Choosing the Best Shampoo for Your Pets

There are hundreds of pet grooming products to choose from, so choosing the best shampoo for your pet can be a bit difficult. Many products will make certain claims and branding but, most likely, the best one for your pet will very much depend on your dog/cat and his or her specific needs. Just like when trying products for yourself, it might take a process of trial and error for you to find which is the best pet shampoo for yours.

Dog shampoos for general cleansing

If your dog has ‘normal’ hair and skin (they do not have any special requirements), then there are plenty of products out there. Some products are described as shampoo and conditioner and all will help improve your dog’s odor. If your dog has a tendency to get smelly easily, you’ll find a wide array of deodorizing dog shampoos on the market that should keep him or her smelling fresher for longer between baths.

Medicated shampoos for dogs

Just like humans, many dogs need more specialist shampoos, for example, if they have dry, itchy skin. If this is the case with your dog, it’s a good idea to get your vet’s advice before buying. Some medicated shampoos can cause an adverse reaction and actually make the problem worse. Also, specialist dog shampoos are not cheap, so you want to make sure you’re not wasting your money.

Best dog shampoo for allergies

There are two types of dog shampoos for allergies – products that help your dog and products that help humans. Some dogs have skin allergies, which might be the cause of dryness or itchy skin. You’ll find a selection of dog shampoos made to help with this. You can also find dog shampoos that claim to help humans who suffer from pet allergies. If you have a member of the family or a regular visitor who tends to get the sneezes in the company of your dog, this could be a consideration for you. Anti-dander dog shampoos aim to reduce the amount of scratching your dog does, hence reducing the number of allergens released into the environment.

Flea shampoos

As with shampoos for dry skin, most pet shops will offer shampoos specifically designed to deter fleas away from pets. Again, it’s best to talk to your vet or a professional dog groomer before using any of these. Some of the best dog shampoos designed to deter fleas contain a form of insecticide and, while it’s safe to use on most dogs, it could pose a risk to pets with certain health issues.

How toxic are these insecticides to dogs and cats?

Whether or not a pyrethrin or pyrethroid product is toxic depends on the animal species involved, as well as the concentration, synergists, and carriers used in the product. The use of pyrethrins/pyrethroids is very safe in dogs; however, cats, are very sensitive to pyrethrins/pyrethroids. Cat are also very sensitive to pyrethrins and pyrethroids, because they’re unable to metabolize (break down) these agents quickly and efficiently due to their peculiar liver metabolism.

How can I tell if my dog has pyrethrin/pyrethroid poisoning?

In a dog, symptoms will usually develop within the first hour after ingestion, and may include any or all of the following mild signs:

  • Excessive drooling (from licking the bitter product)
  • Gagging or hacking (it seems that they have something stuck in their throat)
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia (lack of appetite)
  • Agitation
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Intense itchiness (often described as rolling around on their backs or trying to bite at their backs)
  • Vocalization (crying/whimpering)

More rarely, dogs that are hypersensitive to pyrethrins/pyrethroids, or ingest a large or concentrated amount, can develop more severe symptoms such as tremors, twitching, shaking, difficulty breathing, incoordination or difficulty standing or walking, weakness, seizures, and rarely, death.

If you suspect that your dog is having a severe reaction to a pyrethrin or pyrethroid, please bring your dog to your regular or emergency veterinarian immediately. If you’re not sure what you’re seeing, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline. The sooner you seek treatment, the better the prognosis and outcome for your pet!

How does my veterinarian diagnose pyrethrin/pyrethroid poisoning?

Your veterinarian will make a presumptive diagnosis if there’s a known or possible history of exposure to a product containing a pyrethrin or pyrethroid, coupled with symptoms described above. If the symptoms are severe, your veterinarian will not wait to confirm the diagnosis before beginning treatment. Once your dog is stable (i.e. not showing severe clinical signs), your veterinarian may start by bathing your pet with a liquid dish soap to prevent further exposure. If clinical signs/symptoms have developed, treatment will be based on the symptoms and route of exposure (skin, ingested, etc.). In all cases with the development of neurological signs (e.g., twitching, tremors, seizures), your dog will require hospitalization for typically 48 – 72 hours for monitoring and any supportive care that may be needed as symptoms can seem to resolve but then reoccur. In addition, your veterinarian’s team carefully monitors the dog’s temperature for an elevated or lowered reading. In most cases, the team will monitor blood work as well, to make sure blood sugar and kidney function remain normal.

Unless your dog falls into the ‘normal’ category, then it’s always best to get some advice before buying a specialist product. This will ensure your dog is healthy and you don’t waste money. Pay close attention to dog’s fur and skin, and check your dog’s coat and skin immediately after bathing and monitor it between baths. This way you will have a better idea of the effect the product is having. Don’t use human shampoo, it might be tempting to use some shampoo you have in the house to give your dog a bath – particularly if it’s urgent. Shampoos for humans are almost all too harsh for dog’s skin, so it’s better to live with a stinky dog for a few hours than risk causing skin problems.

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