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Does Your Dog Have Skin Allergies? Let's Talk About Shampoo.

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

When I was in private practice and clients would ask me where to get products I recommended, I used the word "Amazon" excessively. And it wasn't because I was talking about a parrot (although, ironically sometimes it was). I wished I had an affiliation link attached to my body, but I wasn't making recommendations for a kick back. I was doing it because there are bunch of products online that are not only less expensive, but are also convenient. Now that I have my own website, blog, and Amazon affiliated links, I'm going to go wild with the recommendations!

First topic: Shampoo

Do you remember those Proactiv commercials all over late-night programming? Why does every pre-pubescent teen beg for this face cleanser? Because it helps eliminate the bacteria that causes acne. One of the active ingredients in Proactiv is an antiseptic called Benzoyl Peroxide. Antiseptic washes are a staple in veterinary medicine also. Veterinarians frequently prescribe an antiseptic shampoo when a dog has a bacterial skin infection (comparable to acne in people). The brand on the bottle doesn't matter. What matters is that the shampoo contains chlorhexidine (preferably at 2-4%) and an anti-fungal (miconazole, ketoconazole or climbazole at 0.5-2%). Additional ingredients are a bonus, but they are not treating an infection. The anti-fungal is also important because dogs, like people, can get yeast infections.

Why did your dog get a bacterial and/or yeast infection out of nowhere? He most likely didn't. Bacteria and yeast are always on the skin. When dogs have allergies, their immune defenses are busy attacking things that they have no business attacking, like pollens and food allergens. This gives bacteria and yeast time to multiply unhindered by the immune system. Then all of a sudden ….BOOM! Your dog now has a secondary infection, all due to their allergies. Allergies typically end with a lot of bacteria, a lot of yeast, a lot of itching and a lot of annoyed owners who decide it's time to see a vet.

Could you cure a skin infection with a shampoo? Sure! And you could save your dog a trip to the vet. But you have to be as diligent with washing your dog as you are with washing your face during an acne breakout. ALL you have to do is bathe your dog at LEAST once a day, with a medicated shampoo, and the infection will likely clear up. Easy, right? Well, maybe only if you have a 10lb dog. For those of us with larger dogs, there are plenty of medications that can work along with a shampoo to heal the infection more quickly.

*****The rate of healing is also dependent on how advanced the infection is and whether or not the bacteria is resistant.

IF you are up to the task of daily bathing- let me recommend some medicated shampoo! And kudos to you, by the way!

Note: If your dog's rash/infection is not improving OR getting worse after a few days, please seek a veterinary consult.

This Shampoo has both of the active ingredients that I mentioned, and is less expensive than your other veterinary medical companies. I also know this company and it does branding for veterinary clinics. That means this product is the exact same product that many veterinarians offer and recommend in their practices.

****Make sure you are looking at volume also.

Here's your moderate pick. Same active ingredients. Dechra has been around for a while and is a very trusted name. And this shampoo has ceramides like my $62 face lotion from the dermatologist. Maybe I should use it.

Then there's this guy. Duoxo is the Dior of doggy shampoos. This is the brand I see on the reports from dogs that have seen a dermatology specialist. The chlorhexidine is more concentrated, and they probably get phytosphingosine in the same place they get diamonds (joke).

So the bottom line is that if you can commit to bathing your dog daily until the infection/rash clears up, it probably doesn't matter which one of these shampoos you use. But now you have options.

***Also don't forget to follow the instructions on the shampoo. i.e. you have to let it soak in for 5-10 minutes. And put some elbow grease into the scrubbing ; )

This topical ceramide deserves honorable mention as it can help lubricate the skin. This is especially important when bathing multiple times a week.

Ceramides are used often in human skin care products.

SIZE!!! Make sure you find the right size - They make one for small dogs as well.

Fish oils are great for skin in humans and dogs alike, so don't forget to add in your over the counter fish oils to the skin routine. Bayer is a reputable company which is why I list this one. If you're on a million meds and can't afford a name brand, just match up the DHA and EPA values of an alternative source when looking at the ingredient list and dose on this product. The ratio of DHA/EPA i.e Omega 3/Omega 6 does count so pay attention to that as well. P.S. I once had a client say they no longer needed allergy meds (say what?) since they started fish oils! So it can certainly help for mild irritations.

On the topic of secondary infections caused by allergies, is your pup experiencing blackheads as well? This can present in a variety of ways - either you can see the plugged up follicle (dirt and debris) or you can actually see black flakey plugs coming out the follicle. These may be caused by secondary canine seborrheic dermatitis, which can occur with any condition that causes irritation to the skin (secondary infections or hormonal diseases). The dark scaling or flakes seen with seborrhea tend to be worse in the folds of the skin, especially on the neck and underneath the body and they can make your dog itchy (like dandruff) The best way to manage these plugs is with exfoliation products, followed by products that provide moisture to prevent further debris from plugging up the follicle.

Products to help with exfoliation:

The main ingredient in this shampoo is benzoyl peroxide. Sound familiar? Benzoyl peroxide is found in many different human acne products and known for its degreasing properties. It can also be irritating and drying to the skin, so make sure you follow up with a moisturizer for best effects. If it's too harsh on the skin, you may need to dilute it or rotate use with a more gentle shampoo. This shampoo is meant to flush or exfoliate the follicles and will not treat any secondary infections. You may need to rotate between this shampoo and a medicated shampoo.

If you want to go a step beyond the Vetoquinol shampoo listed above OR if you found the benzoyl peroxide to be too abrasive or irritating for your dog's skin, consider this shampoo. This shampoo uses salicylic acid to remove scales, crust and excess oil and also has ingredients to help leave a protective film on the skin. Virbac is also a great veterinary brand.

This isn't tested for animal use, however, if your dog or cat only has a small patch of blackheads on the chin, or another area that they can't lick, this product contains salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is another common acne product known to unclog pores and dissolve deep-down oil. I recommend it for chin acne in cats, and it works great, but that's because the chin is a small area to cover, The shampoo is best if the clogged pores cover a large area and this product can be used if your dealing with a few small areas. Plus you can pretty much get Stridex anywhere.

If you're using the Allerderm and fish oils listed above, that will provide moisture as well as the following products:

This product is client tested and approved for dry irritated skin which can be a side effect of exfoliation. If the Allerderm and fish oils listed above are not moisturizing enough, try this product out. It can help alleviate dry and flaking skin and works great for pets with endocrine disorders such as Cushing's disease. Make sure to apply this directly to the skin, as it will not be as effective if it's sitting on your dog's coat.

This company used to make a great leave-on conditioner, which contained hydrocortisone, called Resicort. I loved that product and I used on my own dog, a lot. Well, this leave on conditioner does not have hydrocortisone, making it a healthier option for those that will lick or chew it off, and since the other is no longer on the market, try giving this a shot if your pup needs more moisture. Just remember to massage the product into the skin, because moisturizing the hair coat is nice, but not our main focus. We want to add moisture to the skin to prevent follicle plugs.

Remember that if you've tried it all and your pet is still having skin issues, there may be more going on than just a secondary infection or irritation due to allergies. Schedule an exam with your vet as soon as you realize that topical treatment isn't working, so they can guide you in the right direction and perform diagnostics to get to the real root of the problem!

Written with Love - Dr. Janell

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