Many pet parents use human shampoo on dogs. After all, it gets our hair clean, shouldn’t it get theirs clean too? Plus…isn’t “dog shampoo” just a scam to get you to pay more for something you already own?
Not so much.
In fact, using human shampoo to bathe your dog can actually cause health problems from basic dry itchy skin to full blown bacterial infections!
So, today I want to talk about the differences in human and dog shampoo and why you should always use a shampoo formulated for your pup!
Why You Should Stop Using People Shampoo on Dogs
All terrestrial vertebrates have a slightly acidic layering over the top of their skin. This layer is called the “acid mantle”.
The purpose of the “acid mantle” is to protect the topmost layer of skin against viruses, bacteria, and toxins.
The acid mantle is made up from amino acids, skin oils, fatty acids, perspiration, lactic acid and moisture from the skin.
The acid mantle is what determines the pH level of our skin.
Since each living species and breed of vertebrate differs from others, the composition and consequently the pH of the acid mantle varies. For example, human beings tend to have an acid mantle with a pH of between 5.2 and 6.2. Dogs, on the other hand, have slightly more alkaline skin with a pH level of between 5.5 and 7.5.
When we use cleansers like shampoo, we disrupt the natural acid mantle of the skin – you know how your skin gets tight after you wash with soap and water? That’s why.
So, it’s important that you utilize cleansers that are formulated for the correct pH level.
When you use human shampoo to wash your dog, for example, you are using a cleanser formulated for the human acid mantle of a pH level between 5.2 and 6.2. Now, this may work for one dog, but for some breeds who have a much more alkaline skin mantle of 7.5, this shampoo is going to be far too acidic.
What happens when you use a cleanser that isn’t formulated for the correct acid mantle pH level?
Depending upon the natural pH level of the skin and the pH level of the cleanser being used, a number of things can occur.
- Skin can become dry and uncomfortable.
- Skin can become flakey.
- Skin can become severely dry and cracked.
- Skin can become very itchy and irritated.
- Skin can become infected and consequently odorous.
- Skin can begin overproducing oil to try to compensate for dryness resulting in greasy skin and coat.
How can you remedy these symptoms when you have been using human shampoo on dogs?
Depending on the severity of your dog’s skin irritation, you may need to visit your veterinarian for topical treatment to ease itching and treat any infection. You may simply need to apply a little coconut oil to rehydrate your dog’s skin or you may need to talk to your vet about a shampoo or dip that will help to restore the pH balance of your dog’s skin.
What if Everything Seems Alright When Using Human Shampoo on Dogs?
Even if your dog seems to do well when you use a human shampoo to cleanse their coat, it is still not advised. There is always the chance that over time you could damage your dog’s skin by repeatedly drying it out.
What Dog Shampoo Should You Use?
We prefer to stick with natural shampoos. Our favorite brand is Aromapaws which you can pick up from Amazon here.
How Often Should you Bathe Your Dog?
Most dogs need to be bathed only once or twice a year. Bathing your dog more than this can disrupt the pH of your their skin and lead to the issues noted above. Infrequent bathing, however, lets the natural oils in your pet’s skin and on their coat build up to protect them against toxins and maintain a healthy pH balance. In between those baths, you can rinse off your pup, “spot clean” with shampoo, or use natural wipes for smaller incidents.
In between baths, you can rinse off your pup, “spot clean” with shampoo, or use natural wipes for smaller incidents.
Since Jet is partially incontinent these days, we use a combination of spot cleaning with shampoo, baby wipes, and “sponge bathing” with a warm soapy flannel.
Have questions about bathing your dog or using human shampoo on dogs? Leave a comment below!