Medicated Shampoo Use

Medicated Shampoo Use

Your customer arrives with his dog and a bottle of shampoo from the veterinarian. “Can you please use this? Thumper is one itchy dog, and his doctor wants us to try this to see if it helps.” Read on to see the best way to proceed. 

  • Begin by reading the label. Depending on the active ingredients in the product, there will be various use instructions. In almost every case, the shampoo must remain on the pet for 5-10 minutes. The reason for this is that the medication actually alters the skin cells, and it must be in contact with the skin for the prescribed time, or you are wasting your time and energy, and your customer is wasting the cost of the product.
  • Prime the coat before using. Medicated products are designed to perform a specific task, but cleaning is not really what they do best. First, wash the pet with a good, basic cleansing shampoo to remove dirt, debris, and sebum. The medicated product will be able to do its work best if the skin and coat are clean.
  • Shake the product well.
  • Consider wearing gloves when you apply any medicated product to a pet. They are not fun or comfortable, but they are a good idea for the sake of your skin and health.
  • Work the shampoo into the coat from nose to toes, paying particular attention to the areas you notice the skin is irritated, the hair thin, or the pet is obviously showing signs of irritation.
  • Use caution applying medicated products around the face and eye, as medicated shampoo may be extra irritating.
  • Wrap the pet in a towel to prevent it from chilling, and set a timer for the prescribed time.
  • Monitor the pet to make sure it does not lick the shampoo off. 

When the time is up, rinse the pet thoroughly, paying particular attention to any skin folds, the “armpit” area, and areas where the coat is thick. 

Finally, apply a light conditioner to help replace the natural oils removed by the shampoos. 

Since using a medicated shampoo takes longer than your regular bathing protocol, you might consider adding a fee when applying it. Many groomers add a per-minute fee of $1 to 2 for the soak time. It is best to explain this at drop-off so the customer is prepared for the fee change. 

Knowing the best way to utilize prescription shampoos helps you to help the pets you care for.


Daryl Conner has been devoted to making dogs and cats more comfortable and beautiful for almost 40 years.  You can find her happily working at FairWinds Grooming Studio with her daughter and infant granddaughter, or typing away at her latest grooming-related article. Daryl was awarded both a Cardinal Crystal Award and Barkleigh Honors Award for journalism.  She shares her meadow-hugged antique Maine farmhouse with her practically perfect husband and too many animals.