Choosing a Shampoo for Your Dog or Cat

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Choosing a Shampoo for Your Dog or Cat

Jamie Strunk, PharmD. Candidate
Nova Southeastern University

Pet skin differs from human skin in a few important ways.  Pet skin is thinner and less acidic than human skin and does not contain sweat glands.  Therefore, human shampoos are often too harsh for pets and can cause damage to the skin and strip it of essential oils.  For these reasons, human shampoo should not be used on your pet.

Soothing Shampoos
Soothing shampoos remove odor and grease from the pet’s skin without stripping essential skin oils. They reduce skin irritation and leave topical flea and tick medications intact.  Some ingredients used in soothing shampoos are oatmeal, aloe vera, Vitamin E, and fatty acids.

Medicated Shampoos
Medicated shampoos can treat a variety of skin problems, such as bacterial and yeast infections, mites, greasiness, itching, fleas, and odor. Some medicated shampoos are also good cleansers but some are not.  Some ingredients that may be found in medicated shampoos are: tea tree oil, chamomile, calendula, miconazole, coal tar, and chlorhexidine. Most of these shampoos can be purchased over-the-counter; however, some which contain high concentrations of active drug ingredients may require a prescription.

Flea and tick shampoos
All shampoos that are left on for at least 10 minutes will kill fleas.  However, only specific flea and tick shampoos will produce a residual action. In other words, when pets are bathed with regular shampoos, fleas and ticks in the yard or home can jump back on the pet after the bath.  Flea and tick shampoos that have a residual effect will repel or kill fleas or ticks for a while after the bath but should only be used as a short-term solution. Long-term flea prevention is best achieved by using an oral or topical flea medication.  Cat owners must be careful because many flea and tick shampoos are not safe for cats.

Tearless shampoos
There are two ways to create a tearless shampoo, one is to include no harsh stinging ingredients, and another is to add an ingredient that works as a topical anesthetic. Your pet will appreciate not having a stinging shampoo in their eyes.

Conditioners make it easier to comb out your pet’s hair.  They cause the hair shafts to become smoother so the hairs slide rather than tangle. Most short-haired pets do not need a conditioner, but conditioners can be very helpful for long or medium haired pets.

Reference: Accessed on March 18, 2007.


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Information contained on this site is provided as an informational aide and for reference use only. The content herein is not intended to be, act as, or replace medical advice or diagnosis for individual health conditions nor is it making evaluations as to the risks or benefits of particular preparations. Please consult a licensed healthcare professional or veterinarian about diagnosis and treatment. Information and statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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