If Rex has itchy, oily skin, your vet may want you to bathe him with a shampoo containing salicylic acid. This chemical helps slough away dry "doggie dandruff" and remove excess oils, while providing him with some relief. You can find shampoos containing salicylic acid over-the-counter in your local pet supply store or through your vet's office.
Salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent, which helps exfoliate your pooch's skin by dissolving the substance that keeps the skin cells together on the outer layer of skin. It works by softening and moisturizing your pup's skin while breaking up and sloughing away the dead skin cells. Salicylic acid is also keratoplastic, in that it slows down the production of new skin cells. Exfoliation gets rid of those icky flakes of dandruff, skin crusts, excess oils and odors from the coat, while helping to prevent the formation of new crusty skin. Salicylic acid also has antiseptic properties to rid skin of bacteria and prevent infections from forming.
In canine shampoos, salicylic acid is usually combined with ingredients like sulfur, coal tar and benzyl peroxide, other types of keratolytic and antiseptic chemicals, or various anti-fungal ingredients. It works in conjunction with these other chemicals to not only smooth and soothe your pup's skin, but also to get rid of harmful fungi and bacteria that can lead to serious skin infections. Salicylic acid is very strong -- pet shampoos only contain anywhere from 1 to 2 percent of it.
One of the main things that salicylic acid shampoos are used to treat is a condition called seborrhea in pooches. This condition results in oily, dandruff-ridden coats that smell awful and may be accompanied by folliculitis. When the hair follicles become plugged up with excess oil and sebum, they can become infected and inflamed, resulting in folliculitis or red, acne-like bumps on the coat. Salicylic acid sloughs away the outer layer of skin and washes away excess oils to help dry out these bumps and relieve any itching they may cause.
Consult with your vet before using an over-the-counter shampoo containing salicylic acid to bathe him; it could worsen his condition in some cases. Once your vet diagnoses your pooch's condition, she may prescribe a shampoo containing salicylic acid and other ingredients that are specifically targeted to your pup's condition. Follow her directions regarding how often to bathe your canine companion with the shampoo. Typically, pups are bathed with such a shampoo two to three times per week until the condition clears up and then once a week to prevent a relapse.
When using a shampoo containing salicylic acid on your pooch, lather him up with it and let the shampoo sit on his skin for up to ten minutes to allow the ingredients to work on his irritated skin. Depending on what your vet recommends, you may have to repeat this procedure before completely rinsing away all of the soap from his skin. Avoid getting any medicated shampoo in his eyes or near his mouth during the bathing process. Only use the shampoo as your veterinarian recommends because bathing your pooch too often with medicated shampoos may dry out his skin, causing more issues like redness, discomfort or even irritation of the skin.
- WebMD: Seborrhea in Dogs
- Vetstreet: Seborrhea shampoo with Salicylic acid (Rx and OTC)
- Vetstreet: Benzoyl peroxide + Sulfur + Salicylic acid
- MedlinePlus: Salicylic Acid Topical
- WebMD: Drugs & Medications -- Salicylic Acid Top
- Dog Health Guide: How to Treat Dog Skin Itch
- The Pet Lover's Guide to Cat & Dog Skin Disease; Karen L. Campbell
- Canine and Feline Dermatology Drug Handbook; Sandra N. Koch, et al.
- Drugs.com: Oxibenz-3 Shampoo
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images