Deciding Which Shampoo is Right For Your Pet



Your dog’s idea of a good time may include rolling around in dirt, but even if that’s not the case, your furry friend still needs a bath from time to time—and what shampoo you use matters. “Pet owners who bathe their pets at home should make sure they are using products that are ideal for their pet’s skin and coat type,” says Pam Lauritzen, president of the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists. 

Dog shampoos come in two major categories—non-medicated and medicated.  If in doubt, Lauritzen recommends checking with your dog grooming professional for advice. Here are common pet shampoo types available and the conditions they’re used for.

Non-Medicated Shampoos

Non-medicated shampoos come in a variety of specialty formulas. In fact, many of them target skin issues, just like a human anti-dandruff shampoo focuses on treating the scalp, not just cleaning the hair.

Never bathe pets in your own shampoo, as some of the fragrances and ingredients aren’t pet-friendly. In fact, pet owners who have both dogs and cats should even use different products for canine versus feline friends. Lauritzen pointed out that a cat’s skin is thinner than a dog’s and more prone to injury caused by chemicals. “Pet owners should make sure that all products used on their cats are cat-friendly,” she explains.

Deshedding shampoo. This may be helpful if you have a dog with a thick undercoat—think large, fluffy breeds like Siberian Huskies and Chow Chows. Deshedding shampoos can help remove that undercoat fuzz. But use the shampoo in addition to other deshedding treatments, such as the right brush, not as a substitute for them.

Sensitive skin. Itching, dryness, and even dandruff can all plague our pets. Shampoos for sensitive skin have ingredients that provide extra moisture. Some of them are labeled “Oatmeal Shampoo” because it’s a very soothing ingredient that can reduce itching and inflammation. Other ingredients found in sensitive skin shampoos include aloe vera, jojoba, and vitamin E. Bonus: they’re devoid of fragrances, too. It’s always a good idea to check with your vet to make sure there isn’t an underlying problem causing your pet’s skin issues.

Waterless shampoo. If your dog really hates getting bathed—or for times when you’re camping and don’t have access to a tub—consider a dry shampoo. Dry, or waterless, shampoos come in a powder, spray, or foam. These are great for spot cleaning or to alternate with a full bath, because the dry products may not leave your dog quite as clean. One recommendation is the 4:1 approach, which is one traditional bath supplemented by four dry ones. Pre-moistened wipes are another way to spot clean your pooch when a full bath is inconvenient.

Whitening shampoo. If you have a dog with a white or very pale-colored coat, whitening shampoos are designed to brighten the white and minimize yellowing.

Conditioning Shampoo. If you’re looking for extra softness, Argan oil is a great addition to your dog’s shampoo. The ConairPRO™ Dog 2-In-1 Shampoo & Conditioner—as well as other shampoos in the ConairPRO™ Dog line—include this nourishing oil to help replace natural oils and aid in detangling the coat.

Medicated Shampoos

Medicated shampoos tend to fall mostly under two classes: anti-pruritic and anti-seborrheic. These scary-sounding names are just fancy terms for anti-itching and anti-skin disorder, respectively. Anti-itching shampoos help reduce your dog’s urge to scratch, which can prevent skin breaks and additional irritations. Seborrhea can mean a variety of skin conditions, from dandruff to yeast infections. Consult your veterinarian to see if one of these formulas is best for your pet.

There’s also a third class of shampoos, technically known as anti-parasitic, but more commonly labeled as flea and tick formulas. These products contain ingredients designed to kill or repel parasites living on your dog. However, the shampoos don’t prevent those nasty bugs from surviving in bedding or in your home, so they shouldn’t be considered the sole source of parasite prevention for your dog.

Whether your dog has white fur, a thick undercoat, or sensitive skin, the right shampoo can deliver extra benefits while cleaning your dog and making it smell great.