Does Oatmeal Shampoo Help Dogs With Itchy Skin? (Vet Explains)

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does oatmeal shampoo help dogs with itchy skin

It seems like allergies are more common these days, and not just for humans. Our furbabies seem to be spending more time licking, biting, and scratching dry, irritated skin. Fortunately for many pups, we can provide some relief by bathing them with oatmeal shampoo.

Itchy skin was a common complaint from dog owners in our clinic. Whether from seasonal allergies, insect bites, or another irritant, I saw my share of canine patients that needed relief. In addition to checking for parasites and allergies, I would frequently recommend using an oatmeal bath to help soothe red, itchy skin.

In this post, we’ll look at the benefits of using oatmeal shampoo to treat itching dogs and why oatmeal is so helpful. Then we’ll take time to discuss whether some dogs can develop an allergy to this ingredient. After that, we’ll look at how and how often you should give your dog an oatmeal bath, the types of oats you should use, and how to make a homemade preparation. We’ll also review some of the top commercial oatmeal dog shampoos that are available and explain why you want to use a product that’s formulated for dogs.

So let’s get started.

Oatmeal Shampoo Benefits for Itching Dogs

Since the days of Ancient Civilizations such as Greece, Rome, and Egypt, people have recognized the ability of oatmeal to protect and enhance the skin. This plant-based ingredient contains avenanthramides and phenols which help to soothe irritation and balance skin pH. Because of these qualities, oatmeal shampoo can also help dogs with itchy skin. Using it offers several benefits for your pooch, including:

  • Moisturizing skin by forming a protective skin barrier
  • Soothing dry, itchy, irritated skin
  • Relieve symptoms of hot spots
  • Relieve symptoms of flea and tick bite dermatitis
  • Relieve allergy symptoms
  • Cleanse and soften the coat

Oatmeal offers several benefits to dogs with itchy skin. Because it contains natural chemicals that help to soothe irritation, using it may provide relief for various conditions including hot spots, allergy symptoms, and flea and tick bite dermatitis. Oatmeal shampoos also offer moisturizing properties that benefit the skin and coat.

How Does Oatmeal Shampoo Help for Itching Dogs?

Oatmeal is a natural skin protectant. As the only grain that contains avenanthramides, this substance has several properties that help to combat itchy skin. 

  • Antioxidant properties help to prevent the formation of free radicals that can damage healthy cells.
  • Antipathogenic effects battle fungi and other microorganisms that can cause skin irritation. 
  • Antiinflammatory activity by oat polyphenols offers suppression of inflammatory substances in the body. This helps to minimize skin irritation.
  • Antihistamine properties of the chemicals reduce the release of inflammatory cytokines that cause irritation and itching.

The above properties and actions combine to help diminish itching and protect the skin. In humans, colloidal oatmeal has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of eczema, atopic dermatitis, and other conditions that cause dry, itchy skin. Similarly, oatmeal-based shampoos for dogs can help to soothe irritated skin, relieve dryness, and ease symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.

Summary: Oatmeal contains avenanthramides and other phenols that help to protect and soothe the skin. They do this by exerting antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antipathogenic, and antihistamine effects. As a result, using oatmeal shampoo can help to soothe and protect the skin and may be effective to reduce symptoms of diseases like eczema and psoriasis.

Can My Itching Dog Be Allergic to Oatmeal?

While unlikely, your dog can develop an allergy to oatmeal. Usually, this grain is used to soothe irritated skin and treat other allergy symptoms rather than triggering an allergic response. However, in some canines, the immune system identifies the oat protein as an invader. For these pups, coming in contact with oatmeal triggers a defensive response that results in inflamed, itchy skin.

If you suspect your pooch is allergic to oatmeal, consult with your veterinarian. They may want to conduct a food elimination trial or test for skin sensitivity. Additionally, you can check the label ingredients for other potential allergens that could be causing the irritation. Of course, if you first observe symptoms after shampooing your pooch, stop using the product. If it’s the cause of the itching, the signs should resolve.

Although oatmeal allergy is rare in dogs, it can happen. If you have a pooch that develops an immune response to a product that contains oatmeal, talk to your veterinarian. Fido’s doctor may be able to help you identify the cause. It’s also wise to stop using whatever is causing the symptoms. 

How Often Can You Bathe An Itching Dog With Oatmeal?

How frequently you bathe your dog will depend on his breed, age, coat, skin condition, and health. The average canine requires a bath about every three months. If needed, you can bathe a healthy dog as often as once a month. More frequent shampooing can dry out the coat and skin. 

For dogs suffering from skin allergies, you can use oatmeal shampoo once or twice a week. This level of bathing helps to soothe irritated skin and relieve allergic symptoms. Once the inflammation is under control, reduce the frequency gradually until you only bathe your pooch about once every three weeks to a month as long as the condition stays under control.

An average, healthy dog can get a bath about once every three months. Bathing more than once a month may cause dry skin and hair. For dogs with allergy symptoms, you can use an oatmeal-based shampoo once or twice a week until the condition is under control then reduce it to about once every month.

Can I Use Quaker Oats for An Oatmeal Bath?

As long as you are using plain, unflavored oats, you can use any brand of oatmeal to prepare a bath for your pooch. The best variety to use are rolled oats, but instant oats, quick oats, or slow-cook oats will also work. The most important thing to do when making an oatmeal bath from scratch is to grind the oats to a fine powder.  You can use a food processor, blender, or coffee grinder. By pulverizing the oats, you make it easier for dogs to absorb the soothing avenanthramides and phenols for maximum effect. 

Yes, you can use Quaker Oats or any other brand to make an oatmeal bath for your dog as long as the oats are plain and unflavored. For the best effects, grind the oats to a fine powder. While rolled oats are the top choice, you can also use instant, quick, or slow-cook oats.

How Do You Give a Dog An Oatmeal Bath for Itching?

If you’re bathing your pooch to stop or prevent itching, you can use oatmeal shampoo or prepare a homemade oatmeal bath(see below to learn how). Once you have your shampoo, prepare a bath with warm water by filling the tub to a comfortable level for your dog. Most pups will tolerate water that’s at least high enough to touch their stomach. 

After you place your dog in the bathwater, completely soak the coat. Next, apply the oatmeal paste or shampoo and massage it deep into the coat so that it reaches the skin. Leave the mixture or solution on your dog for at least 5 minutes to allow the chemicals to provide their soothing effects. Then you can rinse your dog completely and towel dry. 

Another option is to take 1 cup finely ground oatmeal powder and mix it into warm bath water, then soak your pooch in the bath for 15 minutes. You’ll still need to massage the water into the coat to treat the skin. After 15 minutes, you can rinse and towel dry your dog.

To give your dog an oatmeal bath, collect your shampoo, draw a bath with warm water, and soak your pal’s fur completely. Massage the solution into the wet coat to ensure the product contacts the skin. Leave the oatmeal on your pooch for at least five minutes before rinsing. Towel dry your pup.

Overview of Popular Dog Oatmeal Shampoos

If you have an itchy dog, oatmeal shampoo may help to soothe the skin and relieve other conditions. When you’re selecting a product for your pup, it’s important to check the label and ingredients. Look for formulas that are designed to be hypoallergenic and contain quality ingredients like vitamin E, aloe, or tea tree oil. Let’s look at some popular oatmeal shampoos for dogs:

Hartz UltraGuard Rid Flea & Tick Oatmeal Dog Shampoo

This shampoo from Hartz includes 0.27% phenothrin to treat dogs suffering from fleas and ticks.  With oatmeal in the formula, the product works to clean the coat and soothe itchy skin. It has a pleasant aroma, but there are mixed reviews about the shampoo’s effectiveness to kill fleas. This product is not safe for puppies under six years of age.

Wahl Dry Skin & Itch Relief Pet Shampoo for Dogs – Oatmeal Formula with Coconut Lime Verbena

Including coconut, lime, aloe, and lemon verbena, this formula is made to moisturize and soothe dry, itchy skin. The shampoo is pH balanced for canine skin so that it helps to maintain the protective acid barrier. Made using natural, plant-based ingredients, the product contains no drying alcohol or parabens. It creates a rich lather that effectively cleanses the coat and leaves a fresh scent.

Pro Pooch Oatmeal Dog Shampoo

With colloidal oatmeal, hydrolyzed wheat protein, vitamins, and aloe vera in the formula, this shampoo from Pro Pooch helps to soothe and heal the skin. There are no parabens, alcohol, or harsh chemicals in the product. The gentle, detergent-free shampoo comes in a highly concentrated form, so a little bit goes a long way. It leaves the coat smooth and clean and works effectively to reduce itching.

CHI for Dogs Oatmeal Shampoo for Dry and Irritated Skin

CHI for Dogs is pH balanced for canines to protect the skin and provide gentle cleansing. The formula includes oatmeal, almond oil, and vitamin E to soothe and nourish the skin. With natural cleansers and moisturizers, this shampoo is designed to leave a smooth, fresh coat. Featuring a thick solution, this product may require dilution. It forms a rich lather that helps to relieve dry, itchy skin.

Oster Oatmeal Essentials Shampoo

Alcohol, paraben, and dye-free, this oatmeal shampoo from Oster has a fresh country apple fragrance. Including coconut, chamomile, colloidal oatmeal, and aloe, this formula is pH balanced for a dog’s skin. The ingredients work to soothe and moisturize the skin effectively.

Burt’s Bees for Dogs Natural Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Colloidal Oat Flour & Honey

Made from natural ingredients, this shampoo from Burt’s Bees is pH balanced for your dog’s skin. It contains no sulfates, parabens, fragrances, or artificial colors. Because the formula includes oatmeal that soothes itchy skin and green tea extract to nourish the skin, it effectively relieves dryness and irritation. Honey in the shampoo adds shine and softness to the coat.

John Paul Pet Oatmeal Shampoo

This sensitive skin formula from John Paul works to soothe and moisturize dry, irritated skin. With hydrolyzed oat protein, aloe, chamomile, and sweet almond oil, the formula gently cleanses the coat and leaves a pleasant fragrance. The special formulation is designed to trap dirt so that it can be removed from the coat. However, this formula contains some ingredients that can be irritating to dogs, such as sodium Laureth sulfate and Cocamidopropyl betaine.

Pro Pet Works Organic 5 in 1 Oatmeal Dog Shampoo and Conditioner

Made in the USA using organic ingredients, this product from Pro Pet Works is safe for puppies 8 weeks and older. Starting with a coconut shampoo base, the formula includes aloe vera, almond oil, hydrolyzed oat protein, and vitamins. The blend of ingredients helps to moisturize and heal dry, irritated skin and relieve itching. It contains no alcohol, parabens, or sulfates and is pH balanced for canine skin.

Pet Head Oatmeal Dog Shampoo

Made with natural ingredients, this dog shampoo from Pet Head includes oatmeal, aloe vera, jojoba oil, and vitamins to nourish and heal the skin. It’s pH Balanced for your pooch’s skin and contains no petroleum-based products. The formula helps to clean the coat and soothe itchy skin. However, the product contains Cocamidopropyl betaine which can be irritating to the skin. 

Espree Aloe Oatbath Medicated Shampoo

Containing no parabens, sulfates, alcohol, or other harsh chemicals, this natural product from Espree is made to be gentle on your dog’s skin. With oat protein that soothes the skin and cleanses the hair and aloe vera to heal and moisturize irritated skin, the formula works to reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms of allergies, sunburn, or insect bites. It’s pH-balanced for your dog’s skin and compatible with flea and tick treatments. This product is dye and fragrance-free.

As you can see, there are a variety of products on the market that may be able to help your itching furbaby. Check the ingredients for helpful substances like vitamins, aloe, and coconut. It’s also important to select a formula that’s pH-balanced for canine skin. 

Our top recommendation from the above list is Wahl Dry Skin and Itch Relief Oatmeal Shampoo. It’s pH-balanced for dog skin and contains a blend of natural ingredients that will soothe and moisturize dry,  itchy skin. The natural lime verbena ingredients also leave a lasting fresh scent.

Are Human Oatmeal Shampoos Safe for Itching Dogs?

We recommend against using human shampoo on your dog for a few reasons. First, the skin pH is different for dogs and humans. If you use a product that’s not appropriately balanced for Fido’s skin, you may damage the protective acid barrier and make your pup more susceptible to skin infections. Additionally, dog skin is more sensitive than human skin. Products that are formulated for humans can contain ingredients that are irritating to your dog’s skin.

That being said, there may be times when you need to wash your dog and don’t have any canine products on hand. In that case, shampoo that includes oatmeal and does not have harmful ingredients may be acceptable to use on an emergency basis. As soon as you’re able, you should replace your dog shampoo stock.

Human skin is different from dog skin, so we generally recommend against using human shampoo on your dog. The formulation could disrupt your pup’s acid barrier and put him at risk for skin infections. You may be able to use an oatmeal-based human product in an emergency.

How Do I Make an Oatmeal Shampoo/Paste at Home?

You can make a homemade oatmeal bath for your dog with a few common household ingredients:

  1. Get 1 cup of plain, unflavored oatmeal. Rolled oats are the best, but you can use slow-cook, instant, or quick oats.
  2. Grind the oats to a fine powder using a coffee grinder, blender, or food processor.
  3. Add 1 cup of baking soda and mix the ingredients thoroughly. 
  4. Combine the dry mixture with 1 quart of warm water to make a liquid formula. Blend completely to create a homogeneous solution.

Apply the mixture to your pup’s wet coat and massage it in. Allow the product to stay on the coat for at least five minutes before rinsing.

All you need to make an oatmeal paste or shampoo at home are some common kitchen ingredients and a blender, mixer, or grinder. Grind some plain, unflavored oatmeal to a fine powder and mix it with baking soda then add water to make your dog an oatmeal bath.

The Final Woof

Oatmeal shampoo for dogs helps many dogs with itchy skin. The grain has long been recognized for its skin-soothing and nourishing properties. Not only is this ingredient useful in human cosmetics, but it can also benefit dogs. Oatmeal shampoo for dogs provides many benefits including moisturizing, cleansing, and soothing dry, irritated skin. While, on rare occasions, a dog may develop an allergy to this ingredient, it’s more likely that an oatmeal shampoo will help to treat allergies and other skin conditions.

If you have a dog with itchy skin, you may need to bathe him more frequently than you would a healthy dog. Quality oatmeal shampoos for dogs can be applied up to twice a week until the symptoms are under control. If you’re making an oatmeal bath at home, you can use any brand of oats as long as they are plain and unflavored. Grind the oats to a fine powder and combine with baking powder and water.  Whether you bathe your dog with a commercial or homemade formula, make sure the solution contacts the skin for at least five minutes.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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