COVID-19 Information Center

Topical Therapy for Skin Conditions in Dogs and Cats

Date Published: 11/08/2016
Date Reviewed/Revised: 05/10/2022

Applying shampoos, rinses, ointments or wipes to your pet’s skin can be important when managing your pet’s skin condition. Topical therapies can wash pollens off the coat, moisturize the skin, exfoliate the skin, and decrease itch. Some topical therapies also contain different antiseptics and medications, and can be used to treat bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections.

The following are general guidelines on how to use topical products. Please wear gloves if the product contains steroids or if you know that you are sensitive to a product.

Bathing Your Pet

  • Most medicated shampoos do not lather well. Only use one to three palm-sized amounts of these topicals with lots of water.
  • Use cool or lukewarm water (hot water can increase itching).
  • Bathe first with a shampoo, then rinse and begin the same process with a conditioner if required. Conditioners are usually moisturizers.
  • Work the shampoo or conditioner down to the skin surface. Avoid applying the shampoo only along the back. Remember to get the armpits, groin, and in between the toes!
  • Leave the shampoo or conditioner on the pet for at least 10 to 15 minutes of contact time before rinsing.
  • Towel dry after bathing (blow dryers can increase itching).

Applying A Spray To Your Pet

  • Sprays can be applied to a washcloth and wiped on a body area if this is easier.
  • Distract your pet by feeding, walking, or playing after using the spray to allow the medication to be absorbed.

Using Wipes On Your Pet

  • Wipes are usually used between toes and skin folds.
  • One wipe can usually be used on multiple body regions.
  • Distract your pet by feeding, walking, or playing after using the wipe to allow the medication to be absorbed.

Dipping Your Pet

  • Dips are sponged or sprayed onto a pet and left to dry without rinsing. An Elizabethan collar may need to be used to prevent licking until the dip dries.
  • Use dips in a well-ventilated area.

If your pet’s skin appears more red, itchy, or irritated after applying a product to the skin, rinse the product off well with water and notify your pet’s veterinarian.