Whether it's your first or your fourth dog, if you're a pet owner, you've probably had to bathe your pet at some point. And if that's the case, you've probably asked yourself whether it's really necessary to buy dog shampoo. Can't you just use soap? Regular shampoo? Maybe baby shampoo, since it's safe for babies?
The short answer is "No."
When it comes to ingredients, pet shampoos and everyday human shampoos aren't all that different. They both contain hydrating agents, surfactants, fragrances, and lathering agents.
But there's one major difference: the pH, or how acidic or basic the formula is. Dogs and humans have different types of skin and different pH levels, which means that you really should use dog-specific shampoo.
Is it Safe to Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?
To answer this question, it's helpful to understand the differences between human skin and dog skin.
- has about 10-15 layers of skin cells
- turns over about every 28 days
- has a pH of 5.5, which is more acidic
- has about 3-5 layers of skin cells
- turns over almost every 3 weeks
- has many more hair follicles than people
- and all that hair is like a big duster, trapping dirt and debris more easily
- has a more neutral pH (7.5) than human skin
What does this all mean when it comes to shampoo? Human shampoo is designed to keep the skin acidic, while dog shampoo is made to keep skin neutral.
If you use human shampoo on your dog, it could dry out, irritate, or even cause an imbalance in their pH that could lead to skin/yeast infections.
But What about Baby Shampoo?
Baby shampoo is milder, so it should be ok for your dog, right?
Baby shampoos by their very nature are more mild, but they don't lather well. You'd need to use a lot of baby shampoo to get your dog clean — and that's not practical or economical.
Plus, baby shampoos just aren't formulated to really deal with the volume of hair like a dog's coat.
How to Choose a Dog Shampoo
There are many reasons why a dog owner would be bathing their pet, but two common ones include:
- their dog has fleas or ticks
- or their pet is dirty from running around or rolling around in dirt.
Flea and tick shampoos are good because they kill these pests on contact. Plus, they wash away flea feces and the debris that comes with them. Remember: Follow up with a preventive product to help prevent a reinfestation of fleas and ticks. Your vet can recommend the right preventive for your pet.
For routine bathing, look for a gentle, hypoallergenic, soap-free shampoo that will moisturize your dog's skin. Ideally, the formula will contain humectants to retain moisture, emollients to soften the skin, and essential fatty acids to support and nourish the skin. These kinds of shampoos are great for those situations where your dog just rolled around in something yucky, or for regular bathing and coat-freshening needs.
Tips for Bathing Your Dog
Now that you know it's important to use a shampoo formulated for dogs, here are a few tips to make the rest of the process go as smoothly as possible:
- Get your supplies ready and keep them nearby.
- Brush your dog ahead of time, especially if it has long hair.
- Put a mat or towel in the bottom of the tub so your dog doesn't slip.
- Use lukewarm water to wet the dog's coat.
- Start shampooing at the neck and work your way back to their tail, especially if you're doing a flea bath.
- It's not a good idea to get any shampoo around a dog's face and ears, so you may need to use a flea comb to remove any extra fleas you notice around the head area.
- Rinse thoroughly and make sure all shampoo is out of the dog's hair.
- Drape your dog with a towel when you're done so that when they shake, water doesn't get everywhere.
Washing your dog is one of the important responsibilities of pet ownership. Now that you know your dog needs a pet shampoo, ask your vet for recommendations that may be best for your dog's breed and particular needs.