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Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

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How to choose shampoo for dogs.
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A yellow Labrador getting a bath with soap suds on its head.

Whether it’s your first dog or your fourth, you’ve probably had to bathe your pet at some point. If so, you’ve likely asked yourself whether it’s truly necessary to buy dog shampoo. Could you just use soap? Shampoo for humans? Maybe baby shampoo, because it’s safe for babies?

The short answer? No.

When it comes to ingredients, pet shampoos and everyday human shampoos aren’t that different. They both contain hydrating agents, surfactants, fragrances and lathering agents.

But there’s one major difference: the pH level, or how acidic or basic the formula is. Dogs and humans have different skin types that can react to different pH levels, which means you should use dog-specific shampoo when bathing your dog.

Is It Safe to Use Human Shampoo on Dogs? 

To answer this question, it’s helpful to understand the differences between dog and human skin.

Your dog’s skin:

  • Is comprised of about three to five layers of skin cells
  • Is replaced with new skin cells almost every three weeks, or about every 20 days
  • Has many more hair follicles than human skin (and all that hair is like a big duster, trapping dirt and debris more easily)
  • Has a pH of 7.5, which is more neutral than human skin

Your skin:

  • Is comprised of about 10 to 15 layers of skin cells
  • Is replaced with new skin cells about every 28 days
  • Has a pH of 5.5, which is more acidic than dog skin

What does this mean when it comes to shampoo? Human shampoo is designed to keep the skin acidic, while dog shampoo is engineered to keep skin neutral.

If you use human shampoo on your dog, it could dry out or irritate their skin, or even cause an imbalance in their skin’s pH levels that could lead to skin or yeast infections.

Is It Safe to Use Baby Shampoo on Dogs? 

Baby shampoo is milder than regular shampoo, so it should be safe for your dog, right?

Not exactly. Baby shampoos by nature are milder, 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 nor economical.

Plus, baby shampoos simply aren’t formulated to deal with the volume of hair found in a dog’s coat.

How to Choose a Dog Shampoo

For routine bathing, look for a gentle, hypoallergenic, soap-free shampoo designed to moisturize your dog’s skin. Ideally, the formula should contain humectants to retain moisture, emollients to soften the skin and essential fatty acids to support and nourish the skin. These shampoos are great for when your dog just rolled in something yucky, or for regular bathing and coat-freshening needs.

If your dog is infested with fleas or ticks, flea and tick shampoos kill these pests on contact. Plus, they wash away flea feces and the debris that accompanies them. Remember: Follow up with a preventive product to help avoid a reinfestation of fleas and ticks. Your vet can recommend the right preventive for your pet.

Washing your dog is an important responsibility 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. Happy bathing!

Advantage® Treatment Shampoo for Dogs & Puppies
Advantage® Treatment Shampoo for Dogs & Puppies
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