Folliculitis is a common skin condition in dogs that causes inflammation and infection of the hair follicles. This uncomfortable condition can lead to itchiness, redness, pustules, and hair loss. While there are several treatment options available, many dog owners wonder if an oatmeal bath can help soothe their pup’s inflamed skin.
In this article, we’ll explore the details of folliculitis in dogs, the benefits of oatmeal baths, and how oatmeal baths can be used as part of an effective treatment plan.
What is Folliculitis in Dogs?
Folliculitis refers to the inflammation of the hair follicles in a dog’s skin. The hair follicle is the tunnel-like structure in the skin that anchors each individual hair. Folliculitis can affect dogs of any age, breed, or gender.
However, some predisposing factors can increase a dog’s risk of developing folliculitis, including:
- Allergies – Dogs with environmental or food allergies tend to have irritated skin that is more prone to infection.
- Underlying skin disease – Dogs with preexisting skin conditions like seborrhea or atopic dermatitis are more likely to develop secondary folliculitis.
- Compromised immune system – Dogs with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to bacterial or fungal skin infections.
- Endocrine disorders – Disorders of the endocrine system, like hypothyroidism, can make dogs more susceptible.
- Skin trauma – Breaks in the skin from scratching, shaving, or clipping can allow bacteria to enter the follicles.
The most common cause of folliculitis in dogs is a bacterial infection. Staphylococcus pseudintermedius is the bacteria most often implicated, however, other types of bacteria like E. coli can also cause infection. Fungal infections, like ringworm, can be another cause of folliculitis in dogs.
In mild cases, folliculitis may result in scattered red bumps and minor hair loss. In more advanced cases, dogs develop extensive patches of hair loss, pustules, crusts, and reddened skin. The condition is often very itchy, which can cause dogs to scratch, lick, bite, and rub the affected areas. Without treatment, the infection can worsen and spread.
Benefits of Colloidal Oatmeal for Dogs
Colloidal oatmeal refers to oatmeal that has been ground into an extremely fine powder and suspended in water. This form of oatmeal has powerful skin benefits due to its natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-itch properties. Using a colloidal oatmeal bath can provide the following advantages:
- Soothes skin – The natural polysaccharides and active phenols in oatmeal provide calming relief to irritated skin.
- Moisturizes skin – Oatmeal contains fats that help moisturize, restore, and protect the skin barrier.
- Cleanses skin – Oatmeal has natural cleansing abilities to remove dirt, oil, and built-up skin cells.
- Anti-inflammatory – Compounds in oatmeal called avenanthramides possess anti-inflammatory effects to reduce redness and swelling.
- Anti-itch – Colloidal oatmeal reduces itching sensations, providing relief from constant scratching.
- Safe and gentle – Oatmeal is very gentle on the skin, making it safe even for puppies and dogs with sensitive skin.
Many dog shampoos and sprays contain colloidal oatmeal as an active ingredient to harness these beneficial properties. Oatmeal baths provide a simple, affordable at-home remedy to help soothe and heal irritated skin.
Using Oatmeal Baths to Treat Folliculitis in Dogs
While oatmeal baths will not cure folliculitis alone, they can be a helpful part of an effective treatment plan. The anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties of colloidal oatmeal can help provide immediate relief to a dog’s irritated skin. Here’s how oatmeal baths can be used to help manage folliculitis:
- Soothing inflamed skin – The irritation and inflammation of infected follicles cause significant discomfort. Oatmeal baths can reduce this inflammation and sensitivity.
- Relieving itching and scratching – The compulsive urge to scratch is difficult to control in dogs with folliculitis. Oatmeal baths can interrupt this itch-scratch cycle.
- Removing crusts and debris – Gentle cleansing with oatmeal can help wash away pus, dried discharge, and crust formation on the skin’s surface.
- Preparing skin for topicals – Cleansed, soothed skin allows medicated shampoos, ointments, or sprays to better penetrate and treat infected follicles.
- Moisturizing between baths – Lightly misted oatmeal spray can provide soothing moisture between baths.
- Preventing recurrence – Regular oatmeal bathing can support skin health and prevent recurring infections.
For best results, oatmeal baths should be used in combination with veterinarian-recommended medicated shampoos, topical ointments, and/or oral antibiotics to fully clear up the folliculitis infection.
How to Give a Dog an Oatmeal Bath
Giving your dog an oatmeal bath is simple. Here are step-by-step instructions:
- Colloidal oatmeal powder or oatmeal bath product
- Bathtub, sink, or large basin
- Warm water
- Dog shampoo
- Brush your dog’s hair thoroughly before bathing to remove dead hair and debris. Be very gentle if there is inflammation or sensitivity.
- Fill your tub or basin with several inches of warm water. The water should be a comfortable temperature for your hands.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of colloidal oatmeal powder into the tub and mix to dissolve. Alternatively, you can use an oatmeal dog shampoo or oatmeal bath soak product as directed.
- Place your dog in the tub and wet their coat with the oatmeal water. Avoid getting water in their ears and eyes.
- Gently massage the oatmeal-infused water into your dog’s skin, focusing on the affected areas. Allow them to soak for 5-10 minutes.
- Use a washcloth to gently cleanse your dog’s coat. Take care not to rub or irritate sensitive spots.
- Drain the tub and rinse your dog thoroughly with clean water.
- Follow up with a mild dog shampoo if needed. Focus on rinsing out all shampoo residues.
- Dry your dog with towels, absorbing as much moisture as possible. Blow dry on a low setting if necessary.
- Provide plenty of praise and treats!
Oatmeal baths can be given as often as every other day for a dog with active folliculitis. The skin-soothing and cleansing benefits will encourage healing. Make sure to monitor your dog’s skin and seek veterinary guidance for proper treatment.
Tips for Effective Oatmeal Baths
Here are some tips to get the most benefit from oatmeal bathing:
- Choose a colloidal oatmeal powder made specifically for pets. This ensures suitability and safety.
- Start with 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup of oatmeal powder per bath and adjust as needed. More powder equals more powerful results.
- Give a soothing follow-up rinse with an oatmeal hydrosol spray to hydrate the skin.
- Pat dry clean spots but air dry infected areas to avoid rubbing sensitivities.
- Pair oatmeal baths with an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking and biting of hot spots.
- Apply a soothing oatmeal-based balm to inflamed areas after bathing.
- Supplement baths with an oatmeal shampoo between soakings to cleanse and deodorize.
- Keep baths brief in duration to avoid over-drying natural oils in the skin.
By using oatmeal baths as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for your dog’s folliculitis, you can help provide relief from the frustrating symptoms of this bacterial skin infection. Be sure to get veterinary guidance to properly clear up the infection and prevent recurrence down the road. With some TLC and oatmeal soaks, your dog’s skin woes will be washed away.
Potential Risks and Precautions
It is important to note that oatmeal baths carry little risk for most dogs. However, there are some precautions and potential risks to be aware of:
- Allergies – Extremely rare, but some dogs may be allergic to oatmeal. Discontinue use if any signs of adverse reaction.
- Respiratory issues – Avoid allowing oatmeal water near the nose/mouth of dogs prone to aspiration issues.
- Skin sensitivity – Oatmeal’s compounds rarely cause skin irritation, but rinse immediately if redness develops.
- Slippery tub – Wet oatmeal can create a slippery surface. Provide footing assistance for elderly/disabled dogs.
- Ingestion – Dogs should not intentionally ingest large amounts of oatmeal.