While some dogs do not have any problems with itching or allergies, around the beautiful Emerald Coast, itching is almost a way of life. For those pet owners who are blessed with a dog that does not have any allergies, baths are more for the occasional cleanup. But if your dog has allergic dermatitis, you will want to know the four Ws of bathing.
No. 1: Why
The first W is Why? Why is your dog itching? That would help us decide which shampoo to use. Could the itching be a flea problem? I will believe you if you say that you see no fleas, but it is very hard to totally avoid fleas in Florida. If a dog has an actual allergy to fleas, it only takes one bite to trigger a full body allergic response. One flea bite can occur when you take a walk. There is no shampoo on earth that will kill and repel fleas. Before you begin the baths, be sure and use an effective flea preventative regularly if your dog is itching, even if you don't see any fleas.
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Why else could your dog be itching? A very likely cause of itching is allergies. Allergies can be triggered by inhalant pollens and molds. Pollens and molds will settle on the skin, triggering an allergic response. Bacteria and yeast are in contact with the skin and love to grow when the skin is inflamed. Baths can do something about the allergens and infections that make skin contact.
No. 2: When
This leads us to the second W, When? Veterinary dermatologists recommend bathing allergic dogs at least once a week so that you can bathe off the pollens and molds that settle in the fur. Once a week bathing is also helpful in washing away bacteria and yeast that is found on the skin of allergic dogs, making it harder for these opportunistic pathogens to colonize and cause staph infections or yeast dermatitis.
No. 3: What
And, so, we arrive at What to bathe with. If the skin is not irritated and there are no sores, a good hypoallergenic shampoo with soothing properties would be best. Aloe and oatmeal are well known for soothing inflammation. Look for a good quality shampoo that has these ingredients. Some shampoos have a topical analgesic in them. These can really make a difference with the itching immediately after the bath. The ingredient to look for is pramoxine HCl. I've seen it combined with colloidal oatmeal and other soothing ingredients.
If there is any concern about the aforementioned yeast or bacteria, look for an antifungal and antibacterial shampoo. The best ingredients for these shampoos are chlorhexidine and ketoconazole or miconazole. The chlorhexidine treats bacteria and the "conazole" ingredient treats yeast.
No. 4: Where
Now we will ask Where? The best place to look for your shampoo is a veterinary clinic. Usually, your veterinarian has gone to some effort to decide what he wants to carry on his shelf. He knows you can get a wide array of shampoos at places like Walmart that are inexpensive but not necessarily effective. He wants you to have something that works. Some of these shampoos are also available on Chewy.com. If they require a prescription, as long as you have been seeing your veterinarian within the year for checkups you can probably get him to sign off on it.
If you want an alternative to a veterinarian's office, I would try a feed store or a place that specializes in pets. They are usually more invested in choosing pet shampoos than the big box stores that also sell clothes and groceries. Take your time and look at ingredients before you decide.
If you have any questions you think I can help with, email me at JohnsDVM@aol.com
This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Dog allergic dermatitis: How to ease itching and prevent it in future