There is very little that we wouldn’t do for our dogs. The old adage that man’s best friend is his dog holds very true, and because of this, we like to spoil them. It seems that everywhere you look now, there are special products and services just for dogs. Doggy treats that look like cupcakes. Halloween costumes. Spas that promise to “pamper your pup.” But while we would do almost anything for our furry little friends, at the end of the day, it can all seem kind of ridiculous. All of these specialty products can become overwhelming and seem like just one big, messy marketing blitz that’s meant to do one thing: trick naive dog owners into spending money they don’t have on specially formulated products they don’t need.
And then there’s shampoo. Is it really necessary to spend your money on a special blend of shampoo just for your dog? Shampoo is just shampoo, right? Why buy something as frivolous as specialty shampoo for dogs when the shampoo that you already have in your shower will get your dog just as clean? Can you use human shampoo on dogs?
Why Using Human Shampoo on Dogs is a Bad Idea
There are several reasons why human shampoo is not a good substitute for dog shampoo, but likely the most significant is the difference between human skin and dog skin. Both species have a thin, mildly acidic layer called the acid mantle which covers the skin and acts as a barrier between the skin and environmental dangers like bacteria and viruses. In a typical human, this layer has a slightly acidic pH of between 5.2 and 6.2. (For reference, a pH of 7 is neutral, numbers descending below 7 become more acidic, and numbers climbing above 7 become more alkali.) In a dog, however, based on several factors including breed, gender, climate, and the dog’s size, this pH level can range between 5.5 and 7.5.
The outermost layer of the skin, located directly beneath the acid mantle, is called the stratum corneum, and it absorbs water to keep the skin hydrated, working to prevent too much of this moisture from evaporating. When you use human shampoo on dogs, however, the shampoo, which has been pH balanced to work best with a human’s skin, can disrupt the dog’s acid mantle for the 12 hours it takes the acid mantle to rebuild. A shampoo with an improper balance will remove that crucial layer of protection and permit bacteria, viruses, and other parasites to grow, causing the dog to develop a rash or dry, flaky skin. This can lead to the dog developing an unpleasant smell, caused by the bacteria. Often, these dogs’ owners owners bathe them again to alleviate the odor. Of course, all this serves to do is start the cycle over again and make the problem worse.
Without the acid mantle, the skin will also begin to dry out This dry skin will itch, which can cause the dog to scratch. As the dog continues to scratch, the scratching will continue to irritate the skin and possibly create more openings for germs to invade. Many dog owners will see their dogs scratching and assume that the dog has developed an allergy to something when, in fact, their shampoo is the culprit.
Investing in Your Dog’s Health
Still not convinced? After all, buying a special type of shampoo for your dog costs more money, and those expenses add up. But think of this—a visit to the vet isn’t cheap either. In fact, it’s a far sight more expensive than a bottle of dog shampoo, particularly when you factor in the fact that most dogs really only need to be washed with shampoo every few months, with water baths in between.
In the long run, spending a little bit of extra money to buy a natural dog shampoo with no potentially irritating fragrances or other chemicals can save you a significant amount of money and your dog a significant amount of misery.
In the end, is saving a little bit of money on dog shampoo really worth subjecting your dog to the harmful effects that come from using human shampoo on him? Dog shampoo is more than just a novelty item for your pup. You don’t have to find the most expensive dog shampoo or the best smelling dog shampoo; instead, focus on getting a natural dog shampoo with no added fragrances that might irritate your dog’s skin. A little investment in this area can save a lot of money, time, and misery in the end.