Dual shampoo and conditioner. Sweet coconut and papaya scent. Moisturizing formula. Detangles fur. Deep-cleaning formula. Available in multiple sizes.
A pump on the bottle would have been convenient.
Floral smell lingers on dog fur for weeks. Detangles fur. Conditioning formula. Aloe vera and Vitamin E nourishes dry skin. Affordable. Available in two sizes. For cats too.
Its long-lasting odor may not be for everyone.
Has a natural formula that's free of harsh chemicals, dyes, and fragrances. It's also biodegradable and not tested on animals. Comes in numerous varieties.
Dog owners find that the scent isn't very strong and has a tendency to fade quickly after bath time.
Gentle formula for sensitive puppy eyes and skin. Tearless. No parabens or perfumes. Cleans, deodorizes, and conditions fur.
Do not expect an especially strong scent with this shampoo.
Some dog owners believe the fastest way to make their pet disappear is to get out the hose and shampoo. While most dogs are self-cleaning, there are times when owners must take the grooming relationship to another level and give their fur children a proper bath. This process often begins with finding the ideal dog shampoo to meet your pet’s specific needs.
There is a surprising number of commercial dog shampoos on the market today, and it can be challenging to find the perfect match for your pet. At BestReviews, we want to help take the sting out of this important grooming task.
Most human and dog shampoos are not interchangeable, so responsible owners might want to consult with a veterinarian, professional groomer, or other experienced pet owners before shopping. If you’re in the market for a quality dog shampoo, our handy shopping guide provides all the details you need.
As tempting as it might be to use a shampoo formulated for humans on a dog, it’s strongly discouraged by most professional groomers and veterinarians. This rule applies to even gentle or organic products. There are fundamental differences between human and dog shampoos, which is why they aren’t considered interchangeable.
Dog shampoo has a higher pH level. One important difference is the pH (usually indicated on the label). Human skin is more acidic than a dog’s, so human shampoos tend to have a lower pH level to match. Using a human shampoo on a dog’s more alkaline skin could cause irritation or even generate more odor-causing bacteria after use. Dog shampoos are formulated with higher pH levels and typically omit the strong detergents commonly found in human shampoos.
Dog shampoo has a different chemical composition. While human shampoo might contain additives for common conditions like dandruff or eczema, a medicated dog shampoo can contain chemicals that address fleas, ticks, mange, fungal infections, and bacteria. A human shampoo without those active ingredients wouldn’t address any of these common canine issues.
When it comes to shopping for the right dog shampoo, there is no “one size fits all” solution. The right shampoo is the one that meets the specific needs of a specific dog, and this could require a recommendation from a professional dog groomer, experienced dog owner, or veterinarian. Here are some of the most common types of dog shampoos sold in pet stores, department stores, or online.
Nonmedicated/general purpose: Many dog shampoos fall into this broad category. The emphasis is on deodorizing, brightening, and detangling a pet’s coat, not on addressing specific skin conditions or parasites. Some nonmedicated formulas might use organic ingredients with purported medicinal qualities, but these shampoos are intended for all-around cleansing.
Antimicrobial/antifungal: These medicated dog shampoos include ingredients designed to address skin issues such as mange or “hot spots.” Some dog owners use antibacterial shampoos to reduce the amount of odor-causing bacteria on the pet’s skin.
Flea and tick: These medicated shampoos are often used in combination with other flea and tick products to completely rid a pet of these unwanted pests. A flea and tick shampoo might also contain other active ingredients that address dry skin, dander, or other issues.
Anti-itching/antiseborrheic: If a dog spends an inordinate amount of time scratching and biting its skin, an anti-itching or antiseborrheic shampoo could be the solution. If the itching isn’t caused by fleas or other parasites, it could be the result of dry skin. These medicated shampoos provide additional moisture, especially when combined with a moisturizing conditioner.
Puppy: A “puppy” shampoo is the canine equivalent of a human “no tears” baby shampoo. It’s formulated to be extremely mild to the skin and nonirritating to the eyes. We recommend using puppy shampoos on dogs under the age of eight months, but the products can be used on older dogs with extremely sensitive skin.
Brightening/whitening: A brightening shampoo is usually nonmedicated and includes organic ingredients designed to revive a dull coat. Many small breeds with long, luxurious coats tend to benefit from a whitening shampoo, especially when the bath is followed by a thorough brushing.
When shopping for a new dog shampoo, it’s important to compare labels and research ingredients. Using the wrong type of medicated shampoo, for example, can make a pet’s skin or hair issues worse. Consulting a veterinarian or experienced groomer is never a bad idea. Here are some important things to consider when shopping for the right dog shampoo.
Breed of dog: Different breeds respond differently to shampoos. What might be acceptable to a 95-pound bull mastiff might not work as well for a teacup-size Yorkie. Dog breeds with short coats might not get the same results as breeds with longer or double coats. Check the label or consult product reviews to see if a particular shampoo is suitable for your type of dog.
Skin chemistry: Much like humans, a dog’s skin can be relatively acidic, neutral, or alkaline compared to other dogs. A veterinarian can determine the natural pH level of a specific pet and make recommendations for appropriate shampoo formulas. Using a shampoo with an incompatible pH level can damage a dog’s skin over time or strip away vital natural skin and hair oils.
Medical conditions: Some mid-range medicated shampoos claim to treat several common skin and coat conditions at the same time, which might be enough preventative care for an average dog. However, some dogs with more serious medical conditions might require a prescription-strength medicated shampoo.
As with human shampoos, the price range of dog shampoos varies widely from brand to brand. You can expect to pay from less than $10 to over $35 for dog shampoo. Some of this price difference is due to the ingredients. A basic nonmedicated dog shampoo with minimal fragrance costs far less than a high-end prescription formula packed with natural oils and supplements. Remarkably, we find that customer ratings for many midrange shampoos are just as high as the more expensive competitors. It often comes down to a personal ingredient preference or medical need.
Inexpensive: For less than $10, you will find very few medicated or organic brands. These shampoos tend to focus on dirt removal, oil reduction, and coat conditioning. Some might contain the same detergents as human shampoos, so it’s important to check the pH values before purchasing.
Mid-range: For between $10 and $35, you will find many organic/natural dog shampoos. The ingredients will be easier to pronounce, and the pH values are almost always in the proper range for pets. Many nonprescription medicated shampoos fall in this price range, including the popular five-in-one formulas that address multiple skin and coat issues.
Expensive: Dog shampoos that cost $35 and up tend to be prescription or packed with numerous botanical ingredients. Some hypoallergenic dogs might benefit from the upgrade, but the general performance level is about the same as that of less expensive competitors. Commercial shampoos sold in bulk to groomers and veterinarians also fall into this category.
Always use tepid water, not hot. A dog’s skin is much more sensitive than a human’s, and hot water can easily burn and cause other damage. Test the temperature of the pre-soak and rinse water on your own skin before applying it to your pet.
Allow at least five to ten minutes before rinsing away lather. The cleansing and medicinal ingredients in dog shampoos require some time to become effective. Once the pet is fully lathered, you should keep your dog calm and distracted for at least five to ten minutes. Some shampoos are designed to loosen embedded dirt or treat “hot spots” deep inside the coat.
Start from the back of the pet’s head, work down the body, and finish with the face. Washing a dog in this direction will discourage fleas from congregating on the pet’s head during the shampooing and rinsing process. Many groomers fold over the dog’s ears or gently insert cotton balls to prevent water and lather from entering the ear canal. Applying shampoo to the face requires a more delicate touch, so you should leave it for last.
Detangling and deburring should be done before pre-soaking or lathering. It’s much easier to address matting and other hair-tangling issues while the dog’s coat is dry. Removing mats with a detangling comb or brush becomes nearly impossible once it’s wet.
Dilute shampoo with water before applying it to long-haired breeds. Applying a dog shampoo directly from the bottle to a long-haired breed’s coat can create uneven results. By slightly diluting the shampoo with water, you should be able to avoid creating areas of heavier and lighter coverage.
Q. I just adopted a black labrador puppy. Do I need to use a special kind of dog shampoo for this breed?
A. Yes and no. There are a number of shampoos on the market that are formulated for dogs with black coats, regardless of breed. These specialized products should be able to restore the shiny coat associated with darker breeds. However, any other brand of dog shampoo that addresses your pet’s other skin issues (dandruff, fleas, hot spots) should be fine as well. Puppies under eight months generally require a gentler shampoo formulation regardless of color.
Q. I have noticed my dogs smell worse after I give them a bath with shampoo. Should I try switching to a brand with more fragrance?
A. You can certainly experiment with different brands of dog shampoos, but keep in mind that the most important element is addressing your pet’s specific skin conditions. Some medicated shampoos might be very effective against parasites or dander but not have the most appealing scent. Sometimes using the wrong type of dog shampoo can make a dog’s smell worse because issues like bacterial growth aren’t being properly addressed by the shampoo’s ingredients.
Q. My husband is allergic to dogs, but he does allow me to keep one in our house. Should I make life easier for him by bathing my dog once a week?
A. What might make life easier for human owners might not make life easier for their pets. Most dog breeds don’t require frequent bathing, and using even the gentlest dog shampoo will eventually affect the dog’s delicate skin. It might help to determine the actual trigger of your husband’s pet allergy and find a shampoo that addresses that specific condition, such as dander or flea dirt.
Q. Are there any safe alternatives to commercial dog shampoos? Sometimes I have an emergency situation and no shampoo available.
A. There are a few popular DIY dog shampoo recipes that should be safe for emergencies, but they shouldn’t replace commercial brands on a regular basis. One suggestion is to mix equal parts mild dishwashing liquid and apple cider vinegar. Do not use dishwashing liquids that contain antibacterial agents, however. You might also consider giving your dog a dry shampooing with baking soda or cornstarch, which you brush out after a few minutes.
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