Itch, scratch, lick, scratch -- we all know skin allergies can drive a dog nuts. Hypoallergenic shampoos are often one of the first thoughts when trying to ease your dog’s suffering, but let’s not exclude conditioner. Often an afterthought, hypoallergenic conditioners moisturize your buddy’s itchy, dehydrated skin; woof-elujah.
Any shampoo or conditioner can irritate your dog's skin. Hypoallergenic shampoos and conditioners are the least likely to do so. They contain gentle, natural -- as opposed to synthetic -- ingredients, remove allergens from your dog's skin and coat, rehydrate his skin and reduce flakiness and inflammation. Hypoallergenic conditioners are generally used in conjunction with hypoallergenic shampoos on dogs suffering from allergic dermatitis, otherwise known as itchy, red skin caused by allergies. Usually not a cure in themselves, topical hypoallergenic conditioners soothe the outside of your buddy’s skin while hypoallergenic foods, flea medication for flea allergies, cortisone injections or oral antihistamines work to eradicate his itchy skin from the inside out.
Almost all hypoallergenic conditioners contain ingredients known for their soothing, moisturizing properties. Hypoallergenic shampoos wash away allergy-inducing antigens; then it’s up to the conditioner to calm your buddy’s irritated skin. Look for the following skin soothing ingredients when deciding on a conditioner: colloidal oatmeal, aloe vera and vitamin E. Avoid any conditioner with soap or detergent and unnatural fragrances; however, essential oils like lavender or chamomile shouldn’t pose a problem for your itchy pup. Your veterinarian may prescribe medicated cream rinses or conditioners like Epi-Soothe Cream Rinse and Conditioner if your buddy develops a secondary bacterial or yeast infection.
Hypoallergenic conditioners come in three types: sprays, rinse-offs and leave-ons. Your dog’s coat type and the severity of his allergic dermatitis will determine the kind of conditioner best for his needs. Any moist skin inflammation, like hot spots, will need to be kept dry therefore conditioning sprays or leave-on conditioners would keep the area too moist to properly heal. A dog with severely flaky skin, meanwhile, would benefit from a moisture-rich leave-on conditioner. Consult your veterinarian about the best type of hypoallergenic conditioner for your buddy and his specific skin problems.
Hypoallergenic conditioners are gentle enough to use each time your bathe your buddy. When your dog is in the midst of allergy season or develops a new food allergy, he will be absolutely miserable with all of the itching and scratching. Bathe him every other day or two to three times a week during this period. Once you and veterinarian determine and eliminate the cause of his allergies, he can go back to his usual bathing and conditioning routine. Continue using his hypoallergenic bathing products; they’re soothing for his sensitive skin.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.