Rub a dub dub, it’s time for Sparky to get in the tub! But then – oops – you discover you’re all out of dog shampoo. You might be wondering, can you use human shampoo on dogs?
The short answer is no, it’s not a good idea to wash your dog with human shampoo. If you can delay bath time until you have a chance to shop for dog shampoo, that’s the best option. Here’s why human shampoo isn’t good for dog bath time, what to look for when you go shopping for a quality dog shampoo, and other tips to make sure bath time is safe and fun for your pet.
Why You Shouldn’t Wash Your Dog with Human Shampoo
Washing your dog with human shampoo, while not the end of the world, is not a good idea. If you use human shampoo on your dog regularly, it can even cause damage to your dog’s skin and coat. Here’s why you should avoid using human shampoo during canine bath time:
- Some human shampoos include ingredients that are unsafe for dogs
- Your dog’s skin chemistry is different from yours
- Dog skin is also more sensitive than human skin
Human-Safe Ingredients Might Be Unhealthy for Dogs
There are many ingredients in human shampoos that might be perfectly fine for people to have on their skin and near their eyes, nose, and mouth. But those same ingredients might be unhealthy and possibly even toxic for dogs. When a shampoo is designed and approved for humans, there is no consideration given to what is healthy for dogs.
Some ingredients that you might find in a human shampoo that are dangerous or just not very beneficial for dogs include fragrance, artificial colors, parabens, sulfates, and even isopropyl alcohol. Even if you don’t see these on the ingredient list for a human shampoo, there are likely some ingredients you don’t recognize that may irritate your pet or make them sick if ingested. It’s not worth the risk.
Dogs Have Different Skin Chemistry Than Humans
Time for a little chemistry lesson to help you understand why human shampoo doesn’t work for dogs. The skin of both humans and dogs has a very distinct pH balance, which measures acidity. All skin (on both humans and other animals) has a layer where you find this acidity, which protects the topmost layer of skin from bacteria and viruses. Remember, the skin is a living organ – the largest on your body and your dog’s – so it needs to be protected and maintained.
Bathing removes the acid mantle on the skin, which also functions to keep the body hydrated. This is part of the reason your skin often feels dry after bathing, and why many bath products include moisturizers to counteract the breakdown of the acid mantle.
This important layer on top of your dog’s skin has to have the proper pH levels in order to function, meaning it needs the right amount of acid and the right amount of alkaline. For humans, the proper balance is about 5.5, which is more acidic. Dogs, on the other hand, need a more neutral balance closer to about 7. When you use a human shampoo on a dog, their pH balance is thrown off, which leaves that top layer of skin at risk. Not only does this make it easier for their skin to become infected with bacteria, parasites, and viruses, but it also leaves them feeling dry and itchy, which can cause scratching that irritates their skin further.
Dog Skin Is More Sensitive Than Human Skin
In addition to the delicate pH balance of a dog’s skin, their skin is actually more sensitive than that of humans. Humans tend to have between 10 and 15 layers of skin cells and dogs only boast about four. This lower number of layers means that harsh chemicals can do serious damage very quickly. This extreme sensitivity not only relates to your dog’s comfort – a human shampoo might be very likely to create topical irritation for them – but also their general health, as a broken-down skin barrier makes them vulnerable to infections of all kinds.
What to Look for in a Great Dog Shampoo
Instead of reaching for the human shampoo when it comes time to wash your dog, find a dog shampoo that you can feel good about. A high-quality product will:
- Include natural ingredients
- Be pH balanced for dogs specifically
- Help you address your dog’s skin needs
- Be different for puppies than adult dogs
Natural Ingredients Are Best for Dogs
Natural ingredients are best in anything you plan to use on or around your dog. There are many natural ingredients that can be beneficial for your dog’s coat and skin in a variety of ways. Our Pretty Pup CBD Shampoo for Dogs is pH-balanced and uses green tea and cucumber to keep your dog’s coat shiny and bright. Other natural ingredients you might find in a dog shampoo that can moisturize and protect your dog’s skin include olive oil, honey, colloidal oatmeal, and aloe vera.
A Great Dog Shampoo Will Be pH Balanced
Because of the acidity differences in human and dog skin, the label of a good dog shampoo will indicate that it is pH balanced. This is one of the most important qualities to look for in a dog shampoo. A dog shampoo with a pH balance of about 7 is perfect for your pooch, and the pH can range anywhere from 6.2 to 7.4. Most dog shampoos will mention the exact pH on the label, but at the very least they should say “pH Balanced.”
Your Dog Might Need a Specific Formula for Skin Support
You might want to look into a dog shampoo that will address a specific need, such as a product that helps reduce shedding or a medicated shampoo for flea and tick treatment. Maybe moisturizing your dog’s skin and coat is a priority if you live in a place with dry weather, or perhaps you need the opposite if you have a breed that’s prone to an oily coat. There are even specific shampoos designed for dogs who are prone to hot spots or other skin conditions.
Our Itchy Pup CBD Shampoo, for example, is pH-balanced and specifically designed to calm your dog’s itchy or irritated skin with the soothing properties of oatmeal, olive oil, and honey. There are plenty of different formulas out there, and you might be able to improve your dog’s quality of life with the right dog shampoo.
Puppies Need Puppy Shampoo
It’s best to find a puppy-specific shampoo for any dogs under a year old. These formulas are often even more gentle than those we use on adult dogs, and they are designed to protect sensitive pups. While you can sometimes use a very gentle dog shampoo on a puppy, you never want to use a medicated dog shampoo on a dog under a year, and puppy shampoos are a safer option all around.
Furthermore, it’s generally recommended that you don’t start washing a puppy with shampoo or conditioner until they are about three months old. For the first few months of their life, their skin is a much more self-sustaining ecosystem and it’s best to leave it be. If your puppy gets very messy in these early days, you can usually just rinse them off with water.
Other Tips to Ensure Dog Bath Time Is a Success
A great, high-quality dog shampoo is just the first step to a successful bath time routine with your pooch. Here are some other tips to ensure Fido gets clean and stays happy while doing it:
- Consider a conditioner
- Make sure your dog is entirely soap-free and dry after the bath
- Don’t bathe your dog too often
- Bathing should be part of a holistic grooming routine
Should I Use Shampoo and Conditioner for My Dog?
Conditioners can be a wonderful addition to your dog’s bath routine, especially if they need a little extra moisturizing support or they have a long coat that needs detangling. Just as with shampoo, you don’t want to use human conditioners on your canine. Stick to dog-specific formulas that use natural ingredients to moisturize and protect your dog’s skin and coat.
The Importance of Rinsing and Drying Your Dog’s Coat
What comes after bath time is almost as important – possibly more so – as what happens during bath time. You definitely want to be sure you’ve rinsed off every trace of dog shampoo. Even high-quality dog shampoo made from healthy ingredients can irritate your dog’s skin if it’s not rinsed off entirely after the bath. Soap residue is a big no-no to dog bath time.
Once your pet is fully rinsed, it’s time to get them dry and warm. Drying your dog completely is also crucial to ensuring they stay healthy. If your dog’s coat stays wet or moist for too long, it can cause hot spots, irritation, and other skin conditions. Most pet owners use a combination of towel drying and a blow dryer to make sure their pet is all dried off after the bath.
How Often Should I Wash My Dog?
Bathing your dog too regularly can cause skin dryness and irritation and disrupt their coat’s natural protective oils. But not bathing enough can cause mats in their fur and even skin infections. The appropriate amount of washing for your pet will depend on a number of factors, including their breed, age, and activity level. Most dogs need a bath about once a week. Consult your veterinarian if you’re not sure how often you should be bathing your pet.
Bath Time Is Just One Part of Grooming
Your pet’s grooming schedule will likely have other components besides bath times. Almost all dogs need to be brushed with some regularity, and some might even need trimming and haircuts on occasion. You also need to maintain your pet’s dental wellness with regular tooth brushing and keep their nails trimmed. Some of this grooming can be done at home and you might consider a professional’s help for other, more complicated tasks. Either way, it’s important to view your dog’s bath experience as part of a larger grooming schedule that you do together.
Already Used Human Shampoo on Your Dog? Don’t Panic
So, can you use human shampoo on your dog? You shouldn’t, but if you do, it’s not the end of the world. Especially if you used a gentle human shampoo for sensitive skin, or a baby shampoo, your dog will likely be fine if it was just a one-time accident. Monitor your pet for skin irritation and be sure to find a bottle of dog shampoo for their next bath. Don’t make a habit out of using human shampoo on your dog – there are too many good dog shampoos out there that can keep your pooch comfortable, moisturized, and healthy!