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Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

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With so many dog products on the market, you may wonder what’s essential and what you can do without. For example, do dogs really need their very own dog shampoo? Why can’t you just use human shampoo on your dog? The short answer is, don’t. Learn the reasons why dogs should have their own shampoo.

Acidity and Alkalinity: The pH Balance

Dog skin and human skin have very different pH balances. The skin has a thin layer called the acid mantle, which protects the topmost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, from contaminants such as viruses and bacteria. It also keeps the body hydrated by absorbing water and reducing evaporation. When we bathe, the acid mantle is washed away. To counter this, most soaps and shampoos have ingredients that moisturize and protect the skin until the acid mantle renews itself. In order for the acid mantle to do its job, the proper balance of acidity and alkalinity is crucial. This is called the pH balance.

Human skin has a normal pH balance of 5.5-5.6, which is on the acidic side. Dogs, on the other hand, have a normal pH balance of 6.2-7.4, which is more neutral. Using a human shampoo on dogs disrupts the acid mantle, leaving your dog vulnerable to parasites, viruses, and bacteria. It also makes their skin feel dry and flaky, which can lead to repeated scratching and abrasions. This makes it easy for bacteria to invade.


Who Has More Sensitive Skin?

Dogs’ skin is actually more sensitive than ours. We have 10-15 layers of skin cells, while canines have only 3-5. Shampoo with the wrong pH balance and/or harsh chemicals can irritate a dog’s skin and strip away the protective oils from their coat and skin.

So, without that crucial acid mantle, dogs are left open to a host of unpleasant and possibly dangerous conditions, ranging from dry flaky skin, rashes, and itching to infections.

What About a Dog Washing Emergency?

It’s 9 p.m. on a Sunday, your dog has just rolled in something disgusting, and you have no dog shampoo on hand. Can you, in this case, bathe your dog with human shampoo? The short answer is yes. Acidity, or pH balance, varies among breeds, and your dog may have more acidic skin than other dogs. Frequency of use also affects reactions. Therefore, if this is a once-in-a-blue-moon thing, your dog will likely be perfectly fine.

Today, many human shampoos are made from gentle, natural ingredients. If your own shampoo includes ingredients such as tea tree oil, aloe vera, or natural colloidal oatmeal, it’s less likely to do damage to your dog’s skin than a shampoo filled with chemicals.


The best plan of all is to stock dog shampoo the same way you do other household staples. That way, you’ll never be tempted to substitute your salon formula for the dog shampoo that’s just right for your canine pal.

One important last note: apart from the choice of shampoo, the most important part of the bathing process is the rinse. It should take much longer to rinse your dog than to lather them up. A thorough rinse will remove all traces of shampoo and keep your dog’s skin clear and clean.

Celebrate the May “AKC Treat of the Month” with 35 % off Dogswell Skin & Coat Jerky. What your dog eats affects their skin and coat, and these gentle yet effective treats are specifically formulated for sensitive skin. Offer valid May 1 through May 31. Use promo code 35COAT during checkout on Amazon. One bag per order eligible for discount.

The post Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs? appeared first on American Kennel Club.

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