For centuries, oatmeal baths have been a popular home remedy for dry, itchy skin from poison ivy, eczema, and numerous other inflammatory conditions (1, 2, 3). So it’s no wonder many pet parents are wondering: Is oatmeal good for dogs with itchy skin, too?
Turns out, the healing powers of oats can help dogs that are scratching or licking at sensitive spots feel better.
“I first discovered how well oatmeal works on myself when I had chicken pox,” says Dr. Katalin Grant, a board-certified veterinarian specializing in general and emergency medicine, surgery and dentistry. “Oatmeal is very soothing to the skin, and I’ve been prescribing it to my clients’ dogs for years.”
Thanks to oatmeal’s naturally moisturizing and skin-protective qualities, it’s found in numerous shampoos, gels, and creams for humans and canines alike. But the oats you serve up for breakfast aren’t quite the same as what you’ll find in the best oatmeal shampoos for dogs.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about oatmeal dog shampoo, including the benefits of using it, conditions it can help treat, whether the do-it-yourself version is worth your time, and what to look for on the label.
What Is Oatmeal Dog Shampoo?
Oatmeal dog shampoo is made with one key ingredient: colloidal oatmeal.
“The process of making colloidal oatmeal includes grinding up the Avena sativa oatmeal into a very fine powder, bringing the product and water to a boil, and sifting off the oatmeal particles,” Grant explains.
After that, it’s combined with liquids and other ingredients specially formulated to avoid disrupting the delicate pH balance on the surface of dogs’ skin. Since dogs have more sensitive skin than ours, it’s ideal to choose products designed for pets to avoid further irritation.
Is Oatmeal Shampoo Good for Dogs?
Short answer: Yes! Colloidal oatmeal has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (4), so dog shampoos made with it can help soften and protect your pup’s skin, Grant says.
While more research is needed on exactly how different components in colloidal oatmeal soothe skin, scientists believe a slew of compounds are responsible for its beneficial effects. For example, starches and sugars found in oats lock in moisture, antioxidants like vitamin E and avenanthramides ease swelling and itchiness, and soap-like chemicals called saponins help clean off skin (2).
It’s always important to talk to your veterinarian before trying out any new grooming products. But oatmeal dog shampoo gets the stamp of approval from Grant: “In the 30 years I’ve been practicing, I’ve never seen an allergy to oatmeal yet,” she says. “I’ve only seen soothing, healing responses.” Experts agree it’s rarely irritating (5).
Oatmeal Dog Shampoo Benefits
- Moisturize dry skin
- Create a stronger skin barrier to lock in hydrating ingredients
- Reduce inflammation and irritation from rashes or chronic skin conditions
- Soothe itchy skin
- Wash away dirt and grime to keep skin and coat clean and free of infection
Uses for Oatmeal Dog Shampoo
Oatmeal dog shampoo is a great staple to add to your grooming routine if your dog has dry, itchy, or sensitive skin. According to Grant, it can also be used when skin irritation arises from the following issues (5):
- Hot spots
- Canine atopic dermatitis
- Flea allergy dermatitis
- Skin rashes related to other allergies or food sensitivities
Keep in mind that oatmeal shampoo does not actually treat the above conditions, but it can soothe some of the associated discomfort. Dogs with these conditions still need veterinary care and treatment for the underlying disease to see any significant improvement.
Oatmeal Dog Shampoo for Itchy Skin
One of the most common reasons pet parents reach for oatmeal dog shampoo is to give their pup much-needed relief from itchy skin, and Grant confirms it’s a great solution for this problem.
However, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to ensure you’re treating the underlying cause as well, whether that’s a fungal infection, flea infestation, allergy, or something else. For example, many pet parents have asked, is oatmeal shampoo good for dogs with yeast infection? In that scenario, your veterinarian will likely recommend a shampoo with chlorhexidine or other ingredients with antiseptic and antifungal properties (5), though the shampoo may also contain oatmeal to help soothe the skin. Oatmeal shampoo should not be used in dogs with skin infections.
Once underlying skin issues are addressed, oatmeal dog shampoo can make for a soothing product to use for regular baths.
Will Oatmeal Dog Shampoo Kill Fleas?
Although oatmeal dog shampoo can certainly help dial down the itch factor, it cannot get rid of fleas. “Unfortunately, fleas are very stubborn and difficult to treat,” Grant says. “I have not found any home remedy that works to eliminate them.”
When it comes to zapping these tiny menaces for good, opt for the safest, most tried-and-true flea treatments under the guidance of your veterinarian, she advises.
Homemade Oatmeal Dog Shampoo: Is it Worth It?
There are plenty of homemade oatmeal dog shampoo recipes you can find online, but Grant recommends against the DIY route.
Why? Finding the correct type of oatmeal, boiling it, sifting it, then properly combining it with the correct balance of additional ingredients is a tall order. And, at the end of the day, it’s much easier to find a brand you trust that already has the best ingredients in the right portions to help your pet, she says.
Oatmeal Dog Shampoo: What to Look For
The best oatmeal dog shampoos have few ingredients and are free of potentially irritating ingredients like parabens, artificial fragrances, and dyes, says Grant. Other things to look for on the label include vitamin E and aloe, which can also help ease skin irritation.
Lather up your pup with oatmeal dog shampoo, and you might find they’re a little more comfortable in their skin once bath time is over. Considering just how common and frustrating relentlessly itchy skin can be, this time-honored remedy is worth a try, along with a visit to your vet to identify the cause of the itch!