The Best Anti-Itch Shampoo for Dogs

by Amy Jorgensen
    Anti-itch shampoos can help dogs stop scratching.

    Anti-itch shampoos can help dogs stop scratching.

    Ryan McVay/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Dogs suffer from itchy skin for a variety of reasons, ranging from dry skin to allergic dermatitis. Some shampoos claim to help relieve your dog’s itchiness, but you need to read the ingredient lists to avoid harsh chemicals that may actually be worse for your dog’s skin and health. Choosing the best anti-itch shampoo for your dog requires understanding the cause of the problem and knowing which ingredients to look for and to avoid.

    Before you shop for an anti-itch shampoo for your dog, determine the cause of the itchiness to narrow down the options. Itchiness can be caused by dry skin or dandruff, flea infestations, ringworm or other fungal infections or dermatitis. If you notice a rash, crusty areas on the skin or excessive itching in a single spot, the problem may be contact dermatitis. If you see fleas or flea dirt on your dog, then the fleas are probably the problem. You may also want to get your vet’s opinion. He can rule out harder to diagnosis possibilities, such as ringworm or atopic dermatitis.

    If your dog has dry skin or mild cases of dermatitis, you should use a gentle anti-itch shampoo lacking harsh chemicals. Just as with humans, oatmeal soothes dog’s skin and helps relieve itching, so look for shampoos containing oatmeal as one of their primary ingredients. Shampoos that also include aloe vera can help reduce the inflammation associated with excessive scratching. Too much scratching can cause further complications, including bacterial infections, so stopping the itchiness and soothing the inflammation is helpful for your dog. If you want to avoid harsh medications for fleas, you can try shampoos containing tea tree oil. Other useful oils include lavender for skin soothing and rosemary for preventing dandruff.

    When choosing a medicated anti-itch over-the-counter product, be more selective. For example, some products, such as Sentry HC Dermasphere, contain methylisothiazolinone. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, this ingredient can cause allergic skin reactions in humans. Using this chemical on your dog’s skin could make the itchiness worse. Other anti-itch shampoos contain cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde. Ingredients such as hydrocortisone and lidocaine are safer but still help reduce itching and inflammation.

    If over-the-counter products do not reduce your dog’s itchiness, talk to your veterinarian. She can prescribe anti-itch shampoos or other products that may be more effective. However, you should still ask about the safety of the ingredients in these products. Pramoxine anti-itch shampoo, for example, is used by veterinarians to combat itching caused by dermatitis and other skin problems. However, it also contains propylene glycol and pramoxine hydrochloride, which may cause allergic reactions thus worsening the problem. When used under the supervision of your veterinarian, these products may be appropriate for short-term use to correct the cause of the itching.

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    About the Author

    Amy Jorgensen is a writer and communications instructor from Indiana. In addition to 10-plus years working as a writer, she has been teaching writing and communication courses to college students for nine years. She has a Bachelor of Science in English, a Master of Arts in liberal studies and a Master of Arts in communications.

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