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How Do I Choose the Best Chlorhexidine Shampoo?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Commonly used as an ingredient in therapeutic mouthwash, chlorhexidine is a chemical that has antiseptic and disinfectant properties. It is also a significant component of chlorhexidine shampoo, which is a type of veterinary shampoo that can benefit animals with certain skin problems. When looking for the best animal cleanser, the type of animal it will be used on, the nature of the problem and the strength of the shampoo should all be taken into consideration.

Chlorhexidine shampoo can be purchased commercially from pet shops and online suppliers. It is typically used on dogs, cats and horses to treat bacterial skin infections, rashes and other skin problems. A common strength is 3%, which is strong enough to be effective but not so strong as to be harmful. Even so, before using it on other types of animals, especially very small ones, it is best to check with a veterinarian.

Stronger shampoos are available from veterinarians for treating serious conditions, but these shampoos are typically controlled and not usually readily available for over-the-counter purchase. In some cases a stronger shampoo may be essential for the treatment of a serious skin condition. Look for a shampoo with a concentration of 4% or higher in this case.

Making chlorhexidine shampoo at home is another option. This is accomplished by mixing chlorhexidine gluconate with virtually any good-quality pet shampoo. An advantage to this is that it is generally much less expensive than buying the prepared formula, plus the concentration can be controlled. This is an effective way to get a concentration of 1%, a strength that is not always available in commercial shampoos.

It is important to handle chlorhexidine shampoo carefully, especially around cats. There have been cases of deafness in cats caused by chlorhexidine being used to clean the ears. Once in the ear canal the liquid may eak into the cat’s inner ear through a ruptured eardrum. This can ultimately result in permanent deafness. When selecting shampoos for cats it is advisable to choose a fairly low concentration of chlorhexidine, in order to minimize the chances of such side-effects.

If an animal has multiple skin problems, it may be best to choose chlorhexidine shampoo that has additional active ingredients. Some of these shampoos contain additional fungicide, which can be helpful for ringworm and for dogs suffering with hot spots. Animals that scratch a lot can benefit from shampoo that also has an emollient or other skin-soothing ingredient. Never use this shampoo on an animal unless the label states that it is safe for that type of animal.

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Discussion Comments
By anon348185 — On Sep 14, 2013

Thank you for this info on chlorhexidine for my dog because I have been with her to my vet for weeks on end. My Pom stepped on something and it has made its way into her paw pad after lots of different things. Now they have us giving sulfatrim every 12 hours and cleaning the pad with a chlorhexidine soak. We let it sit 10 minutes then then use a dog sock. If that doesn't work, then it will cost $300 for X-rays and $800 for surgery to get it out. For the $10 dollars it cost to get chlorhexidine soap, it sure seems to be working great in just 24 hours. Again, thank you for the info you have shared. It's made my dog so much happier and her pad is now half the size it was.

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