Dog Allergies – Shampoos, Rinses And Other Topical Treatments

There are numerous products including shampoos, rinses, sprays, lotions, creams and leave-on conditioners designed to help dogs with allergies.  These topicals contain anti-inflammatory ingredients (steroids, antihistamines, colloidal oatmeal, fatty acids, capsaicin and aloe vera) to make the patient more comfortable.  In my experience, the response to each is highly individualistic.  I see the best response in patients who have localized disease and owner’s that are able to treat regularly. 

With so many products to chose from, it can be difficult to know where to start.  I usually begin with a hypoallergenic shampoo followed by a soothing conditioner with residual action.  This combination seems to work well as long as the dog does not suffer from other infections or infestations.  Massage the shampoo into the skin and then let it soak according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.  To keep the dog from licking the shampoo off or rolling in the dirt, I tell people to lather the dog up and then go for a short walk.  

Rinsing is a very important part of the procedure.  Since cold water decreases inflammation, I recommend a 10 minute rinse with cool water.  Rinse, rinse and rinse again.  Pay special attention to the underarms, groin, under the tail and chest.  Shampoo and debris collects in these areas.  

Next comes the conditioner.  Since I prefer leave-on products, I instruct people to gently towel off the dog.  Pat dry as rubbing will inflame the skin.  Apply the conditioner as directed.  Massage a little extra into the more inflamed areas.  If the dog can tolerate it, I prefer to let them air dry with the conditioner in place.  If not, please use the cool setting on the blow dryer to avoid aggravating the skin. 

For those emergency situations when your pet is keeping you up all night licking or scratching one spot, I dispense Dermacool.  This spray contains a topical anesthetic called lidocaine that deadens the itch after a few minutes.  The solution is acidic which inhibits growth of yeast and bacteria and contains colloidal oatmeal to decrease inflammation.  This product was a life-saver with Susie, my golden retriever.  When she started to lick, I sprayed the area and kept it from becoming a bigger problem.    


Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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