5 Best Hypoallergenic Dog Shampoos to Reduce The Risk of a Reaction

Gentle shampoos for dogs with allergies

Written By: Gemma Johnstone | Last Updated:

If your dog has sensitive skin, choosing a mild shampoo with minimal ingredients could reduce the chance of an allergic reaction. Here’s our guide to the best hypoallergenic dog shampoos – plus a quick guide to what the term actually means.

A guide to the best hypoallergenic shampoos for dogs
The word ‘hypoallergenic’ is somewhat misleading, as there’s no guarantee any shampoo will prevent a reaction – it all depends on what your dog is allergic or sensitive to. 

However, if your dog has sensitive skin or often scratches a lot after a bath, choosing a hypoallergenic shampoo may decrease the chance of a flare-up. 

The minimal ingredients of a hypoallergenic shampoo are usually gentle and lacking in harsh chemicals. This allows the shampoo to wash away environmental allergens with less chance of causing an additional reaction. Sometimes these products also have soothing properties, for dogs that may be prone to dry or irritated skin.

Knowing which shampoo to select when you have a dog with sensitive skin can be difficult. This article will help you understand when using a hypoallergenic shampoo can be appropriate, what to look for, and five of the best to choose from.

Please Note: If your dog is scratching excessively, or has irritated, inflamed or dry skin, you should always seek advice from a vet. 

Our #1 Pick

4-Legger Unscented Dog Shampoo

4-Legger Unscented Dog Shampoo

Organic and gentle

My top pick for a hypoallergenic dog shampoo is the 4-Legger Unscented. It’s an organic shampoo with minimal ingredients, a gentle formula and a scentless formula. It also contains aloe vera for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Why No Pet Shampoo Can Claim to be Truly “Hypoallergenic”

It’s understandable to think that a product labelled ‘hypoallergenic’ guarantees your dog won’t have a reaction when using it. The term really only means there is a reduced chance of a reaction though. 

Because there’s no legislation around the term “hypoallergenic,” we rely on responsible manufacturers to be upfront about their ingredients. Even so, it’s always worth digging deeper into the ingredients list yourself, rather than making a choice based on the front of the label.

The best dog shampoos for allergies contain a minimal list of ingredients. The more ingredients in a product, the more chance of your pet experiencing a reaction.

Like puppy shampoos, they also contain gentle ingredients. Harsh chemicals like sulfates, parabens and other synthetic ingredients can dry out the skin, and these should be avoided.

Many anti-allergy shampoos are also fragrance-free. Creating an appealing scent doesn’t make your dog cleaner, but adds to the ingredients list, increasing the odds of a reaction.

Keep in mind that naturally-derived ingredients tend to be gentler, but your dog can still be allergic to them. It’s also important not to wash your dog too frequently, as this can strip natural oils from the dog’s skin and coat.

Does Your Dog Need a Hypoallergenic Shampoo?

If your dog has a reaction to standard dog shampoo, or they have sensitive skin, it may be worth trying out a hypoallergenic formula. These shampoos are often just as effective for washing, but with a shorter ingredient list to reduce the chance of further irritation.

Hypoallergenic shampoos can also be useful for dogs who are sensitive to environmental allergens. Ideally, the shampoo can wash away pollen and other allergens, without causing an additional reaction.

If your dog suffers from dry or itchy skin, the gentle ingredients of a hypoallergenic shampoo can also be soothing. They often contain substances like aloe vera and vitamin E, which are known for their itch-relieving properties.

Additionally, because hypoallergenic shampoos tend to have a shorter list of ingredients, it’s easier to narrow down the culprit if your dog has a reaction. This can then be excluded from the next product you trial. 

Of course, if there are ongoing problems with your dog’s coat or skin, these should always be assessed by a vet. The best dog shampoo for a specific condition varies depending on which type of treatment is most effective.

What Makes a High-Quality Hypoallergenic Shampoo?

As I mentioned, there’s no regulation around which shampoos can be called hypoallergenic, so it’s important to do your own research. Here are some key features of the best hypo-allergenic dog shampoos:

  • Minimal ingredients. Long ingredient lists should be avoided if your dog has allergies. Not only is there more chance of the product containing something that could set off your dog’s sensitive skin, but it’s also harder to perform an exclusion exercise. Fewer ingredients make it easier to identify which one is the problem.
  • Transparent ingredients. If the product lists ‘fragrance,’ ‘natural colorings’, or a proprietary formula, then it’s a cause for concern. The ingredients could be controversial or potentially dangerous. Even if they aren’t, it’s harder to know if the shampoo contains problem ingredients for your dog.
  • No harsh chemicals. Sulfates and parabens are common ingredients in human and dogs shampoos, but they can cause irritation and dryness – even for dogs without sensitive skin. Thickening agents like polyethylene glycols should also be avoided. While natural ingredients (such as coconut oil and aloe) can cause reactions too, they are generally less likely to dry out the skin and cause irritation. Soap-free shampoos are also popular for a gentler wash.
  • Unscented. It may be nice for us to have our dog smelling lovely after their bath, but scents lengthen the ingredient list without benefiting your pet. When scents are listed as a generic ‘fragrance’, this is even more worrisome. It likely means the shampoo contains a mix of chemicals, which could increase the chances of your dog experiencing a reaction.
  • Soothing and moisturising. Shampoos that contain ingredients known for their soothing properties can be beneficial for dogs that are prone to dry and itchy skin. Examples include aloe vera, oatmeal, vitamin E and certain natural oils. Of course, there’s no guarantee that your dog isn’t sensitive to these substances too, so make sure you test on a small patch first.

Hypoallergenic shampoos are made with minimal and simple ingredients. As a result, they may not lather as thickly, smell as sweet, or have the same consistency as a standard dog shampoo. They also tend to not be a 2-in-1 combination of shampoo and conditioner, as this increases the quantity of ingredients. 

That doesn’t mean they are less effective though. The priority is cleaning your dog effectively without causing an allergic reaction or other skin issues – and they can do a great job at this.

5 Best Hypoallergenic Dog Shampoo Reviews for Allergy Sufferers

Listed below are five of the best dog shampoos for allergies, along with reviews to help you choose. Make sure you read each review carefully to find the right option for your pet.

1. 4-Legger Unscented Dog Shampoo

The 4 legger is our pick for the best dog shampoo for those with allergies

This hypoallergenic dog shampoo from 4-Leggers is our top pick. It’s certified organic, free from detergents and sulfates, has a gentle formula and is designed for dogs with sensitive skin.

There are five natural ingredients, which reduces the chances of your dog having a negative reaction. These include:

  • Coconut oil for its moisturising and healing properties.
  • Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties, making it ideal for soothing dry or irritated skin.
  • Jojoba oil rarely causes an allergic reaction, and it has moisturising and healing properties for the skin and coat.

The 4Legger is also ideal for eco-friendly shoppers, as it is biodegradable and contains cruelty-free ingredients.

A little goes a long way with this product, but you may find it’s thinner than a traditional shampoo. It doesn’t have any scents added either, to reduce the chances of a reaction.

2. Earthbath Fragrance-Free Hypoallergenic Pet Shampoo

Earthbath is another of our best hypo-allergenic dog shampoo picks

The Earthbath natural pet shampoo is another unscented option, with only five natural, biodegradable and vegan ingredients.

Along with coconut and aloe vera, it also contains xanthan gum. This has mild moisturising and hydrating properties. It also helps to ensure the shampoo doesn’t get too runny, as xanthan is a natural thickener.

The Earthbath shampoo can be diluted to make sure it lasts a long time. Because it’s fragrance-free, there aren’t any potentially problematic ingredients added just to get a pleasant smell.

3. Vet’s Best Hypoallergenic Shampoo for Dogs

Vet's best

With just four primary ingredients, you really are minimising the chances of your dog having a reaction when you select the Vet’s Best hypoallergenic shampoo for dogs.

Alongside Aloe Vera, it also contains allantoin. This has lots of benefits for your dog’s skin, including excellent moisturising properties, and it’s rarely an irritant. Vitamin E is also well known for promoting healthy skin.

The Vet’s Best is a little runnier than some shampoos, and it doesn’t have a particularly good lathering ability. But the minimal ingredients make this an appealing choice for dogs with sensitive skin.

4. Espree Hypo-Allergenic Tear-Free Aloe Vera Shampoo

Espree

While the Espree hypoallergenic shampoo doesn’t have quite as minimal ingredient list as some of the others we’ve reviewed, it’s still simple, biodegradable and cruelty-free.

This shampoo is especially useful for long-haired dogs whose coats get tangled easily. It contains panthenol which promotes shiny, soft and strong hair, which is essential for breeds with lengthy coats.

Alongside aloe vera, jojoba and vitamin E, the shampoo also contains vitamin A and D, which both promote hair growth.

This shampoo has a decent lather and a fresh smell too, making it pleasant to use at bath time.

5. Perfect Coat Gentle Hypoallergenic Dog Shampoo

Perfect Coat

This popular, fragrance-free shampoo creates a good lather and rinses well too. If you want a hypoallergenic shampoo with a decent lather, it might be worth considering.

It’s not as natural as the others on this list though, and the manufacturer isn’t fully transparent about the formula.

The ingredients include ‘mild surfactant blend’ and ‘moisturizing and rinsing agents’, without stating what these constitute. It also contains sodium laureth sulfate. If you want to minimise the ingredients in a shampoo, then sticking with one of the other recommended products would be a good idea.

What Causes Sensitive Skin?

Dogs can have sensitive skin for a variety of reasons, and the symptoms can manifest in many different ways. You may see general itchiness and skin irritation, flaking, dandruff, hotspots, hair loss, poor coat conditions or even infections.

For persistent or severe skin problems, or brittle coat, you should always seek advice from a vet. They can help you identify the problem and create a treatment plan.

Common skin conditions which can cause sensitive skin include allergies (especially food and environmental), parasites, hormonal issues, stress, and even underlying diseases like Cushing’s. Seasonal allergies may also cause intermittent skin problems.

Summary

If your dog has sensitive skin or allergies, picking a pet shampoo with minimal, natural and transparent ingredients may help.

Just because a product is labelled as ‘hypoallergenic’ doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to not cause a reaction in individual dogs. The best hypoallergenic dog shampoos are less likely to cause a reaction, however, as they contain fewer ingredients and avoid harsh chemicals.

Our top pick for a hypoallergenic dog shampoo is the 4-leggers Unscented Shampoo. It contains natural ingredients that are designed to promote a healthy skin and coat. The minimal ingredients list also reduces the chance of an allergic reaction.

I hope this article has demystified hypoallergenic dog shampoos and helped you choose the right option for your pet. Please reach out to us using our comments form if you have any more questions. You may also want to read our guide to dog shampoos and dog conditioners.

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About The Author: Gemma Johnstone

Gemma is a freelance writer and official dog nut. With 15 years of experience in the pet industry, she is a passionate animal welfare advocate. She has worked for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ran her own specialist dog shop for ten years, has volunteered for her local rescue shelter, and is studying towards completing an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour. Gemma is currently travelling around Europe with her wonderful rescue dog, Annie.