Russell Vale Animal Clinic

17 Bellambi Lane
Bellambi, NS 2518


The Dog Wash
The Art of Choosing the Correct Shampoo

Your dog smells. You go to the dog cupboard, and look at the bottles of shampoo, check the expiry date and realise that it says 2009. 

So next time you go grocery shopping you check out the shampoos. You just want something that makes your pet smell good, and look good. How hard can it be. And then you see 15 different types of shampoos, and so, what do you choose? The "natural one"?, "Tea Tree"?, the "Dr vet"?, etc.

 The best shampoo for your pet is the one that makes them smell and look good, and that may mean a bit of trial and error in trialling different shampoos. After all, isn't that what we do for ourselves?

Russell Vale natural shampoo

If your pet doesn't have any skin problems, then most shampoos which are soap free and sulphate free are Ok. We recommend the PAW and Troy range, as well as Dermcare Natural Shampoo (this is soap free and has only mild sulphates). 

But always make sure you use a good leave in conditioner, and for this, I like the Oatmeal ones for most dogs.  The pets with grass allergies, I find the PAW Nutriderm conditioner to be very soothing. 

But if your pet has a skin problem, or sensitive skin, then it can be alot harder to choose the right shampoo (and conditioner). And that is where you do need the expert advice of your veterinarian.

Russell Vale Conditioner


Shampoos are grouped into

-soap based or soap free

- with sulphates or without sulphates



-anti itch

-for dry, normal or greasy skin

Russell Vale Medicated Shampoo

So there are important things to consider when choosing the right shampoo. How frequently should you wash your pet? If we are talking about allergy patients here,  the frequency could be as often as weekly or twice a week. 

If we are talking about your average Joe Blow dog with no skin issues, then washing should be when it is smelly, or dirty, and this could be once a week, or once a month.  Our dog Teddy (RIP) was washed probably once each 3 months, but Leo (our new rescue dog), well, he needs washing each 1-2 weeks, so it is all about what is the right thing for that dog. 

Washing your dog tips -

  • also do a "spot check" of any new shampoo on your pet before your apply it.
  • Dilute the required amount of shampoo into a container of warm water first
  • Wet your pet first and then sponge on the shampoo mixture.
  • Pay your dog well - lots of treats whilst shampooing.
  • Rinse well - especially in the armpits, groin, and between toe areas.
  • Use luke warm water - too hot or too cold is uncomfortable and can increase the itchiness felt after a bath.

The best shampoo (and conditioner) for your pet is the one which keeps your pet's skin in tip top, healthy condition. I have seen dogs do great on all of the medicated shampoos, and some not so great too - it basically means that there is an art of choosing the correct shampoo in pets with a skin problem.

How I decide which shampoo to recommend is based on skin tests (cytology testing) to check on what the skin surface actually looks like - is there too much keratin or not enough, is there alot of pus cells or none, is there bacteria, yeasts, or anything else unusual (like mites or pollens).  And for some dogs, I don't recommend shampooing at all - some dogs can be "overwashed" and this can cause its own set of skin problems.

For general advice on Washing Itchy/Smelly pets, why not visit our Skin Management page