Can Human Shampoo Be Used on Dogs? What Every Pet Owner Needs to Know!

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As pet people, we often find ourselves sharing many of our personal things with our dogs--blankets, towels, food, the couch, and even our comfy beds.

Yet, there are some of our things that just shouldn't be shared with them--things like our personal care products.

Shih Tzu dog in a tub

A question I frequently get asked by other pet parents is whether it's ok to use human shampoo on their dogs. My answer is generally "No."

While it might seem like a practical and cost-saving idea to use human shampoo on your four-legged friend, it's generally advised against. This is primarily due to the differing pH levels between human and dog skin.

Using human shampoo on a dog can upset the natural balance of their skin, potentially leading to dryness, irritation, and even more serious skin conditions.

We'll explain the science behind the difference between human and dog skin, and why this makes human shampoo unsuitable for dogs, keep reading...

The Big Difference Between Human and Dog Skin

To fully understand why human shampoo isn't suitable for dogs, we first need to grasp the concept of the pH scale.

Picture the pH scale as a straight line from 0 to 14, where 7 falls smack in the middle.

pH Scale dogs skin vs human

This mid-point is where pure water would stand, and it's considered neutral.

Now, if we take a step to the left of 7, we're in the acidic territory, and stepping to the right, we're in the basic or alkaline zone.

Here's where things get interesting: human skin tends to be slightly acidic hanging out around 5.5, while dog skin is more neutral, typically landing somewhere between 6.5 to 7.5.

Quite a difference, right?

This is precisely why using human shampoo on dogs can throw off their skin pH balance, leaving them feeling all kinds of itchy and uncomfortable.

So, next time you're tempted to share your favorite shampoo with your four-legged friend, remember the pH scale and reach for the doggie shampoo instead.

Will Using Human Shampoo Once In A While Be Harmful to a Dog?

Great question!

It might seem tempting, especially when you've run out of doggie shampoo, but using human shampoo on your pooch should be avoided if at all possible.

Even if it's just once in a while, it can still disrupt your dog's skin pH balance and lead to discomfort, itching, and other skin issues.

Our shampoos just aren't designed for their skin type.

In a real pinch, you could use a tiny bit of baby shampoo, such as Johnson's or Burt's Bees, as it's gentler and slightly more neutral, but it's still not ideal.

The best thing is always to keep some dog shampoo handy.

You know how the saying goes, "It's better to be safe than sorry!"

Your dog's comfort and health is definitely worth that extra bit of planning.

Is There Anything Else To Consider?

Glad you asked...

In addition to understanding the potential harm and irritation that human shampoo can cause to a dog's skin and coat, there are a few more things to consider.

  • Frequency of Bathing

Dogs do not need to be bathed as frequently as humans. In fact, too much bathing, regardless of the shampoo used, can strip away the natural oils in a dog's skin and lead to dryness and irritation.

Asking your vet they're professional opinion is a good place to find out how often to bathe your dog.

  • Conditioners

If you're going to use a conditioner on your pup, make sure it's one that's made for dogs.

Just like shampoos, the stuff made for people will likely have ingredients that are harmful or irritating to dogs.

  • Water

If you find yourself in a pinch and you don't have dog shampoo, just using plain old water to rinse off your dog could do the trick.

Pet wipes are a good choice, too.

Another possibility is to make a homemade dog shampoo using natural ingredients like ground oatmeal and baking soda. Just be sure that all ingredients you use are safe for dogs.

  • Rinse, Rinse, and Rinse Again

No matter what shampoo or conditioner you use, it's crucial to rinse your dog thoroughly, as any shampoo left on a dog's skin could cause irritation.

  • Ask a Vet

If your dog has a skin condition or you notice any changes in their skin or coat after using a new product, it's best to consult a vet. They can provide advice on the best products to use and treatments for any skin conditions.

Ok, let's switch gears and look at the the perks of using dog-specific shampoos. They're not just a marketing gimmick!

The Best Reasons to Use Shampoo Made For Dogs

Using dog shampoos on dogs comes with several benefits. Here are just a few of the perks:

  • Balanced pH: Dog shampoos are specifically formulated to match the pH level of a dog's skin, which is more neutral compared to humans. This helps maintain the skin's natural barrier and keeps it healthy.
  • Gentle Cleaning: Dog shampoos are designed to effectively clean your pet's fur without stripping away the natural oils that protect their skin. This helps prevent dryness and irritation. 
  • Safe Ingredients: Dog shampoos are made with ingredients that are safe for dogs. They avoid harsh chemicals, artificial fragrances, and other additives that can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation in dogs.
  • Special Formulations: There are various types of dog shampoos tailored for specific needs. For instance, there are hypoallergenic shampoos for dogs with sensitive skin, medicated shampoos for dogs with skin conditions, and flea and tick shampoos for dogs that need pest protection.
  • Enhances Coat Health: Many dog shampoos contain ingredients like aloe vera, oatmeal, and vitamins that help improve the health and appearance of your dog's coat. They can make the fur shinier, softer, and easier to manage.
  • Pleasant Smell: While dogs shouldn't be exposed to strong fragrances, many dog shampoos have a mild, pleasant smell that can help keep your dog smelling fresh.

In a nutshell, using a quality dog shampoo ensures that your fur-baby's skin and coat are properly cared for, keeping them healthy, comfortable, and looking their best.

And, remember, the safest and best option for your dog's skin and coat health is to use products specifically designed for dogs.

Final Thoughts On Your Doggy's Skin and Coat Health

So, you might be thinking what's the big deal if you use your own shampoo on your furry friend, especially if you've run out of their usual stuff.

But here's the thing - it's really not the best idea.

Our skin and our dog's skin are like apples and oranges. Us humans are more on the acidic side, while our pups are more alkaline.

So, when you use human shampoo on your dog, with all its different pH levels and potentially irritating ingredients, it can mess with their skin's natural balance.

This can lead to all sorts of problems like dry, itchy skin, and even infections - and we definitely don't want that!

Even the gentler human shampoos, like baby shampoos or hypoallergenic ones, aren't really cut out for dogs and shouldn't be used as a regular swap.

So, what's the best move? Always go for the doggy shampoo.

It's made just for them, keeping their skin and coat in tip-top shape.

But...if you're caught without dog shampoo, a good rinse with water or a super mild, fragrance-free baby shampoo can work in a pinch.

But remember, this is a just-in-case solution, not a regular routine.

And hey, if you're ever worried about your pup's skin or coat, don't hesitate to reach out to your vet. They're the pros, after all.

At the end of the day, we all want what's best for our furry friends, right? So, let's keep their grooming routine strictly doggy-approved!

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