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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Features October 2016 Issue

Bathing is Different for Dogs with Skin Conditions

The skin is the body’s largest organ, for dogs as well as for people, and allergies in dogs often affect that organ. In such cases, which are referred to as atopic dermatitis, “bathing can be a great way to reduce irritation, itching, pain, inflammation, crusting, and odor,” says board-certified veterinary dermatologist Laurie J. Stewart, VMD, DACVD.” In fact, while dogs with healthy skin may be able to get away with a bath every few months, a dog with a skin condition may need baths as frequently as twice a week. The silver lining — they often like the baths, as the medicated shampoos they need can greatly help relieve their discomfort.

Veterinarians can recommend high-quality shampoos that work to address skin allergies and other dermatologic ailments. Ingredients may include the antibacterials chlorhexidine, ethyl lactate, and selenium sulfide; or the antifungals Ketoconazole, Miconazole, and sulfur, to name a few. Even oatmeal and essential fatty acids can help by softening and moisturizing the skin and thereby keeping it “calm.”

Another plus of special shampoos for dogs with skin conditions: in some instances, they may literally be able to reduce the time a dog has to take medication by mouth, because the bathing “can accelerate improvement and remove infections and toxic debris from the skin surfaces,” Dr. Stewart says.

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