For dogs with sensitive skin, bath time can be an unpleasant experience. Hot water, too much scrubbing and the wrong shampoo can make sensitive skin even more irritated and itchy. So what can you do to help your canine companion feel more comfortable in his or her sensitive skin? Here are nine suggestions.
#1 — Know what’s causing the skin sensitivity
Allergies, external parasites, infection or disease, overly dry air, poor-quality food or the wrong shampoo can cause or intensify skin sensitivity. If your dog’s skin condition has not been evaluated by your veterinarian yet, your first step is to schedule an appointment. Your veterinarian can determine if there’s a medical reason for your pet’s skin issues and prescribe appropriate treatment, including how to best bathe your furry friend.
#2 — Choose a gentle pet shampoo
Using the right dog shampoo can help sensitive skin feel better, so choose a shampoo formulated specifically for pets. Typical human shampoos aren’t toxic to dogs, but they are formulated for use on human skin, which is more acidic than canine skin. As a result of the pH difference, human products can dry out your pet’s skin, causing irritation and itching. Human shampoos may also contain fragrances and other ingredients that are too harsh for a dog’s skin.
Depending on the underlying issue, your veterinarian may recommend a specific medicated shampoo or an all-purpose gentle shampoo and conditioner. For sensitive-skinned dogs, it is as much about what’s not in the product as what is. Dogs with irritated, itchy skin can benefit from a soap-, fragrance- and dye-free shampoo made with oatmeal (or colloidal oatmeal), hydrocortisone or pramoxine, all of which help soothe skin and provide relief from itching. Dogs with dry skin and dull coat can benefit from a shampoo and conditioner that provide extra moisture through humectants, such as glycerin, and emollients, such as coconut, almond or olive oil.
Other bath-time tips for dogs with sensitive skin
#3 — Brush thoroughly before getting your pet wet.
Before getting your pup into the tub, you’ll want to give him or her a thorough, yet gentle, brushing to remove any debris, dirt and loose, dead hair.
#4 — Choose a lukewarm water temperature.
For dogs with sensitive skin, bath water should be warm — not too hot and not too cold — somewhere between 70 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot water is not only drying to skin but can irritate it and intensify itching. Water that’s too cold makes bathing uncomfortable for your dog.
#5 — Use a dog bathing brush or glove with a gentle touch.
Sensitive-skinned dogs may feel slightly uncomfortable during a bath, yet it’s still important to cleanse the skin and coat to remove dander and dead hair. A bathing brush or washing glove can help provide a good washing while stimulating the skin. Be especially careful to use a gentle touch around hot spots or inflamed skin.
#6 — Rinse thoroughly.
Be sure to rinse all traces of shampoo from your dog’s coat. Soap residue can be irritating to skin.
#7 — Consider applying a conditioner or cream rinse.
A conditioner or cream rinse — either leave-in or rinse-out formula — replaces the natural oils that may have been removed during shampooing. These products coat and seal hair, resulting in fewer tangles and making the coat easier to comb.
#8 — Gently towel dry your dog.
Use an absorbent bath towel to dry your dog, letting the towel soak up water from the coat. You’ll want to avoid rubbing the hair in the wrong direction to minimize tangles. Whether or not you use a blow dryer to complete the drying process will depend on whether your dog tolerates the noise and the current environmental temperature. If you use a blow dryer, use a warm or cool setting to avoid excessive drying, which will only add to your dog’s skin issues.
#9 — Support sensitive skin health through nutrition
Even if the cause of your dog’s skin condition isn’t related to an allergy or intolerance, he or she could still benefit from eating a high-quality food that’s formulated for dogs with sensitive skin, such as Diamond CARE Sensitive Skin Formula for Adult Dogs. Increased omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the appropriate ratio help protect your dog’s skin from dryness. And at the cell level, the key omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can help reduce inflammation. A limited number of protein sources that are easily digested provide the amino acid building blocks necessary for natural skin cell production. Limiting the number of dietary protein sources can help lower your dog’s overall exposure to allergens.
If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s skin or appropriate grooming products, be sure to talk with your veterinarian, who is your best resource for pet health and care.
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