What should I look for in a shampoo?

My veterinarian Dr. Cathy Alinovi brought up the subject of blogging and asked me if I knew any groomers who had a grooming blog. I gave her some names and links, and also my own which is not necessarily grooming but they are all dog related topics. Well she asked me if I needed a few questions to get me started blogging again, I told her yes, so she came up with "What should I look for in a shampoo?". After being a groomer for 17 years, and having a plethora of pet shampoos at my disposal, this is a difficult question. One thing that stands out to me as a groomer and a consumer is pet products do not require ingredient labelling on the shampoos because they are not regulated. This is scary! I'm not really worried about shampoos per say, but when you use one on a dog and either the dog breaks out or YOU break out because of using it, don't you think it may be important to know what ingredient isn't agreeing with you? Case in point, I had a client who brought their own shampoo they bought from their vet and my hands began itching after using it on their dog. I called the company who told me that I am not a veterinarian and that information is proprietary. They wouldn't tell me what was in it. Well this made me furious, because as a groomer it is ME, not the vet who is TOUCHING the shampoo and it is ME who is having an allergic reaction to it. How dare this company have such little regard for groomers! What if the owner of the dog broke out? Would they get the same line when they called them? As a pet care professional it is my duty to know what the heck I am using for which type of skin or coat issue. My business relies on my expertise, after all every dog that walks out of my salon is an advertisement for my business. If a dog breaks out because of an allergic reaction to a product and the company will not disclose all the information because they are afraid I may give their secret away and make a knock off and get rich from it... well do you see my frustration? Do you see human hair product companies doing this? NO! Why? Because they are regulated and have to list ingredients. Are there knock off Pantene's? Yes, and everyone wants a bargain but customer loyalty is usually very high with certain products and I really don't see the Pantene company suffering from it, So for me, complete ingredient listing is important.

The next thing to look for is what kind of skin and coat does my dog have? Is my dog itchy, dry, flaky, or smelly? Does my dog have a harsh wiry coat and I want to keep it that way? Does my dog suffer from allergies and is sensitive to just about everything? Does my dog have a long coat that mats easily? Is my dog's coat oily? This is why I have so many shampoos and conditioners in my salon. You never know what is going to walk in the door. A good groomer can point you in the right direction as far as which products to use. We have had lots of practice!

Most people use the "sniff"  method to determine a good shampoo. If it smells good to you, it will be great! Yes and no, depending again on what is going on with your dog's skin. If your dog has normal skin and coat, you can do this. If you dog is sensitive or allergy prone, skip anything with fragrance because that will set them off.
Then there is the "feel" test.  This requires that you buy the product and use it, and feel your dogs coat to see is it still oily? Does it smell good? Is the hair soft to the touch if it's supposed to be or harsh and wiry if that is the type of hair the dog has?  How long does this feeling last? A couple of days? More than a week? (That is if your dog doesn't go out and roll in something awful.)  Does it feel good every time you shampoo or after a few shampoos does it begin to lose it's luster?  Depending on what is in the shampoo, you can get build up just like we do if we use the same products over and over.  Sometimes switching between a couple of products is helpful. 

Also over using medicated shampoos can exacerbate the skin problems! The bottom line is you can't fix bad skin with shampoo alone.  It starts from within.  If your dog is greasy, flaky or itchy there is a good chance he has an allergy and 9 times out of 10 it may be what you are feeding your dog. Find a good holistic veterinarian in your area and discuss diet with them.  www.ahvma.org is where to start! Many main stream vets honestly just do not have expertise on what ingredients are in dog foods, or they simply go by what the dog food reps tell them.  (Don't get me started on that subject)  Research dog food ingredients!  Go to sites like www.truthaboutpetfood.com  and read the articles.  There are many good websites that have popped up with good information on them after the massive 2007 dog food recall. You would be amazed at the role diet plays in your dogs skin and coat! 

Finally, when in doubt, just ask your groomer!  We are always happy to help our customers with any questions they have regarding their pets. We love them too! There is no greater joy for a groomer than an owner who cares enough to ask what to use and how to use it!