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Can I Use Baby Shampoo On My Dog?

Picture of a dog getting a bath

Dogs aren’t the cleanest pets in the world, and every dog parent knows this. They enjoy having a lot of fun, and that often involves playing in areas packed with mud or water. They don’t have the same self-cleaning mechanism boasted by cats, which means that cleaning your dog’s coat ends up being your responsibility.

Monthly baths are necessary to make sure that your dog remains clean and that you remove as much of the debris, dirt, and bacteria that could be present in and on your dog’s fur. You’re both doing your canine friend a service, but you’re also protecting your family, at the same time.

But is baby shampoo safe to use on a dog or not? We’ll answer this question in this post, and also explain why human shampoos are a no-no. 

Differences in pH

First of all, the skin pH levels of dogs and people are quite different. While the skin pH of our canine companions is more neutral, being somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5, ours is more acidic, at around 5.5. 

A dog’s skin is more alkaline than that of a human, so the type of shampoo that you will use on your dog should be a lot more neutral in pH than the classic pH value of shampoo made for human hair. 

Baby shampoo is the safest choice 

Baby shampoo is the only safe option that you have available if you really don’t have any dog shampoo at hand. Baby shampoos are formulated for sensitive skin, which is why they are particularly mild. They are made without any fragrances or harmful chemical substances, which can’t be said for a shampoo formulated for adult people.

In fact, baby shampoos are made so as to leave the skin with pretty much everything that it might require in the way of providing the baby with an external protective barrier. 

However, even though a baby shampoo is considerably safer for dogs compared to regular shampoo, it should only be used as an emergency backup option. If you do have to resort to this in the absence of a suitable product, we advise you to rinse out your canine friend’s coat as best as possible so as to remove as much of the shampoo as you can. 

Needless to say, using baby shampoo to clean your dog’s coat on a regular basis is not recommended even though most of its ingredients are safe, such as water, glycerin, surfactants, and a variety of other agents that maintain a pH balance of around 7.

Why human shampoo isn’t the best option

We’ve already discussed the differences in skin pH between dogs and people. But there are many other reasons why human shampoo is completely unsuitable for Fido. 

Human shampoos have moisturizers in them, and these substances have the purpose of replacing a protective layer that gets removed as you clean your hair. Dogs and humans have an acid barrier that can protect them against a variety of germs. 

While it is quite easy for us to naturally replace that barrier as human shampoos are formulated for us, it’s not the same for a dog. After all, that’s why most veterinarians recommend cleaning your dog’s coat once a month or twice a month if it’s absolutely necessary. 

If the acid barrier that your dog has on his or her skin disappears, your dog is left vulnerable to a variety of microorganisms, all of which can cause skin disorders ranging from allergies to dermatitis. Your dog’s skin can become irritated, itchy, or inflamed in these situations.

Baby shampoo is specially designed for sensitive skin, so by comparison, it causes fewer issues and works a lot better for dogs’ skin. But there are ways that your dog can ‘tell’ you whether the shampoo you’re using is the wrong one. Here are some of the symptoms that might become noticeable under such circumstances:

  • Skin rashes
  • Hives
  • Inflamed feet or ears
  • Skin ulcerations
  • Blisters
  • Face rubbing
  • Head shaking
  • Bald patches
  • Obsessive licking
  • Paw nipping

What makes the perfect dog shampoo?

We’ve seen articles that recommend using baby shampoo on your dog to get rid of allergies, but the truth is that there are many brands of dog shampoo out there that come with all-natural ingredients such as aloe vera, chamomile, or oatmeal, which all have a calming effect on your pooch’s skin. They can help your Fido feel less itchy, so why not use a species-appropriate alternative, if you can?

If this is the first time you are considering buying dog shampoo, though, here are some pieces of advice for you.

Ideally, the product should be soap-free. There are lots of cleansing agents that are hypo-allergenic, and that remove the dirt and debris without removing skin oils and leaving it itchy and dry. 

The shampoo should be easy to rinse out and as safe as possible. While it might take you a while to find the right one, there are shampoos out there that are non-toxic, paraben-free, phosphate-free, phthalate-free, and that don’t contain any fragrances or artificial ingredients of any kind. 

A shampoo that contains moisturizing ingredients and conditioners is generally considered to be better than others. Both oatmeal and aloe vera are capable of combating skin irritation and re-moisturizing dry and sensitive skin. The point here is to pick the most effective and mild dog shampoo that you can get your hands on. 

No dog skin products are perfect

Unfortunately, while the pH skin levels of dogs and cats are thought to range from 5.5 to 7.5, there are some breeds that have an even higher one. Some studies have shown that there are dogs that have really alkaline skin pH, around 9. Needless to say, using a human-grade shampoo on such a dog would automatically lead to him or her developing a skin disorder.

But since not all dog shampoos are safe, in the end, the best option you have available is to pick the most natural one you can find. At least that will guarantee that your dog doesn’t develop an allergy or any of the symptoms that we’ve mentioned in this post. 

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