undertaken by a board-certified veterinary dermatologist.
Can a dog be allergic to shampoo?
Just like us humans, dogs can be allergic to different things. Common examples of allergens in dogs include food, dust mites, pollen, and medication. Sometimes, dogs can be allergic to shampoos, although it’s pretty rare. Signs that your dog is allergic to a shampoo include:
- Red skin.
- Hair loss.
In severe cases, allergies can progress to serious conditions such as anaphylactic shock. If you notice that your pet has a hard time breathing, a rash, or extreme swelling, then take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
When trying any new products on your pet for the first time, it’s always best to test them first. When it comes to shampoo, this involves applying a very small amount and checking for any irritation afterward. Once you’re sure that the product is fine for your pet, then you can apply it to the rest of their body as instructed on the label.
What other methods can be used to help a dog with allergies?
If your veterinarian has confirmed a diagnosis of allergies in your pet, they’ll often emphasize that the best treatment is avoidance. However, in some cases, this is easier said than done, especially when the specific thing your pet is allergic to remains unknown.
For example, a dog allergic to pollen can be walked earlier in the day when pollen levels are lower, or a dog with a food allergy can eat a novel-protein diet.
Even if avoidance is possible, your veterinarian will also likely recommend a multimodal approach to keeping your pet comfortable such as:
- Hypoallergenic or Anallergenic food – for dogs with food allergies.
- Food supplements – oils or tablets providing supportive care for a dog’s skin and coat.
- Medication – for example during temporary relief of seasonal allergies.
Bathtime products for dogs
Here are a few products that might help you when it comes to bathing your dog:
Itchy dogs with allergies can be upsetting to see and difficult to manage. However, with a multimodal approach including the right shampoo, pet parents can help their four-legged friends feel more comfortable.
Charlotte qualified as a veterinarian in 2023 and has been working as a writer for several years helping pet parents understand how to help their pets live happy healthy lives whilst pursuing her interests in wildlife conservation.
She enjoys traveling and has undertaken positions in Belgium, Spain, Austria, Germany, and the Galapagos and has a 15-year-old rescue dog called Chiki.