We’ve all been there, need to give your dog a bath—They came in from playtime stinking to high heaven and it’s a bath emergency. Maybe they rolled in the mud and now resembles a swamp monster, or perhaps they found something particularly foul to roll around in. Whatever it is, they needs a bath now. But is it okay to raid your shower or go searching under the bathroom sink for an old shampoo bottle you never finished?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Human shampoo can be harmful to your dog, so it’s better to use a shampoo formulated specifically for dogs. Keep reading to learn why.
1. The pH Balance of Your Dog’s Skin Is Different From Yours
The outer layer of your dog’s skin is called the epidermis. The epidermis itself is made up of multiple layers, the outermost being the stratum corneum, where the acid mantle lives. That acid mantle protects your dog’s skin from bacteria, viruses, and yeasts that can cause infection.
Using human shampoo on your dog can harm the acid mantle, thanks to incompatible acidity (pH) levels.
The pH balance refers to the acidity or alkalinity of something. Anything below 6.4 is considered acidic, and anything above 6.4 is alkaline. Human skin typically ranges from 5.2 to 6.2, which is mildly acidic. Dog skin, however, can range from 5.5 to 7.5, which means their skin tends to be more alkaline than ours.
Our shampoos are tuned to our pH balance, and the same is true for dog shampoos. Human shampoo is far too acidic for your dog’s skin, and upsetting their pH balance can lead to irritation, dryness, and abrasions due to scratching.
2. Ingredients Like Artificial Colors and Substances Can Be Harmful
Some ingredients just don’t mesh well with dogs—or humans—so do your best to avoid these:
- Artificial colors
- Artificial fragrance (phthalates)
- Sodium lauryl sulfate
Instead, look for shampoos that use:
- Colloidal oatmeal
- Tea tree oil
- Vitamin E
- Aloe Vera
- Natural citrus, eucalyptus, neem, lavender, or chamomile fragrances
3. Human Shampoo Can Irritate Already-Sensitive Skin
Human shampoo works by stripping oils from the skin, but dogs need those oils to keep their skin healthy and irritation-free. That natural protection is necessary for a healthy coat to fight off parasites and bacteria.
Without those healthy oils, irritation and scratching are more likely and can lead to bigger problems. If you notice any hot spots or skin lesions, take your dog to the vet for professional care, and consider bringing the shampoo bottle along so your vet can help you identify any irritating ingredients you might have missed.
The Final Word:
To avoid the complications listed above, keep human shampoo away from your dog. Make sure to keep a bottle or two of shampoo formulated specifically for canines around. However, if it’s truly an emergency and you have no other options, try to use the gentlest shampoo you can find, such as baby shampoo or colloidal oatmeal shampoo. Doing so will minimize the damage to your dog’s coat and skin.
On that note, don’t forget to rinse your dog well—it’s the most important part of the bath. A good rule of thumb is that it should take (at least) twice as long to rinse your dog as it did to lather them up. A thorough rinse will remove all traces of shampoo and help to keep your dog’s skin healthy and protected.