Every dog needs a good bath at regular intervals. Be it for grooming purposes or for health, the right shampoo is the key to a beautiful, healthy coat of fur.
Just as humans have shampoos that target different scalp and hair problems, your pooch also needs the right shampoo. But remember, never use a human shampoo on your dog’s coat as it contains chemicals that can be harsh on dog’s skin and may increase irritation of the already affected areas. The anatomy of the skin of dogs is different hence the chemicals which are soothing to us in our human shampoo may not be comfortable/suiting the dogs.
One of the common problems faced by dogs is dandruff. Similar to human dandruff, it is dead skin that flakes off and stays on the coat. This dead skin results in itching, which can start a vicious cycle of more dandruff and thus, increased itching. Fortunately, anti-dandruff pet shampoos are widely available. But the first step is to rule out any other medical conditions that may be causing the dandruff – such as fleas, allergies, or eczema – because these require specific medication.
Why it occurs? Dandruff is usually experienced by young adults and continues into middle age. Dry skin is a frequent reason for itching and flaking skin. This can lead to dandruff. Another common cause is seborrheic dermatitis or oily scalp with skin irritation. The condition can be associated with oily skin that is covered with white or yellowish coating. Seborrheic dermatitis also affects parts of the body that contain several oil glands, including the nose, behind the ears, below the testes, the paws, and even the armpits.
Right nutrition: A diet that lacks adequate amounts of iron, zinc and vitamin B, encourages the formation of dandruff. So, pet parents should ensure that their dogs eat enough lean red meat, greens or the correct readymade pet food that gives the best possible nutrition.
Shampoo – how often? How often you shampoo your dog can also affect the formation of dandruff. Also a daily bath may lead to fungal problem as dogs don’t have sweat glands and unlike humans or horse or cattle, dogs should not undergo daily bath. Thus, it is advisable to ask your vet how often is just right. In most cases, vets recommend a three week to one month’s interval between baths. If there are medical conditions, then depending on the kind of skin problem, long-haired breed or short-haired breed and climatic condition the frequency of bath should be decided or the coat gets excessively dirty, the shampoo may be required sooner.
Other scalp problems…
In addition to dandruff woes, pet parents may face malassezia fungus. Malasseziapachydermatis is yeast found on the skin and ears of dogs. The yeast is actually a normal feature of these areas, but an abnormal overgrowth may cause dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin. The growth cannot be controlled as this fungus gets its food from the oil that comes out of hair follicles. This irritates the coat and makes skin cells grow. As a result, the excess dead skin cells begin to fall off, combined with oil from the hair (fur).
The exact causes behind this disease are not known, but it has been linked to allergy, seborrhoea, congenital and hormonal factors. Although malassezia fungus can affect any dog, certain breeds are predisposed to it. These include Poodles, Basset Hounds, West Highland White Terriers, Cocker Spaniels and Dachshunds.
Types of shampoos…
Pet shampoos can be identified according to its contents.
- Pyrithione zinc shampoo: This shampoo contains zinc pyrithione, which consists of antibacterial and antifungal agents. Shampoo in this category is suited for the coat containing fungus that can lead to dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis formation.
- Tar-based shampoo: These shampoos contain coal tar. Coal tar comes from the coal manufacturing process and can help overcome dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis by slowing down cell death and the exfoliation of skin.
- Shampoo containing salicylic acid: This kind of shampoo helps remove layers of dandruff, but can dry the coat. Using a conditioner for dogs after the shampoo is advisable.
- Ketoconazole shampoo: Ketoconazole is a broad-spectrum antifungal agent that may work when other shampoos have failed.
Check with your vet to make sure you’re using a suitable shampoo for your dog. If the condition of your pet’s coat doesn’t change for the better after a couple of shampoo sessions, contact your vet. If you see the condition suddenly getting worse after one shampoo, call your vet immediately. In short, shampoo them right.
(With inputs from Dr Munmun De, BVSc and AH (Gold Medalist), MVSc, PhD Scholar-Surgery and Radiology, West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Sciences, Kolkata.)