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The 5 best shampoos for dog dandruff, according to vets

A soothing bath with dandruff shampoo can help dogs with dry and itchy skin

Updated October 4, 2021

Created By

Christy Caplan, CVT,
dog bathing

📷 by Darren Richardson

Best dog shampoos for dandruff and mild itchiness  

Best dog shampoos for dandruff, reviewed

What we love: This shampoo from Veterinary Formula acts quickly when your dog is miserable! This specific shampoo helps fairly quickly and after 2 or 3 applications and you’ll notice your dog’s skin is calmer, less inflamed and the itching is controlled. Many customer reviews reinforce how quickly their dogs’ symptoms resolve including bald spots, and red skin.

What customer reviews say: This shampoo received 4.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon with over 42,000 reviews. One customer used this shampoo in conjunction with a probiotic and their dog’s scabies were gone in a week. Many reviewers noted that this was the solution to their dog’s dandruff and red, itchy skin.

Ingredients: Coal tar, salicylic acid, coconut oil, purified water, acrylates copolymer, polysorbate 20, micronized sulfur, colloidal oatmeal ups, fragrance, DMDM hydantoin, allantoin, and tetrasodium edta.

What we love: The product from Bexley Labs lathers up nicely and is easy to work into the dog’s coat. The ingredients are effective and most dog owners needed to wash their canine once or twice a week for a few weeks and saw immediate results. The light scent and fragrance made baths fairly pleasant for both the dogs and pet owners.

What customer reviews say: Many customers noted this shampoo made all the difference. Pet owners with dogs suffering from parasites said this stopped all the itching — “It has definitely stopped the itching, smell, no more scabs from the bleeding skin bumps, and no more redness.”

Ingredients: ​​Benzoyl peroxide 3%, salicylic acid 2%: deionized water, sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, propylene glycol, precipitated sulfur, acrylatescopolmer, myristamine oxide, diethylhexyl sodium sulfosuccinate, fragrance, tocopheryl acetate.

What we love: The oatmeal and aloe vera ingredients in Mika Pets’ Oatmeal & Aloe Dog Shampoo are a game-changer for pet owners with itchy dogs. Also, many customers with both puppies and adult dogs suffering from raw red skin saw an immediate difference. Vets often encourage pet owners to look for oatmeal or aloe shampoo ingredients for dogs with excessive itching.

What customer reviews say: Pet owners rate this product 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon. One customer noted this is the best shampoo she has ever tried with her dogs. “Their skin is sensitive so usually after a day or two (if not right after), their coats become flaky/dry/very itchy, lots of dandruff. I’ve tried so many different products from several department stores and have had no luck. Just after the FIRST USE, they are dandruff-free, less shedding.”

Ingredients: Ultra purified water, cocamidopropyl Betaine (surfactant), dimethyl lauramide/ myristamide (emulsified, makes foam), sodium chloride, colloidal oatmeal (skin moisturizer) aloe barbadensis (aloe) leaf juice,potassium sorbate, fragrance, and citric acid.

What we love: Anytime a product uses herbs including rosemary and lemongrass we’re big fans. Also, when essential oils are used safely in shampoo, dogs benefit from their powerful healing benefits. 4-Legger Organic Dog Shampoo is easy to lather and rinse, and naturally moisturizes by utilizing your pet’s natural oils to maintain a soft and shiny coat.

What customer reviews say: Customers love how their dog feels after a bath with this shampoo. One customer in an Amazon review noted that she was drawn to this shampoo because of its ingredient simplicity and the fact that it is saponified oil soap — “which is about as close to natural or organic as one can buy.”

Ingredients: Saponified organic oils of coconut, olive, and jojoba, natural essential oil blend of rosemary and lemongrass, organic aloe vera, and rosemary extract.

What we love: Oatmeal and aloe vera were recommended by our vets and effectively help with skin irritation, promote healing, and re-moisturize dry skin. We love the light vanilla scent and all of the natural and organic ingredients included in Earthbath’s Oatmeal & Aloe Shampoo & Conditioner.

What customer reviews say: This product was rated 4.7 out of 5 on Amazon by customers. Many pet owners commented that this shampoo helped in moisturizing their dog’s skin after using it for about a month. One dog owner said that her dog’s skin used to be dry to the point of flaking off and she would cause herself to bleed from scratching and biting at her skin so much. “I tried a couple of medicated shampoos from the vet but they only temporarily worked and she ended up developing further allergies from the shampoos because she is so sensitive. I’ve been using it on her for a little more than half a year now and I bathe her every two weeks and her skin looks perfectly normal now.”

Ingredients: Purified water, colloidal oatmeal, renewable plant-derived & coconut-based cleansers, organic aloe vera, vitamins A, B, D, & E, glycerin, allantoin, botanical fragrances of vanilla & almond, preservative. CONDITIONER: Purified water, vegetable-derived conditioner & detangler, colloidal oatmeal, organic aloe vera, organic shea butter, cetearyl alcohol, hydrolyzed silk protein, botanical fragrances of vanilla & almond, preservative.

How we picked our favorites

Our vet team reviewed the most popular shampoos designed to help with dandruff and mild itchiness. We handpicked the five best that resulted in the biggest improvement for dogs with sensitive skin and more serious conditions. Any product that had poor customer reviews or contained ingredients that are unsafe were dropped from our list.

  • We skipped shampoos with unsafe ingredients. Stay away from fragrances, mineral oil, sulfates, phthalates, and formaldehyde.
  • We looked for proven results. We compiled a list of shampoos with high praise, and investigated a few anti-itch products recommended by our vets.

The FDA doesn’t review dog shampoos. This news about animal grooming aids may be concerning for pet owners but we chose shampoos that are beyond safe for your dogs with this in mind.  According to the FDA, “the animal counterpart of a cosmetic is commonly referred to as a “grooming aid.” The Act defines a cosmetic as pertaining only to human use (21 U.S.C. 321(i)). Therefore, products intended for cleansing or promoting attractiveness of animals are not subject to FDA control.”

Why do dogs get dandruff?

Dandruff is excessive scales and the skin may or may not be oily. Pet owners may see excessive amounts of dead skin on their dog and they’ll notice their furry friend is itching all the time. A dog’s skin consists of three layers (like human skin), and the top layer — the epidermis — is where the problem of dandruff occurs, according to experts at Tufts University,

Millions of cells get released individually every single day — and millions of new cells replace them. When something goes wrong you have dandruff: abnormal scaling of different cells. The cells stick together instead of sloughing off individually.

👉Learn more about primary and secondary seborrhea and how to treat it in our guide to doggie dandruff

Why is dandruff an issue?

The epidermal barrier protects dogs from UV damage and prevents bacteria as well as fungus from getting into the body. Dandruff and damaged skin may cause issues for your pup. The skin cells help fight disease and prevent things from getting into the body. Dandruff can also harbor bacteria so it’s essential pet owners address this issue early on.

How often should pet owners bathe their dogs with dandruff?

Our vet explains that certain dog breeds that have dry skin or dandruff (or those that roll in the dirt!) may benefit from baths during colder months and throughout the winter season to help hydrate their skin. During the winter months, the body sometimes can’t keep up with the balance of oils and bacteria, resulting in dry, itchy, and flaking skin. Pet owners should follow the directions on the back of any OTC product before bathing their dog.

👉 As directed by their veterinarian. On average, this may be every 48 to 72 hours, depending on the severity of dandruff and if there are any secondary skin issues.

Choosing a shampoo for your dog’s dandruff

Always look for shampoos without harsh chemicals but with organic ingredients. The best dog anti-dandruff shampoos address skin problems and mild irritation. Oatmeal dog shampoo is a wonderful option for irritated skin and dry flakes. You’ll find an oatmeal shampoo on our shortlist of best dog dandruff shampoos for dogs with sensitive skin and odor.

What ingredients should a dog dandruff shampoo contain to be safe and effective?

While there are many ingredients that are unsafe, we have a list of SAFE ingredients to look for when you choose a shampoo to address itchiness. Make sure to time your topical flea preventives carefully! Follow the directions so you don’t shampoo after your dog is treated for parasites at home.

  • Aloe vera
  • Salicylic acid
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Sulfur

Other safe natural ingredients frequently used in DIY shampoos

👉 It’s best to avoid human shampoos because our skin’s pH is different from that of dogs. Like with all shampoos, avoid contact with the eyes.

Using a conditioner with shampoo may also help itchy dogs 

Conditioners have ingredients with moisturizing properties and are used in conjunction with shampoos. According to VIN, “Conditioners contain various oils/fatty acids, often along with other active ingredients (e.g., oatmeal or pramoxine for antipruritic effects). These products de-tangle hair and help return softness and luster to the coat. They may also serve as a “barrier” to help retain moisture within the epidermis.”

What if shampoos don’t work? 

If these special shampoos don’t clear up your dog’s dandruff, it’s important to visit the vet. If your dog is developing a skin infection, has skin lesions, or is itchy and regular baths aren’t helping, you want to schedule a vet appointment as soon as possible. Your vet may recommend a special medicated shampoo that you can’t purchase OTC or other necessary treatments.

Several tips on how to treat dandruff in your dog

A bath does help dogs with dandruff and there are additional ways to be proactive when it comes to doggy dandruff.

Groom and bathe your doggie regularly — Regular bathing and grooming are important because they remove the buildup of dirt and debris on a dog’s skin and prevent potential skin conditions from developing such as itchiness, dry skin, or oily skin. The skin’s reaction after too many bathing sessions may result in dryness so be careful you’re not overbathing.

Add Omega-3 fatty acids to their diet — Consider adding fatty acids to your dog’s diet. Omega 3 fatty acids are a perfect solution, which can be added to your dog’s meals. Start with a small dose. This ingredient is found in fish oil which supports your dog’s heart health, reduces itchy and flaky skin, and can help relieve allergies and joint pain. It usually takes 4-8 weeks to see dandruff resolve after starting an omega-three fatty acid supplement.

Use an air humidifier Humidifiers are great for dogs when the air is dry. Always get a humidifier with a good filtering process and one that uses distilled water.