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Dog Shampoo

Dog bathing is an important part of the routine care of your dog. Besides odor and dirt control, regularly washing your dog benefits you and your family’s health. Regular bathing keeps the hair coat of your dog clean and prevents the development of various infections and parasitic diseases. Washing and grooming on a regular basis makes your dog’s skin and fur healthier and gives the hair its natural shine and softness, but this can be achieved only by using the right products, made for dogs. In this article you will learn how often you should wash your dog, whether homemade shampoo has a better effect than commercial products, and whether it is a good idea to use human shampoo for your dog. You will also learn which dog shampoo is especially good against fungal infections, dry or flaky skin, itching, mites, fleas or shedding.

How Often Should You Wash Your Dog?

The frequency of dog bathing depends on the type and behavior of the dog, where you keep your dog, his activity, and the type of terrain and climate he is surrounded with. It can vary from two weeks to three months. The first factor impacting your decision how often you should wash your dog depends on the climate. You can extend the period between two baths if you live in colder areas where the winters are long.

Dogs that live inside the house or apartment should be washed more frequently, at least every two weeks, because they share the same living space with you. Outdoor dogs can be washed less frequently, but at least every three months.

Be careful though, because bathing your dog can remove natural oils that protect their skin from outside factors, and in that case, it’s easier for a dog to get certain skin infections if they are bathed too often. You should not bath your dog more often than once in two weeks, except he makes a really big mess. (B)

How to Wash a Dog?

Man washing his dogIf you are new to dog bathing, you should follow certain steps and use only shampoos made for dogs. Hygiene-wise, you should have a determined space for washing your dog, such as a plastic or metal tub, but if it’s more convenient for you, you can bathe your dog in your bathtub.

Before washing, it is good to comb your dog’s hair to remove dead hair and larger particles of dirt. The water should be as warm as the dog’s body temperature, which is around 100°F (38°C). First, soak the dog’s fur so there are no dry spots left. After that, apply shampoo across the back, and to the legs; the head comes last.

Cleaning ear of the dog

Rub thoroughly the whole back, and neck area, stomach, chest, and the legs, especially between the hind legs, because there is a lot of loose skin and genital organs. Then rub the head, avoiding the eyes, nose, and mouth. After all these steps, rinse in the same order. After the washing process, it is recommended to clean the dog’s ears with ear lotions. You may use cotton swabs to remove dead skin cells and hair, but be careful and don’t insert the swabs too deep.

If your dog is misbehaving during the baths, you can always use the power of treats. That way, your dog can learn to behave in similar situations. This is based on a reward system, where the dog will follow your instruction in exchange for a tasty treat.

Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

Human shampoos should not be used on dogs or any other animals. The main reason for that is the difference in pH level. Humans have a lower skin pH level (around 5), while dogs have higher pH, which is around 7. So, human shampoos are more acidic than shampoos for dogs. This might not be the problem if you do it once, but after using it for a longer period, human shampoo might damage the skin and hair of your dog, which can lead to hair loss (hairless patches) and make your dog more vulnerable to bacterial and fungal skin diseases and parasites.

Can You Use Baby Shampoo on Dogs?

Baby shampoos are generally gentler and softer, and they have higher pH than the shampoo for adults (around 7). It is the only safe alternative that you can use if you don’t have a dog’s shampoo and you have to bathe your dog for some reason at that particular moment (for example, when the dog gets too dirty to go inside your house without a proper bath). Still, the safest way to wash your dog is to use specialized shampoos for dogs.

Dog Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

When buying a dog shampoo, you need to read the list of ingredients. Even some dog shampoos can be harmful to your dog (especially if it’s a puppy) if they have certain ingredients.

The following ingredients should be avoided:

  • Formaldehyde: An organic compound that causes eye irritation and can damage the respiratory tract. If the dog ingests formaldehyde, it can cause erosions in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Formaldehyde: Generally, alcohols are toxic for dogs, especially if ingested. Isopropyl alcohol is commonly found in dog shampoos. It is used as a solvent in cosmetics.
  • Parabens: Some research has shown that parabens can cause endocrine disbalance.
  • Phthalates: They can damage a canine’s reproductive system and kidneys and affect liver function.

You should also avoid artificial colors and shampoos that contain bleach.

Best Dog Shampoo

The best dog shampoos are the ones that mostly contain natural ingredients because they are gentle for a dog’s skin. The natural ingredients that are desirable in this case are aloe vera and oatmeal because they help soothe irritated areas and nourish dry and sensitive skin.

Natural oils such as coconut, jojoba or argan are useful ingredients as well because they minimize dryness and itchiness and make a dog’s coat soft and shiny. To avoid skin and eye irritation in dogs, it’s important that the dog shampoo you are buying is soap-free and pH-balanced. So the best shampoo is the one which has all those ingredients.

Dry (Waterless) Shampoo for Dogs

Dry shampoos are a good choice to keep your dog fresh, clean, and smelling nice in between baths, road trips, and when you don’t have a chance to wash it properly. Dry shampoos absorb the grease and push the dirt on the surface of the hair so it’s easier to remove it with a cloth.

If dry shampoo that you have or want to buy doesn’t contain harmful ingredients like formaldehyde, alcohols, parabens, etc., it is perfectly safe for use. However, using only dry shampoo, without regular baths, is not recommended. Be careful not to use these kinds of shampoos too often because that could remove more than just excess oils and destroy your dog’s natural antibacterial barrier.

Best Flea Shampoo for Dogs

Dog with fleasFleas, along with ticks, can be a big problem for you and your dog. Outdoor dogs usually have a bigger problem with fleas than indoor dogs. One of the ways to solve the flea or tick problem is to use a shampoo with antiparasitic drugs such as pyrethrins. Pyrethrins are a class of organic compounds normally derived from Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium that have potent insecticidal activity that targets the nervous systems of insects. 1Pyrethrin. Wikipedia. Retrieved 15 July 2020.

Pyrethrins are one of the safest insecticides. Beside fleas, they also have effects on other ectoparasites, such as ticks and in some cases mites. One of the not common side effects is respiratory irritation. After treatment with a flea shampoo, the effect lasts only for a few days, so your furry friend should not be left without protection such as collars, spot-on antiparasitic drugs, etc.

Oatmeal Dog Shampoo

Oatmeal contains chemicals called phenols and avenanthramides, which help relieve skin irritation and itching, which is why oatmeal is often used therapeutically to soothe and to heal the skin. Oatmeal shampoo has a good cleaning effect, and it makes the dog’s skin healthier, moisturized, and odorless.

Shampoos that contain oatmeal have a good effect on the healing process. Oatmeal, especially colloidal oatmeal, can relieve itchiness and redness from allergies. Veterinarians usually recommend this shampoo after treating the ectoparasites because it helps the skin to heal faster and become less itchy, and it reduces redness in some allergies.

In addition to oatmeal, there are some other ingredients that a good oatmeal shampoo should contain, and these are aloe vera, vitamin E, tea tree, coconut, jojoba, or some other natural oil. Due to their ingredients and their effect, these shampoos also act as a conditioner.

Homemade (DIY) Shampoo for Dogs

Some dog owners make dog shampoos out of ingredients and products they already have in their homes. They usually use a mixture of aloe vera, glycerine, vinegar, soap, baby shampoo, and even dish soap. Some owners are satisfied with the results of this formula, while others are not.

Usually, the use of such homemade shampoos for dogs causes hair loss in dogs and makes their skin red and itchy. Veterinarians do not recommend the use of DIY shampoos because they can cause serious skin conditions to your dog.

Antifungal Dog Shampoo

Antifungal shampoos are used for the treatment of fungal skin diseases, such as Malassezia, Candidiasis, and sometimes Blastomycosis. These kinds of shampoos are only used in therapy; they are not intended for everyday use.

Active substances that antifungal dog shampoos usually contain are miconazole, ketoconazole, and other antifungal drugs, which help prevent further growth of fungus and have shown to be very effective in the treatment of fungal skin diseases.

Antifungal dog shampoos are usually safe if used correctly. You may notice some reactions to the shampoo, such as dry or itchy skin, a rash, and redness. Use it only by following the instructions given by your veterinarian.

Dog Shampoo for Allergies (Hypoallergenic Shampoo)

Skin allergies are very common in dogs. Dogs are usually allergic to pollen, insect bites, and some skincare products. Oatmeal shampoos have shown good results when battling with allergies because they reduce itchiness, redness, and moisturize the dog’s skin.

It is recommended to bathe a dog with an oatmeal shampoo at least weekly until the allergy is put under control. Some hypoallergenic shampoos may contain corticosteroids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect. It is always better to try with natural ingredients first, and if it’s not effective, you can try with corticosteroids.

Dog Dandruff Shampoo

Many dogs have dandruff, which is nothing more than dead skin cell detritus. It usually happens when the dog is infested with ectoparasites, such as fleas and mites, but the cause can be as simple as dry skin. Depending on the underlying cause of dandruff, you may notice itching or behavior signaling discomfort 2Jamieson A. (March 2019). Dog dandruff: causes, symptoms and how to get rid of it. Retrieved 16 July 2020..

Dandruff flakes are more visible on darker dogs. First, your veterinarian will take care of the ectoparasite infestation. Before bathing, it is good to comb out skin flakes. For treating it, you should use shampoos rich with vitamin A, vitamin E, oatmeal derivates, coconut derivates and it is good if the shampoo has an antiparasitic effect.

Dog Shampoo for Dry Skin

It’s not always easy to recognize when your dog has dry skin. If you want to find out more about causes, symptoms and treatment of this condition, please check our article Dry Skin on Dogs. If you notice that your dog has itchy skin and is scratching more than usual, you might want to check. At first, you can try gentle shampoos that are designed for dry skin and contain ingredients like aloe vera and oatmeal. If that doesn’t help and there is no progress, you should pay a visit to the veterinary clinic.

Whitening Shampoo for Dogs

These shampoos are usually used in breeds such as Malteser, Bichon, Havanese, etc. Owners with white-coat dogs have more problems keeping their pets always fresh and clean.

When buying a whitening shampoo for your furry friend, make sure it is bleach-free and pH balanced. Bleach can damage hair and skin, so pay attention not to use shampoos with bleach. Use only shampoos that are formulated for dogs and clinically tested.

Dog Mite Shampoo

Scabies or mange is a disease caused by mites, Sarcoptes, and Otodectes. Sarcoptes attack a dog’s skin, while Otodectes are ear mites. There is also Demodicosis, a skin disease caused by a mite called Demodex Canis. Some of the main symptoms are hair loss, redness, and itchy skin. Demodex manifests in severe, symmetric hair loss, especially around the eyes.

Dog mite shampoos have an antiparasitic effect but before you buy them, you should ask your vet which type of shampoo is the best for your dog.

Anti-itch Dog Shampoo

Itchy skin can be a symptom of many skin conditions. It is a usual symptom in dry skin, ectoparasites, bacterial and fungal dermatitis. First of all, you should take your dog to the veterinarian to get the proper diagnosis.

After the condition has been diagnosed, you will have to use an appropriate shampoo: oatmeal for dry and sensitive skin and after the treatment of ectoparasites, shampoos with permethrin for ectoparasites, or Miconazole for fungal infections.

Benzoyl Peroxide Shampoo for Dogs

Benzoyl peroxide is used for acne and mange treatment. If your dog has acne, your veterinarian will prescribe it in a shampoo, and if necessary some antibiotics along with it.

Benzoyl peroxide has a good cleaning effect, especially in removing excess oils from the skin. It also has an antibacterial effect on the bacteria which cause acne. It’s good to use it during the treatment of mange because it prepares the skin for the antiparasitic drugs.

The time before you can see any effect is a bit long, usually 3 months. With persistent treatment, at least every 2-3 weeks, it is possible to see good results. Common side effects are skin irritation, dryness, and peeling 3Benzoyl peroxide.Wikipedia. Retrieved 19 July 2020..

Chlorhexidine Shampoo for Dogs

Chlorhexidine is a disinfectant usually used for skin disinfection, but it can be also used for surfaces, equipment, working space, etc. Chlorhexidine has antibacterial and antifungal characteristics, and it kills some viruses.

The shampoo is used for treating skin infections caused by bacteria and yeast. If you can not find chlorhexidine shampoo on the market, you can make it by mixing chlorhexidine with a regular dog shampoo. The mixture of shampoo and chlorhexidine should be in a ratio of 1/100. But be careful when applying it to your dog because it may cause eye problems if direct contact occurs.

Dog Shampoo for Shedding

Shedding is a natural process where the excess, old, and damaged hair is removed. Sometimes, it can be a pathological process. Usually, the main cause is dog mites, especially Demodex Canis. If the shedding is natural, you need to brush your dog more often and use shampoos rich with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, and you should include these vitamins in the diet as well.

Natural Dog Shampoo

Dog shampoos with natural ingredients like oatmeal, aloe vera, and some natural oil such as lavender or coconut oil are the best choice because these ingredients are gentle on a dog’s skin and safe for its health.

When buying dog shampoos, make sure to always check the list of ingredients, so if your dog is allergic to one of them, you can avoid that product.


Dog bathing is important, but don’t wash your dog more often than twice a week. Using a homemade shampoo or human shampoo instead of dog shampoo most of the time is not a good idea. On the other hand, using natural shampoos with oatmeal and aloe vera is a much better solution, because they provide great results with dry skin, itchy skin, dandruff and many allergies. Dog shampoos that have ingredients like coconut oil, oatmeal and aloe vera are recommended. Be aware and use only suitable shampoos that are specially created for dogs and that don’t contain harsh chemicals like Formaldehyde, Parabens or Phthalates. If your dog has fleas, ticks or mite, please use shampoos that are designed specifically for these conditions. If they don’t help, please see your vet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Dog Shampoo

Can I Wash My Dog With Just Water?

Yes, you can wash your dog with water, but it will not completely remove dirt, stains, and bad odor.

What Can I Use to Wash My Dog?

You should only use shampoos and other cleaning products made exclusively for dogs. You can also use natural dog shampoos. You can read more about them and find out which one is good for your dog in the section 'Natural Dog Shampoo.'

Can I Use Dish Soap to Wash My Dog?

No, it is not recommended to use dish soap to bathe a dog.

Can I Use Body Wash on My Dog?

No, you should not use any human products because of differences in pH balance. Humans have a lower pH (5), while dogs have a higher one (7). Human shampoo can damage the epidermis and make the way easier for microorganisms to cause an infection or irritation. You can read more about that topic in the section 'Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?'

Is Baby Shampoo Safe for Dogs?

If it’s an emergency, you might use baby shampoo, but it is not recommended. You can read more about why this is not the best choice in the section 'Can You Use Baby Shampoo on Dogs?'

Can You Use Dog Shampoo on Cats?

You can use it if the shampoo is made for dogs and cats.

Is Human Shampoo Safe for Dogs?

No, human shampoo is not safe for dogs because it can cause different skin conditions such as dry skin, flakes, or even hair loss. You can read more about that topic in the section 'Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?'

What Shampoo is Safe for Dogs?

Natural-based shampoos have shown to be the best choice for dogs.

Can I Wash My Dog After Applying Flea Medication?

It is best to wash your dog before applying the medication for ectoparasites. There are some products that stay active after the bath.

Do I Need to Take My Dog’s Flea Collar Off Before I Wash Him?

You should take your dog’s flea collar off because it might lose its active components. The collars usually contain Amitraz or Pyrethrins, so if the collars aren’t water-resistant, when they contact water, it loses its effectiveness.


1 Pyrethrin. Wikipedia. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
2 Jamieson A. (March 2019). Dog dandruff: causes, symptoms and how to get rid of it. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
3 Benzoyl peroxide.Wikipedia. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
Dr. Benjamin Razic (DVM)
Dr. Benjamin Razic (DVM)
Dr. Benjamin is a young, ambitious veterinarian, working in a busy regional vet station in Travnik. He is interested in animal virology and is locally engaged in animal rights. Benjamin also has a certificate in surgical support, anesthesia monitoring, canine welfare, and hospitalization. He has a mixed-breed dog he has found on the streets.

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