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Dog Skin Care

How to Save Your Dog's Skin!

Short articles on looking after your four-legged friend's skin and coat

Will Any Old Shampoo Do?


Ten Common K9 Skin Conditions

Will Any Old Shampoo Do?

There are many examples in the dog-pampering world where our faithful friends are treated as humans. Some of these things are justified; some are a little over the top; and some, quite frankly, are a little disturbing! The borders between these three areas are often obscured by a fog of misinformation and salesman-speak. A dog owner can quite often be left wondering between what is the right thing to do for their pet, and at what is just an unnecessary gimmick designed by the pet-product manufacturers.

dog bath shampooAnd so does a dog really need his own shampoo and/or conditioner when it’s time for his bath? Or is this another clever marketing ploy aimed solely at the owners’ pockets and not at all at their pets’ wellbeing? In short, the answer to the latter question is no! And it’s a ‘no’ simply because dogs aren’t humans –they’re dogs! And, as such, many of their bodily requirements, of course, are different to ours. Not any old shampoo will do!

Before going any further we should point out, however, that very occasional use of a human shampoo on a dog is unlikely to cause any major problems. But if you bathe your furry friend on a fairly regular basis a dedicated dog shampoo should certainly be employed. We should also say at this stage that you should never bathe your dog too regularly – even with a K9 shampoo! It’s impossible to give an exact schedule as far as baths go because all dogs, like us, are different. But once a month is a good average unless your pet has a problem coat, in which case a couple more tub times may be required each month. We wouldn’t recommend, unless your vet tells you otherwise, that you bath your dog any more than once a week - a dog produces natural oils that help to protect its skin and coat and over-bathing may do more harm than good.

dog skin pH level

And so what are the differences between human and dog shampoo/conditioners? We’ll try and answer that in the least convoluted way possible. Dogs have surprisingly sensitive skin. Their pH (power of Hydrogen) balance is different to ours. And what’s a pH balance? Without going into a whole chemistry lecture, the pH scale goes from 1 to 14. From 6 down to 1 things are increasingly acidic, and from 8 up to 14 things get more alkaline (7 is considered neutral – see picture). And here is the crux of the matter: humans and dogs can be on different sides of that neutral line as far as skin is concerned: humans are on the acidic side (5.5) whilst dogs are roughly neutral or on the alkaline side (up to 7.5). And when this is combined with the fact that dogs have much thinner skin than us, it becomes more apparent why shampoos that cater for our skin might be too harsh for a dog’s!

itch free dogFortunately, there is a wide choice of doggy shampoos, soaps and conditioners on the market. Check of our Extras Page to see just a few. Some brands may seem quite expensive when compared to human varieties but bear in mind, as we mentioned briefly above, a dog doesn’t need his coat washed as often as our hair does – a single bottle of K9 shampoo for a single dog will likely last several months or more. These dedicated dog products may not make your four-legged friend as fragrant as a human shampoo or conditioner would, but I’m sure that you’d agree – how your pal feels is more important than how he smells!

Ten Common Canine Skin Conditions and Causes

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from numerous complaints of the skin. A dog’s bath time, once your faithful friend is comfortable in the tub, is an ideal time to take a closer look at his or her skin, whilst you’re washing away, and check for any undesirable symptoms. What follows is a simple list of ten common causes for bad skin conditions in dogs. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and so if you have any lingering doubts about your furry friend’s wellbeing always check with your vet!


As a pet owner you probably already know much about these tiny nuisances. But, nevertheless, one shouldn’t underestimate the problems they can cause (let alone your pet’s itchy irritability) if they are left unchecked. Be sure to look out for them or their droppings and eggs whilst bathing and/or grooming your dog, and, if present, act quickly with one of the many anti-flea products out there on the market. Severe infestation can lead to anaemia and open the door to other nasty parasites. In these circumstances if you can’t find a remedy that works, consult your vet!


Ticks are another ugly parasite to find upon your four-legged friend. These small, blood-sucking monsters are easy to spot without looking too hard, however, and are simple to dispose of yourself when in small numbers: a pair of tweezers and a steady hand are all that’s required to gently pull the intruder straight up and out (be sure not to leave the head embedded!). Ticks can cause anaemia and transmit Lyme Disease amongst other undesirable things and so their detection and removal is vitally important. Seek expert advice if you live in a tick-heavy area and your dog is adept at attracting their attentions on a regular basis.


A fungal disease (nothing to do with worms) that is more common in younger dogs and puppies. Unlike the ‘worm’ part of the name, the ‘ring’ part does have relevance: circular patches form on the dog’s skin which are often accompanied by inflammation, scales and shedding in the immediate areas. These rings more commonly show up towards the front of a dog’s body, often around the head and forelegs. This fungal infection can spread quickly between dogs in close proximity but, happily, there are many anti-fungal remedies available.

Yeast Infection

As with humans yeast infections thrive in dogs in warm and nooks and crannies about the body. A dog may be infected if he constantly scratches at an ear or chews at his paws – typical areas for which for infection to occur. Look out for irritated or discolored skin in these locations. The good news is that, generally, a vet will find the infection easy to detect and diagnose. Creams, oral medications or specialized shampoos may be prescribed to combat it. One or more of these treatments will usually do a good job at seeing off this irritating condition.

Allergic Dermatitis

As the name suggests, this condition can be initiated by any one of a number of factors that may cause an allergic reaction in a dog. Common causes are types of food, insect bites and pollen. Household cleaning chemicals as well as grooming products may also provoke allergies! Whatever the cause, the condition may well lead to consistent scratching and nasty, itchy rashes may result. Treatment is available in the form of corticosteroids but, as we all know, prevention is better than cure. If the condition has recently started in a dog, it’s best to figure out what may have changed lately: a new dog food; a new dog shampoo; a new household detergent etc.


This is bacterial infection that often accompanies other skin conditions in dogs. Symptoms may show as sores, scabs and scaly-looking skin. Other signs to look out for are an unusually dull coat which may also be shedding in areas to reveal one of the skin symptoms above. If this is suspected a visit to the vet is a must because, as already mentioned, it may be occurring because of some other skin issue which the expert may also identify. Antibiotics and antibacterial treatments are available to fight the infection.


This is another unpleasant bacterial infection most commonly found in puppies. It tends to show up on the hairless portion of the abdomen and presents as pus-filled blisters. These nasty spots can occasionally pop and crust over. Thankfully, Impetigo in dogs/puppies is seldom serious – rarely persisting after treatment from the vet.


This leads to a greasy, dandruff-laden skin and coat. Unfortunately, in some cases, this can actually be caused by a genetic condition in a dog and will last throughout its life. But it can also show up in other dogs that have other underlying medical conditions such as allergies or hormonal problems. If you suspect that your dog has Seborrhea it is best consult with your vet to find both the treatment and the possible precursor of the disease.


Sarcoptic mange is very contagious skin disorder, shared easily between dogs. It is caused by parasitic mites which spread readily between both canines and humans! (Fortunately, the little critters can’t survive on us!) The symptoms they cause are extreme itchiness, inflammation, sores and coat loss – usually concentrated about a dog’s head and legs. Another type of mange ‘demodectic’ causes similar symptoms but is not contagious. The type of mange acquired dictates the treatment required.


When grooming your dog if you detect a hard lump of skin immediate action might be necessary. It may be nothing to worry about but bear in mind that dogs can develop skin tumors and these may be of a cancerous nature. It’s better to be safe than sorry and the earlier you can react and see a vet, the less threatening the situation may well become. Small single tumors can be simply removed whole and be prevented from spreading further. And even if this isn’t possible, a quick biopsy can be performed and a diagnosis made of the situation – an earlier diagnosis, obviously, yields better treatments and results!