Do You Need a Medicated Dog Shampoo?

Jennifer Coates, DVM
By Jennifer Coates, DVM on Jan. 2, 2019
A dog sits in a bathtub.

Depending on your pet’s health and coat condition, you may never end up using a medicated dog shampoo, but for pets who need them, a medicated shampoo for dogs can make all the difference in the world.

Talk to your veterinarian if your pet is having skin or coat problems. Many dog skin conditions that benefit from medicated baths also require additional forms of treatment, at least until they are under control.

Avoid using human shampoos on your dog, even if they are labeled “gentle.” Dog skin has a different pH balance, so human products are often drying and irritating and can make the problem worse rather than better.

What Conditions Require a Medicated Dog Shampoo

Many different dog skin conditions can be treated using a medicated dog shampoo, including the following:

Allergies in Dogs

Environmental allergies are commonly treated with a medicated dog shampoo. They not only remove allergic triggers from contact with the skin but also contain ingredients that reduce the allergic reaction and itching and inflammation that results. Dogs with skin allergies are sometimes so itchy that they end up chewing their skin raw.

If you suspect that allergies are an issue for your pet, look for these symptoms:

  • Seasonal or year-round itchiness
  • Excessive licking, scratching and rubbing
  • Hair loss
  • Red, inflamed skin or “hot spots
  • Chronic ear and skin infections

Fungal and Bacterial Infections

Fungal infections, such as yeast and ringworm, as well as bacterial infections, almost always include medicated dog shampoo in their treatment. Hair loss, crusty skin, pimples and itchiness are top indicators of an infection. They can be quite uncomfortable, so a dog shampoo designed to ease these symptoms will help make dogs more comfortable as they recover.

Your vet will likely recommend an antibacterial and antifungal shampoo such as Pet MD’s® antiseptic and antifungal dog, cat and horse shampoo. The chlorhexidine and ketoconazole ingredients can get rid of current skin infections and prevent new ones in pets who are susceptible to new ones.

Bacterial and yeast infections are frequently secondary conditions. When a dog’s immune system is busy dealing with a separate issue—such as an allergy—they are more susceptible to infection. Once the primary issue is under control, regular bathing can help with relapses.

You might try a gentle, moisturizing dog shampoo designed to help with skin infections.

Since dogs with a history of skin infections often have easily irritated skin, choosing a dog skin care product with calming ingredients is a good idea. A good antibacterial shampoo for dogs should also be non-drying and mild.

Two popular ingredients are oatmeal and tea tree oil, both of which are found in Veterinary Formula® Clinical Care oatmeal and tea tree oil infuser shampoo, which reduces inflammation and works to restore moisture in the skin.


Fleas are well-known parasites that trigger skin problems in dogs. It’s the allergic reaction to flea bites that makes these bugs so irksome. Using a year-round prescription flea and tick preventative is vital in combating fleas.

However, if they’ve invaded your home, a bath will offer your dog some much-needed, immediate relief. A dog flea shampoo can quickly kill and remove adult fleas but has little residual effect, allowing new fleas to quickly reinfest your dog.

A good option is to combine a long-term preventative with a dog shampoo that won’t interfere with it, such as Vet’s Best® Oatmeal medicated dog shampoo or TropiClean® medicated oatmeal and tea tree dog shampoo. Always follow the instructions on the label of both your flea preventative and shampoo to ensure both work optimally.

Mites are responsible for another unpleasant dog skin condition—mange. Hair loss, scabs, body sores and sometimes itching are common symptoms associated with mange. Topical treatments, including medicated dog shampoo, can play a role in treatment. Keep in mind that some types of mange are highly contagious, so your veterinarian may recommend treating all the dogs in your home.

Dry Skin in Dogs

Dry skin in dogs can stem from many different causes, including low humidity levels, dietary imbalances and excessive bathing. The best treatment for dry skin will depend on the exact cause of the condition, but a medicated bath to moisturize, remove flakes and ease itching can help.

Remember to bathe according to the shampoo’s label and your veterinarian’s instructions so that you don’t dry out your dog’s skin even more. Make sure to search for a product with ingredients that are gentle on the skin. By avoiding dyes and fragrances, you can also avoid irritating your dog’s skin.

A good option is Sulfodene® medicated dog shampoo and conditioner, which can reduce itchiness and flaking.

Talk to Your Vet About Medicated Dog Shampoos

If you’re not sure what’s triggering your dog’s skin condition, it’s important to check in with your vet. While a medicated dog shampoo may be included in your vet’s recommended treatment plan, it’s likely only going to be part of the solution.

Even if a medicated dog shampoo ends up being all your pet requires, you’ll walk away with suggestions as to what type of dog skin care product would best suit your dog. 

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Jennifer Coates, DVM


Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary...

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