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best dog shampoo for itchy skin

The Best Dog Shampoo for Itchy Skin and Dermatitis

Is there really a best medicated dog shampoo for itchy skin and dermatitis? Yes! I could give you a list of all the highest-rated anti-itch dog shampoo brands on Amazon, but when it comes to managing your dog’s itchy skin, I want to give you my personal experience and why I only recommend one kind. 

My dog, Chilly, before he crossed the rainbow bridge, had atopic dermatitis. It was truly awful! You can read all about our experience with it in this blog post, How I Finally Treated My Dog’s Itchy Skin. He would bite and chew at his skin and break out in red spots. Ultimately, we needed oral medication for him, but when it came to bath time, he absolutely needed a medicated dog shampoo. 

If we didn’t get the right ant-itch dog shampoo (believe me, we tried many shampoo brands for itchy skin), his skin would become very itchy and dry and it would aggravate his dermatitis. 

Before we get into the brand and type of itchy skin shampoo I recommend, let’s talk about the reasons your dog’s skin might be so itchy. For Chilly, it was dermatitis, but your dog’s cause might be different!

Reasons Why Your Dog Has Itchy Skin

1. Atopic Dermatitis

Dermatitis is a reaction to dust, pollen, or other allergens that your dog inhales or comes in contact with. It creates an inflammation on the skin that your dog is likely to scratch, bite, or itch. 

Chilly’s dermatitis appeared as red spots on his irritated skin, as you can see in the image below. It’s not pretty, and he suffered a lot with it before we learned how to treat it.

Chilly's atopic dermatitis
Chilly’s atopic dermatitis presented as itchy red bumps.

2. Dry Skin

Just like with humans, if your pup’s skin becomes dry, it will get itchy. Here are some reasons his skin might be dry:

  • You live in a dry climate.
  • Your dog’s grooming products, especially dog shampoo, are too harsh, especially if your dog has sensitive skin.
  • Poor dietary nutrition or absorption.

3. Food Allergies or Intolerances

Food allergies and intolerances can also cause your dog to have dry and/or itchy skin. Some dogs are born with food allergies, and some develop intolerances as they grow older. 

Canine nutritionist Hannah Zueleta from dailydogfoodrecipes.com advises rotating your dog’s protein sources as one step that can help prevent intolerances. 

4. Parasites

Fleas and mites can cause your dog to itch excessively. It’s best to speak to your veterinarian about how to treat your dog for these critters. A simple bug bite can make your dog itch excessively and cause them to have irritated skin. It’s important to treat those bites so they don’t become infected. Here’s more on how to treat your dog’s bug bites

5. Skin Infections 

Skin infections are frequently caused by scratches or scrapes that have not been treated. As soon as my pets get into scrapes, I use this wound & skin care product from Vetericyn®, and it helps stave off infection and assist in healing. It’s one of the staples in my pets’ medicine cabinet!

Use my code PETLIVING to get 20% off your purchase at Vetericyn.com.

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6. Fatty Acid Deficiency

Many dog foods are fortified with fatty acids which are intended to aid the skin. However, they are often heated and treated to the point where your dog isn’t absorbing any substantial or beneficial amount of fatty acid. Here’s where a supplement like this one can help. 

Your dog’s supplement should contain omega-3s that promote skin health. My favorite, ALL-IN™, has omega-3 from flaxseed oil and is readily absorbable. 

7. Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s Disease

These hormonal diseases can cause hair loss or bacterial infections. Although they’re not extremely common, if your pup’s skin is itchy, it’s a good idea to head to your vet and get your dog checked out. 

The Very Best Non-Prescription Medicated Shampoo for Dogs

Bath time is not something that most dogs or their parents look forward to. Some dogs hide, some shake from nervousness, and some are nearly impossible to wrangle into the bathtub because of their size!

But if your dog has irritated and itchy skin, it’s important to keep the skin clean and clear so that it can heal, which means bath time is inevitable. I’ve used Vetericyn FoamCare Medicated Shampoo for years, and I would never be without it! Here’s what I love about it: 

  • It’s sulfate-free, meaning it won’t irritate my dog’s skin.
  • This itch-relief medicated shampoo has anti-inflammatory properties help soothe any irritations or flare-ups on your dog’s itchy skin.
  • It conditions the skin as well as cleans.
  • Vetericyn’s anti-itch dog shampoo is free from parabens and heavy perfumes, so it’s great for pups with sensitive skin.
  • Instant foam means I don’t have to spend a lot of time working up the dog shampoo to a lather.
  • The spray bottle on this dog shampoo is super easy to use, meaning we can get in and get out.
  • It doesn’t require a prescription.

Use my code PETLIVING to get 20% off your purchase at Vetericyn.com.

Giving my dog, Chilly, a bath at home.
Chilly getting a bath in his Booster Bath with Vetericyn FoamCare Medicated Shampoo.

How Often Should You Bathe a Dog with Itchy Skin?

If your dog has itchy skin, you might wonder if bathing will make it worse. How often should you give your dog a bath with your pet shampoo for itchy skin? 

Bathing your dog too frequently can be damaging, as doing so can strip essential oils off your pup’s coat. But don’t worry, Vetericyn’s medicated FoamCare dog shampoos are designed to preserve your dog’s natural skin oils.

On the other hand, bathing too infrequently means irritants stay on the skin longer and can cause problems. 

So the short answer is, you should bathe your dog when he needs it! Here is a guide to when you should bathe your dog: 

  1. After a day at the beach or in a pool.
  2. After contact with known allergens like grass (some dogs can’t help themselves even if they’re allergic or have sensitive skin!).
  3. Once a month for maintenance.
  4. When they’re stinky!

Chilly and I used to dread bath time too. But to keep his atopic dermatitis under control, he really needed it, so we learned how to make it quick, painless, and sometimes fun! These days, my dog, Tulip, gets a bath in the sink, but we still use essentially the same supplies, including: 

  1. Vetericyn Medicated Shampoo
  2. Booster Dog Bath Station
  3. Absorber Dog Lover’s Towel
Chilly gets a bath with Vetericyn FoamCare
Chilly “the bean” would regularly get a bath to keep his skin and coat healthy and smelling good.

For a full grooming tutorial, read this article on how to give your dog a bath

FAQs

Are There Any Ingredients to Avoid in Dog Shampoos for Itchy Skin?

When picking a dog shampoo for itchy skin, avoid these ingredients that can irritate or harm your pup’s skin:

Formaldehyde-related ingredients: These can cause skin irritation and are often hidden in ingredient lists as Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, or Quarternium-15.

Isopropyl alcohol: Also known as rubbing alcohol, it dries out skin and fur.

Cocamide MEA: A foaming agent that can be irritating and toxic.

Ethanolamine compounds (DEA and TEA): These can cause liver problems and disrupt hormones.

Parabens: Used as preservatives, they can build up in the body and lead to health issues like cancer.

Phthalates: These disrupt hormones and can cause endocrine system problems.

Polyethylene glycol (PEG) and propylene glycol (PPG): These can make your dog’s skin absorb more harmful chemicals.

Sulfates: Common in many products, they dry out the skin.

Synthetic fragrances: Can irritate your dog’s nose and may be linked to health risks.

Mineral oils: They can cause skin itchiness and prevent healthy fur growth.

These ingredients can make skin issues worse, so it’s best to avoid them in dog shampoos

The Tail End

If your dog suffers from any kind of skin ailment, what you put on his skin and coat can make a huge impact on his overall health. A medicated shampoo can mean the difference between itchy, irritated, and inflamed skin or skin that is soothed and healthy. 

We are the guardians of our dogs’ well-being, so it’s important to investigate what works best for their specific needs.

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience working with pets.

Through this blog and her book, Pampered Pets on a Budget, Kristen has helped millions of pet parents solve problems and provide the best care for their dogs and cats.

Working alongside hundreds of pet professionals, including veterinarians, behaviorists and trainers inspired Kristen to become a pet parenting “guide”, providing readers with reliable information about health, wellness and lifestyle for dogs and cats and the people who love them.

A dogged advocate for pet adoption and rescue, Kristen has featured over 1,000 adoptable dogs and cats from the SPCA on live television and radio appearances to get them adopted. Her blog, KristenLevine.com has been featured in over 100 media outlets – including the New York Times, USA Today, FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, Women's Day, Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Pop Sugar and more.

To stay up to date on the latest health and lifestyle trends for pets, Kristen regularly attends the top veterinary and pet product conferences, where she’s often a featured speaker.

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