Best Waterless Dog Shampoos

Updated November 2021
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best waterless dog shampoos

Dogs can get into all kinds of messes, and even when they don't, odor alone can be enough to put a damper on cuddle time. However, washing your dog too often can strip away natural oils and result in a dull coat and dry, itchy skin. When bathing isn't an option, waterless dog shampoo is an easy, effective way to freshen up your pet. 

These shampoos, which come in foam, gel, spray, and powder form, work by absorbing excess oils and loosening dirt so that it can be brushed or wiped off more easily. Most waterless dog shampoos leave behind a pleasant scent, so your pup not only looks clean but smells fresh too.

Whether you're traveling, caring for a sick dog, or dealing with a dog that likes to roll in dirt after a bath, it never hurts to keep some waterless dog shampoo on hand. But choosing the best one can be a challenge. Before you buy, you need to decide on the formula, ingredients, scent, and compatibility with flea and tick treatment. 

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If your dog has sensitive skin, be sure to pick a waterless dog shampoo that's pH balanced, with gentle or minimal ingredients, and specially formulated for sensitive skin. 

Key considerations

Types of waterless dog shampoos 

The very first step to choosing a waterless dog shampoo is figuring out which type works best for your particular needs. 

Foam: Foaming shampoos tend to be easy to handle and work into your dog's coat. Many pet parents favor foam shampoos because they spread quickly and evenly, and just a little bit goes a long way. 

Spray: Unlike foam, spray shampoo comes in liquid form. While this can be great for spot cleaning, achieving an even application all over your dog can be a challenge, and you may find that some areas end up being more saturated than others. 

Gel: Gel waterless dog shampoos have a jelly-like consistency that needs to be thoroughly worked into your dog's coat. Gel shampoos are worth considering if your dog is fairly calm and doesn't mind being handled, rubbed, and massaged. 

Aerosol: If you like the idea of easy application and don't want your dog getting too wet, an aerosol waterless shampoo might be for you. Aerosol shampoos work just like aerosol deodorants (with different ingredients, of course), producing a fine, powdery mist. If you or your dog has respiratory issues, an aerosol may not be the best choice. 

Powder: If you're after a truly dry dog shampoo, powder is your best bet. Powder shampoos work by absorbing excess oils that cause odors. Although they’re easy to use, keep in mind that powder can be messy to apply. 

Ingredients 

As far as possible, try to opt for a waterless dog shampoo that is made with safe and gentle ingredients. While there's still a possibility of a dog experiencing an allergic reaction to natural ingredients, plant-based formulations are far less likely to cause irritation compared to those made with harsh chemicals. 

You may also want to steer clear of waterless dog shampoos that contain alcohol because this ingredient can strip away moisture and dry out your dog's skin. With that in mind, some alcohols are safer for skin than others. According to studies, there's no need to avoid long-chain fatty alcohols, such as cetearyl alcohol, because these generally don't cause dryness or irritation. 

Scent

Most waterless dog shampoos are either naturally or artificially scented to assist with odor control. Those scented with essential oils offer the added benefit of delivering some soothing aromatherapy for your canine pal. For instance, natural lavender-scented waterless shampoo can have a calming effect on energetic puppies or excitable dogs. Either way, keep in mind that dogs have sensitive sniffers and often find strong fragrances overwhelming. If your dog is particularly sensitive to smells, consider choosing a fragrance-free waterless dog shampoo. 

Flea and tick treatment compatibility 

Before you purchase a waterless dog shampoo, take a moment to scan the specifications to make sure it's compatible with your current flea and tick treatment. While waterless dog shampoos are unlikely to interfere with oral treatments, you might want to take extra care if you use a topical flea and tick treatment.

Topical flea and tick treatments are absorbed by the sebaceous glands, which produce oils to keep your dog's skin and coat conditioned (these are the same oils that give your pup that distinctive doggy odor). Because waterless dog shampoos are formulated to absorb and remove excess sebum (the oils produced by the sebaceous glands), there is a small chance that they could interfere with topical flea and tick treatments. 

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For Your Safety
Dogs are bound to get at least a few licks in during or after application. To avoid the possibility of adverse reactions caused by ingestion, make sure your waterless dog shampoo is made with non-toxic ingredients. 
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Features

Packaging 

Most waterless dog shampoos come in spray bottles. However, not all spray bottles are created equal, especially in terms of nozzles and spraying efficacy. Since it's impossible to establish just how well a spray bottle works at a glance, you might want to scan online user reviews before you buy. Alternatively, consider purchasing a separate spray bottle to have on hand just in case. 

Odor control 

All waterless dog shampoos help control odors by absorbing excess oils and reducing the unpleasant smells they cause. However, as mentioned above, many are also enhanced with natural scents or artificial fragrances for extra odor control. If your dog is particularly smelly, a lightly scented waterless dog shampoo is worth considering. 

Hypoallergenic formula

If your dog has particularly sensitive skin, a hypoallergenic waterless dog shampoo might be your best bet. Hypoallergenic formulas are free of common allergens and ingredients that are known to irritate sensitive skin. While there's still a possibility that some dogs may experience irritation due to certain ingredients, the odds are greatly reduced with hypoallergenic formulas. 

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Did You Know?
There's no need to rinse your dog after applying a waterless dog shampoo. Simply follow the application instructions, wipe away the excess shampoo, and you're all set!
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Accessories

Dog cologne: OUT! Body Mist Dog Grooming Cologne
If odors are a problem, spritzing a bit of cologne on your dog can work wonders. This cologne from OUT! contains no propellants (just compressed air), alcohol, or dyes. 

Spray bottle: Uineko All-Purpose Plastic Spray Bottles
Dealing with a faulty spray nozzle can be incredibly frustrating. If you're interested in a spray-on waterless dog shampoo, it's a good idea to keep a few extra spray bottles on hand like these four 16-ounce bottles that come at a reasonable price.

Waterless dog shampoo prices

Inexpensive: Smaller quantities of between 5 and 8 ounces of foaming waterless dog shampoo are typically the most affordable and start at around $5 to $8.

Mid-range: Sprays, gels, and larger quantities of foaming shampoos can all be found for between $8 and $15.

Expensive: Premium, all-natural, or organic waterless dog shampoos, foams, gels, sprays, and large quantities of powder shampoos typically cost from $15 to $25.

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For Your Safety
While many waterless dog shampoos are suitable for dogs of all ages, this isn't the case for all shampoos. If you have a puppy, don't forget to check the manufacturer’s use and age specifications. 
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Tips

  • Consider your dog's coat. Some types of waterless shampoo work better than others on long, thick coats. While sprays tend to work well on short-haired dogs, many pet parents find foam is easier to work into longer coats. 
  • Be careful using waterless dog shampoo with a topical flea and tick treatment. Topical flea and tick treatments settle in the sebum layer of your dog's skin. After applying a topical flea treatment, wait at least 48 hours before you use a waterless dog shampoo. Also, try not to overdo it, because waterless dog shampoos are designed to remove sebum. This means that each time you use a waterless dog shampoo, you remove some of the flea and tick treatment as well. 
  • Work the product deep into your dog's coat. Waterless dog shampoos work by breaking down sebum, making excess oils and dirt easier to remove. The trick to getting good results is to really massage the product into your dog's coat, right through to the skin where the sebum buildup lies. 
  • Wipe or brush after applying. Wipe down your dog and run a brush through its coat after applying a waterless dog shampoo to remove dirt, oils and any excess product.
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Waterless dog shampoo is excellent for spot cleaning, travel, and sick or injured dogs. However, keep in mind that these products simply can’t replace regular bathing. To fully remove dirt and debris, a traditional bath with water is unavoidable. 

FAQ

Q. Can waterless dog shampoo replace regular bathing? 

A. No, unfortunately, waterless dog shampoo can't replace a good, old-fashioned bath. While waterless dog shampoo is great for spot cleaning, removing excess oils, loosening dirt, and reducing odors, only a proper bath can fully wash away all the dirt and debris. 

Q. What's the difference between waterless dog shampoo and dog cologne? 

A. As you probably already know by now, waterless dog shampoo works by removing excess sebum and loosening dirt. Dog cologne, on the other hand, is simply designed to cover up odors and won’t help remove oil or dirt from your dog's coat. 

Q. Is it safe for my dog to lick its coat after using waterless dog shampoo? 

A. As long as your dog doesn't swallow excessive amounts, a few licks during or after application generally isn't something to worry about. Choosing a non-toxic formula and thoroughly wiping down your dog after application can reduce any possible risk of adverse reactions caused by ingestion.

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