Bathing for Results By Patrick S. Rayburn, BS, CAIA
Skin is the largest organ of the mammalian body. Its primary function is “protection”. Bathing, or washing of the skin with anything other than water is abnormal for most domestic and wild animals. In the wild, dogs (and other species) will naturally bathe in water, mud or dust – depending on what opportunities present and how they are feeling. Dust baths are a common animal behavior presumed to serve as a means of thermoregulation, scent marking, removal parasites from fur, feathers or skin, drying after becoming wet for too long or as a natural sunscreen.
So why do we feel the need to wash our pets? The domestication of dogs, cats and horses has altered the environments for which we keep our “pets”. This change has altered their growth patterns, diet, immune response, and restricted their freedom of choice when it comes to grooming and maintenance. Concomitantly, the rise of allergies in dogs is closely related. Many of us keep our dogs and cats indoors. As “roommates”, we often share our living spaces, including beds, sofas and chairs all while enjoying the same AIR! To make these a mutually beneficial experience, we prefer that our pets are free of odor, debris (dirt and feces) and bacteria. This is the primary reason why we bathe our pets- because it makes living with them more enjoyable for US! Many dogs would just as easily roll in cow poop, if given the choice. (some reading this will know exactly what I am talking about!) So why else do we need to bathe our animals? Much of this answer deals with atopy, or a predisposition to being “allergic”. Just as we humans experience seasonal allergies or chronic conditions, many animals also suffer from the affects. Veterinary hospitals in Florida, Arizona and South Texas are replete with stories about the “snow birds” who, shortly after arriving to their winter homes, race to the veterinarian in hopes of providing some relief to their pet who is tearing himself apart. The environmental change has “triggered” a pruritic flare in their pet due to allergies. If left unmanaged, this itch will exacerbate into a full-blown case of superficial bacterial pyoderma. The claws of dogs and especially cats, are loaded with bacteria. As the itchiness continues, these bacteria will get deposited via scratching (also called self-induced excoriation) below the skin’s top layer and embedded into parts of the skin that will harbor, nourish and allow these unwanted organisms to colonize and grow! What’s worse is that today’s bacterial species are not as susceptible to antibiotic therapies as they once were and not every pet will respond to treatment in the same ways.
Veterinary professionals have a myriad of treatment options for dealing with atopic dermatitis (atopy) including: Antibiotics, steroids, antihistamines, non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs, immunomodulators, supplements and dietary modification to name a few. Included in nearly every approach to treating allergic dermatitis is a multi-modal treatment plan that includes topical therapy (BATHS!).
Yes, routine bathing can reduce the abnormal flora on skin while mechanically removing contact allergens and bacteria, thus saving you a costly trip to the vet and your pet from an allergic meltdown. So which shampoo is best? You might ask. After 20 years of experience in the animal health industry, I have seen just about everything that you can put IN or ON a dog,
cat or horse. The industry standard for many years has been a shampoo combining the antifungal properties of ketoconazole with the antiseptic properties of chlorhexidine. This combo has served many pets well...well, until recently. In February 2017, the FDA issued a cautionary statement warning about “rare but serious allergic reactions to the skin antiseptic chlorhexidine gluconate” resulting in 2 deaths of people [insert link to pdf].
While it is unknown why some people are acutely sensitive to chlorhexidine, it is important to note that in order to keep up with the evolution of bacteria, this ingredient has been pushed from active % levels once 1% - to 2% - now 4% concentrations. There is an effective alternative. For decades, veterinary dermatologists have relied on the antiseptic properties of bleach (sodium hypochlorite). Hospitals both human and animal have sanitized with bleach as long as I have been alive, and that is a long time. Sodium hypochlorite is known to be antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. For bacteria, for you “sciencers”, here is the mechanism of action: NaOCl + H2O ↔ NaOH + HOCl ↔ Na+ + OH- + H+ + OCl-
To put this into simpler terms, “biofilm” is the slimy substance that protects and nourishes bacteria on the skin. Bleach in this case, works to break down this slimy substance and degrade the bacterial cell wall and cell membrane thus crippling and killing the bacteria. CommandTM Shampoo from VetriMax is the first-ever sodium hypochlorite shampoo for animals. This unique formulation has been expertly studied and validated.
So why can’t I just use household bleach? Good question! Bleach by itself requires precise mixing to get the correct concentration appropriate for topical use on the skin. Moreover, bleach can be unnecessarily drying to the skin. Lastly, even if you mixed it just right, the solution is unstable (only for a few days) and then must be discarded. CommandTM Shampoo for Animals includes moisturizers to avoid drying of the skin and has been stabilized, making the product last for 3 years and beyond! Combined with AtopiCreamTM Leave-On Lotion Conditioner, this combo is widely used by veterinary professionals to address allergic dermatitis in animals.
Wait, it gets better! CommandTM Shampoo for Animals is mild enough to be used as a general cleanser, deodorizer and brightening shampoo. It contains no artificial dyes or synthetic fragrances or perfumes. The result is a clean, healthy, skin and coat – just the way mother nature intended. Whether you prefer sofa cuddles, bedtime snuggles, jogging in the park or beach play days, this shampoo is the perfect choice.