Shampooing Your Pet

Scrubbing Puddles with the right shampoo

shapooing your pet
Shampooing Your Pet

by Becky Marks, DVM

Upon the shelves are many bottles of shampoos for a reason. Use this for itching, this for dryness and this one for flea season.”

Yes, we Veterinarians really do pride ourselves in having an arsenal of shampoos. Skin problems are very common in our pets. Therapeutic (medicated) shampoos can help the animal tolerate the allergies or pests that invade their outer flesh.

Skins functions

The skin is an organ of the body which is perfectly designed to be water repellant , regulates extreme temperatures and protection. Some parasites normally live on the body such as bacteria, yeast and mites. Irritation from allergies or trauma by scratching or chewing allows the parasites advantage to create infection. Oil glands which create the water repellant effect can become plugged or scarred and may cause excessive oil production or impaction of the hair follicles. Hair may drop off or have arrested growth because of the gland abnormality.


Skin will often respond by using a protective mechanism to shield the out layers from trauma. Normally, the skin has several layers of cells which slough (drop off) at a continual rate. With swelling, infection, allergies, thyroid problems and parasites the slough time may be decreased. Then the number of skin layers slowly gets thicker and dark. If this continues it can look like elephant skin. Many of  these conditions once diagnosed can be treated with the appropriate shampoo and often some oral medications to start. The shampoo is a therapy which is continually used to maintain normal healthy skin.  Shampoos have different ingredients. Most basic flea shampoos contain detergents which are very drying and therefore should not be used more frequently than every 10 days. Therapeutic shampoos are not detergents but have bactericidal, emollient and medicated properties to allow more frequent use. There are multiple combinations of sulfur, tar and antiseptic agents which are specific for the diagnosed condition. Simply grabbing the generic Sulfur shampoo off the grocery shelf does more harm than good.


Once you have the appropriate shampoo for you pet the fun begins! There are a few tips to shampooing which I will share with you. Get everything ready before you put the dog or cat in the tub. Keep cats away from curtains and consider trimming cat nails before you start. When a pet is professionally bathed cotton balls are gently placed in the ear canal so no water collects. A tear lube is place in the eye to  prevent lather from irritating this precious and sensitive area. You can use an ophthalmic ointment on the lids for the same effect. An important tip is diluting the shampoo by squirting a few squeezes into a cup of water. This will prevent using big globs of shampoo on one part of the torso and using half the bottle. Medicated shampoos
are slightly more expensive and you will appreciate this step. Lather well and let stand for usually 15 minutes. Dogs and some cats really enjoy a good sudsing. You can make swirls and Mohawks and massages just like with kids. Let yourself go! (You have 15 minutes of pleasure.) Perhaps a food treat (bribe) for your pet is in order. Rinse, rinse and rinse. Suds left behind will cause irritation and itching. Trim dog nails after the bath when they are soft. (Fewer groomers are bathing cats these days. Most animal clinics still proudly bathe felines and have the scars to prove it.) There are facilities you can take your pet to
bathe and then leave the mess behind.  A shampoo selection often needs professional guidance. Your sudsing
technique is up to you.

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