Can I Use Human Shampoo on a Dog?

Every dog owner arrives at the question of weather you can use human shampoo on a dog or not. Its been a lovely morning, just you and Fido on the wooded trail leading to peace and serenity. Well, right up to the point your loyal canine companion sees a squirrel. Suddenly, you remember the reason you prefer leashes that have a wrist loop and not just a retractable one that flies right out of your hand.

Before you blink, Fido turns into a hunting dog, leaving you running after an escaped pooch and trailing leash. Meanwhile, trying not to show amused onlookers that you can hardly breathe and weren’t anticipating a morning sprint, you increase speed to keep up with the great chase.

Congratulations, Fido! You have treed the squirrel. However, now dog and owner are covered in mud as, of course, the squirrel traversed through any route necessary to escape the harrowing chase. Enter mud puddle.

Pulling back into the driveway, the first order of business is to bathe the matted tresses of fur before Fido escapes to the white leather sofa in your living room. But what to do? After searching high and low under every cabinet in the house, you discover there isn’t a trace of dog shampoo to be found. Eyeing your shampoo in the shower, the temptation is real.

Can you wash your dog with human shampoo?

Short answer, no, and here’s why. Would you believe that a dog’s skin is more sensitive than a human’s skin? Yes, let’s say that, again. Would you believe that a dog’s skin is more sensitive than a human’s skin?

It’s all about the pH levels. At some point in life, most of us have heard the term, but do you know what it means? Turns out, you will want to listen to this mini-lecture – if not for you, then for Fido. I mean, he is your best friend! Think of all the vet and pet store bills you pay annually for vaccinations and doggie toys. Come on, fess up! You love your canine companion.

The pH level of a substance determines whether it is acidic, neutral, or alkaline. According to the experts, aka The American Kennel Club, a dog’s skin falls into a range close to neutral. On the contrary, human skin is much more acidic than our furry friends.

Puppy that dries under a towel after taking a shampoo bath

So, what happens if you use the shampoo from your shower to freshen up Fido? Well, it can actually harm the squirrel treeing mate. At this point, you may still be a little irritated at the cross country morning’s adventure, but let’s face it; a mid-morning nap after a nice warm bath sounds terrific to all involved!

It turns out, dogs have layers of oils on their skin that provide protection from exposure to harmful elements such as bacterias and viruses. In addition to breaking down Fido’s natural layer of security, you may well induce rashes or skin issues that tend to arise from excessively dry skin. In other words, a ten-minute bath and shampoo may lead to scratching and whimpering in your four-legged friend.

But why? Even with a difference in the skin’s pH levels, how can one shampoo be harmful? Due to the differences in pH, human shampoos are formulated with ingredients that take into account the acidic nature of our scalps. When non-canine pH balanced shampoos are used, deterioration of the acid mantle occurs, which is the layer of protective oils and skin mentioned earlier. As bacteria then invade the surface, a distinct odor occurs, leaving canine owners continuously wanting to bathe their pets.

Do you see the recursive cycle?

  • In Fido’s case, the dog gets muddy and has the time of his life chasing a squirrel.
  • You realize you are completely out of canine shampoo.
  • Not wanting your white living room sofa damaged, you grab shampoo from your shower.
  • Fido gets a bath with your human shampoo that is not only balanced for an acidic environment, but it strips layers of protective oils and skin cells from your pet.
  • Fido begins to cast an odor making you think you must have missed a few spots when you gave him a bath.
  • Fido gets another bath with your acidic human shampoo.
  • Fido goes outside for a walk, and unbeknownst to you, some bacteria and viruses jump onto his back and go along for the ride.
  • Poor Fido’s fur begins to really smell, and he is continuously scratching.
  • You are frustrated and begin to think he needs a bath, again; this time it is from today’s walk, of course!
  • Fido is now scratching so much you have to schedule an appointment with the vet. His skin is dry and flaky, and now Fido has lesions from his nails scratching the surface so hard.

How can all of this be avoided?

PetMD has some great advice on what to look for in dog shampoo, and surprisingly enough, minus the muddy fur coat from today’s expedition, Fido only needs a shampoo bath every few months. PetMD recommends simply water baths in between shampoos.

When shopping for the right canine shampoo, think natural ingredients. Harsh chemicals will irritate skin regardless of the pH. Consider soothing ingredients such as honey and oatmeal while avoiding artificial fragrances and lengthy lists of ingredients.

Above all else, READ the labels and ingredients when buying dog shampoo. Even though a label states “dog shampoo,” look for the pH level on the product. You will want to give Fido a luxurious bath with a pH of 7, or the closest you can get to 7, to keep his acid mantle happy and your vet bills low.

Our pets are family, and frequently, as owners, we don’t know what we don’t know! Be sure to share this information with all the pet lovers in your life. Who would have thought that Fido’s bath could lead to such detrimental effects? If you find yourself in a situation where your dog HAS to take a bath, and there is no doggie shampoo at home, just use water until your next shopping trip to find the appropriate pH balanced shampoo for the special canine/s in your life.

Leave a Comment