Antifungal dog shampoos can relieve the symptoms of a variety of skin-related fungal infections. Here’s our guide to the best antifungal dog shampoos, along with tips for choosing the right option for your pet.
A high-quality antifungal shampoo can provide relief from itching, scaly skin, and other symptoms. Medicated shampoos don’t always solve the underlying cause, which is why a vet appointment is essential, but are an important part of managing fungal infections.
This article explains when using an antifungal dog shampoo might be helpful and how to choose a high-quality product. I’ve also listed five of the best antifungal shampoos.
Contains chlorhexidine and miconazole
The Dechra Pet Shampoo has a combination of chlorhexidine and miconazole to help treat fungal infections. It also contains lemongrass, which has natural antifungal properties.
When you hear the word ‘fungi,’ you may think of mushrooms or mouldy bread. While these are two examples of fungi, there are actually many types of these spore-producing organisms – and some can cause fungal infections for your dog.
Harmful fungi can be found in the environment, so most dogs are exposed to them. Some forms can also be contracted from other dogs, through inhalation of spores or a wound on the body. They may even be dormant in your dog’s body until there’s a trigger, such as a compromised immune system or allergies.
Fungal infections are often isolated to the skin, but can also affect other parts of the body. It can be very serious if the infection spreads through the circulatory system, which is why treatment is vital.
Fungal skin conditions cause a variety of symptoms. However, many of these symptoms can also be caused by other health conditions, which is why getting an accurate diagnosis from a vet is essential.
Some of the most common symptoms of fungal infections include:
If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to seek advice from your vet. Without treatment, the problem can escalate quickly. In some cases, as with ringworm, it can also be contagious.
Unlike bacterial infections, fungal infections can’t be treated using antibiotics. They often require specific antifungal medication. Treatment can be a long process, as it’s important to address the root cause to prevent the infection from returning.
The use of antifungal dog shampoos often accompanies other oral or topical treatment prescribed by your vet. While shampoos usually won’t cure an underlying problem, they can provide relief from itching and help to inhibit fungal growth.
There are many types of fungal infections that can affect dogs, although some are more common than others.
An antifungal medicated shampoo can be an effective part of treating fungal skin infections, but it’s important to check with your vet to see which types are appropriate.
It’s also a good idea to patch test the shampoo on a small area of your dog’s body before using it all over. Some dogs can be sensitive to certain ingredients, and these can trigger a reaction that could irritate your dog’s skin.
Yeast infections are one of the most common types of non-contagious fungal infections. Typically caused by an abnormal growth of the fungus Malassezia pachydermatis on the skin, it can result in itching, inflammation, bad odors and crusty skin.
This type of infection typically develops when excess oils develop on the dog’s skin. It can often be caused by underlying allergies or a compromised immune system, which is why treatment may be difficult.
Certain breeds, especially those with more skin folds or droopy ears, can be more prone to developing yeast infections. Examples include Basset Hounds, Lhasa Apsos and West Highland Terriers.
Yeast thrives on sugar, so a change in diet and avoiding products that contain these in high quantities can help. It can also be a good idea to steer clear of shampoos with lots of sugary ingredients.
Ringworm, also known as dermatophytes, is another fungal skin infection in dogs. It’s commonly caused by the microsporum canis fungus. Despite the name, there isn’t actually a worm involved.
This skin condition is highly contagious and can spread by direct contact with an infected dog’s skin, or even through contaminated objects like beds, food bowls or toys. The fungal spores can remain active for up to 18 months and can even spread to humans.
Although usually not itchy, this fungus causes circular patches of hair loss, inflamed or scaly skin, and a dry or brittle coat. Topical treatments (including shampoo) and oral medications are usually required, alongside thorough and repeated decontamination of your dog’s environment.
Some fungi can cause serious systemic infection when inhaled or eaten. This can lead to skin related symptoms, alongside more severe issues such as respiratory and gastric problems.
Infections like blastomycosis, histoplasma and coccidioidomycosis tend to be found in specific environments within the United States. Others, like aspergillosis, can be present nationwide. It’s vital for your vet to accurately diagnose the infection before treatment begins.
Choosing an antifungal shampoo isn’t always easy, as there are many products containing a variety of active ingredients. Here’s an overview of what to look for when selecting an antifungal shampoo.
Antifungal medicated dog shampoos will contain at least one active ingredient that’s clinically proven to treat fungal infections. They usually work to inhibit the regrowth of the fungus.
Some of the common active ingredients shown to be effective include:
Some shampoos may contain multiple active ingredients to tackle a wider spectrum of infections. Keep in mind that shampoos are often just one part of treatment though.
You may want to look for antifungal shampoos containing other beneficial ingredients, as these can have anti-itch, moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. These benefits are especially important for dogs that are prone to hot spots, sensitive skin or other skin problems.
Ingredients like vitamin E, shea butter, aloe vera, oatmeal and coconut oil are good examples. Coconut oil has even been shown to have antifungal properties, as have certain essential oils like lemongrass, eucalyptus and peppermint.
Tip: Dog suffering from dandruff? Check out our guide to the best dandruff shampoos for dogs.
Yeast skin infections can cause your dog to develop an unpleasant sweet smell. Picking a shampoo with natural deodorizing properties can provide temporary respite from this symptom.
Where possible, try to avoid artificial perfumes or ones that list ‘fragrance’, rather than an actual named ingredient to avoid the risk of further irritation.
A veterinary-approved antifungal medicated dog shampoo will inevitably contain chemical ingredients. Ideally, you still want to pick one that minimizes the amount of unnecessary chemicals used, as these can sometimes be irritants to already aggravated skin.
I also recommend selecting a dog shampoo that avoids harsh chemicals such as parabens, artificial colors or artificial fragrances, and chemically-derived cleansers like sulfates.
Tip: Not sure which non-medicated shampoo to choose when your pup just needs a wash? Check out my complete guide. I’ve also written in-depth guides to dog conditioners, puppy shampoos and hypoallergenic shampoos.
Here are five of the best dog shampoos for fungal infections, in terms of ingredients, benefits and value for money. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but make sure you check which shampoos are suitable with your vet before buying.
Dechra Pet Shampoo contains a combination of 2% chlorhexidine and 2% miconazole. This is stronger than many other shampoos with similar ingredients, making Dechra our top pick for an antifungal shampoo for dogs.
Studies have shown that using these active ingredients together has greater efficacy than when each is used on their own. This combination is widely accepted as one of the most helpful for inhibiting fungal growth.
It also contains Tromethamine, which acts as a pH adjuster and buffer for the skin. This helps the shampoo to be absorbed without disrupting the skin’s natural pH balance.
The lavender and lemongrass oils help to create a pleasant natural fragrance, and lemongrass also has antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
We think this is an excellent shampoo, so there aren’t many drawbacks. You need to shake the bottle well before use to ensure that the ingredients haven’t separated though.
The VetMD medicated anti-fungal shampoo is another excellent choice. It contains two active ingredients – chlorhexidine gluconate and ketoconazole – and is paraben-free.
Chlorhexidine is a commonly used ingredient for the treatment of fungal skin conditions in dogs. While it’s shown to be more effective when used in combination with miconazole, it’s still recognized as helpful when used on its own or with other relevant active ingredients.
Ketoconazole is also a widely used fungal inhibitor, but studies show that it’s not quite as effective as chlorhexidine and more frequent treatment will be required to see the desired effect. The combination of these ingredients means VetMD is an effective choice though.
The VetMD shampoo also contains tea tree oil, which may have natural antifungal properties. It’s thought to be particularly beneficial when treating ringworm.
If the fungal infection is causing flaky skin, the vitamin E in this shampoo could help to moisturize and reduce inflammation too.
The VetMD shampoo has a pleasant lavender scent which can freshen up your dog if they have a smelly yeast infection. It’s a shame that it’s not clear what the scent is made from though. It’s just listed as ‘fragrance’ on the label.
The shampoo has a very thick, gel-like consistency, and can be tricky to apply without it slipping off your hand. It only has to be left on the coat for up to five minutes, which isn’t as long as other medicated options.
This Veterinary Formula antifungal shampoo contains ketoconazole and benzethonium chloride as the active ingredients.
Ketoconazole is a highly effective antifungal. Benzethonium chloride also has recognized antiseptic and antimicrobial qualities, making it ideal for preventing the growth of further fungi or bacteria if the skin is broken.
This shampoo also uses gentle coconut-based cleansers, and the aloe vera has great natural soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
Additionally, the lanolin found in the shampoo will moisturize dry or flaky skin. Lanolin is oil secreted from sheepskin, however, so this shampoo won’t be suitable for vegan dog owners.
Like the VetMD shampoo, Curaseb contains chlorhexidine gluconate and ketoconazole, but with a slightly stronger formulation. This could be helpful for more serious or recurrent fungal infection treatment.
It doesn’t, however, have many other beneficial natural ingredients. The label also lists “fragrance” rather than giving the exact ingredients.
Another drawback is the runny consistency, so care should be taken to ensure you don’t accidentally pour too much out the bottle. Make sure you shake well before use.
Vetone KetoHex contains 2% Chlorhexidine and 1% Ketoconazole. This is decent strength, so could work well for moderate fungal skin infections.
The Vetone shampoo doesn’t contain many other beneficial natural ingredients though. If your dog has dry or irritated skin, it probably won’t provide the same soothing properties.
The strong and artificial fruity fragrance is also more likely to irritate your dog than milder scents. It will help with neutralizing (or at least masking) the odor of a yeast skin infection though.
Sometimes it’s possible to prevent fungal infections, while other times it can be completely outside your control – particularly if the infection is picked up from the environment.
There are a few steps you can take to minimise the risk though. Here are a few examples.
In many cases, fungal infections are secondary to another condition. Seeking advice from your vet will help you understand what treatment is needed and whether there could be an underlying cause for the condition.
Hormonal disorders, like Cushing’s Disease and hypothyroidism, can cause fungal infections on the skin. Allergies can also contribute to the problem, whether they’re environmental or dietary. You may need to go through a process of exclusion to work out what’s triggering the allergic reaction.
Keeping your dog’s immediate environment clean is also important, and this is especially true when it comes to highly contagious ringworm.
To prevent the spread or reoccurrence of this type of infection, your dog’s bedding should be regularly cleaned and the house disinfected. Regular vacuuming is also essential.
Certain breeds can be more prone to developing fungal yeast infections, including Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels and Shar Peis.
Breeds with more skin folds tend to be more susceptible. These dogs need frequent cleaning to avoid bacterial or fungal buildup between folds. It’s also important to thoroughly dry them to minimize the chance of an infection developing.
All dogs should be thoroughly dried after swimming or bathing. Additionally, try to minimize their access to dirty ponds and swampy areas, as these are a haven for fungi.
For antifungal shampoos to be effective, they need to be massaged into the dog’s skin and coat, and (usually) not rinsed off for at least ten minutes.
Make sure you have plenty of yummy treats on hand. It’s often a good idea to involve another family member, whose only job is to keep your dog calm, distracted and stress-free during this process.
Most shampoos need to be reapplied every two to four days over several weeks for maximum impact.
Using an antifungal dog shampoo, following the appropriate diagnosis from your vet, can help to soothe your dog’s skin and inhibit the growth of the fungus.
You should always ensure the shampoo includes active ingredients that are proven to be effective against fungal infections. The treatment will also need to be repeated regularly for several weeks.
Our top pick is the Dechra Michonahex + Triz Pet Shampoo. It contains chlorhexidine and ketoconazole at 2% strength, which are both effective at controlling fungal infections. It also contains lemongrass essential oil for its natural anti-fungal effect.
Do you have any questions about choosing the best antifungal dog shampoo for your pet? Please use the comment form below.