Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs? The Truth of the Matter

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Have you ever encountered the situation where you’re about to give your dog a bath and ran out of their shampoo?

You might have groaned somewhat and made a reminder to buy some more the next time you run by the store.

But you may have also thought of the quick possibility of a substitute: the one you have in your own bathroom.

Surely there’s no harm, right? Can you use human shampoo on dogs?


Dogs and Bath Time

can one use human shampoo on dogs

Bath time can be one of the most enjoyable parts of living with our furry friends - or can be quite the struggle, depending on the dog.

While most dogs are generally receptive to bath time, other dogs (especially smaller breeds) can struggle with it.

A lot of these factors depend on the environment the dog is bathed in or their general temperament.

There are some species of dog that are more suited to the water than others.

The ordinary Poodle and Newfoundland are the best examples of this, having been bred or adapted to water throughout their evolution.

They’re most likely to behave the friendliest towards bath time unless they have a particularly unpleasant experience with it.

Which brings us to the shampoo. It’s one of the most common bath items for both humans and dogs.

And as you’ll find out, there’s a lot of things going on in that bottle than you might think.

What’s in Human Shampoo, Anyway?

can you use human shampoo on dogs once

Before we start with the idea of the shampoo and your dog, it’s an excellent frame to just look at shampoo in general.

While the practice of shampooing existed in India and other countries for a while, the modern sense of shampooing is relatively recent.

Shampoo used to mean oils and other fragrances lathed around the scalp, which was primarily for the benefit of high-born nobles.

But What Makes Modern Shampoo So Different?

Well, aside from using the soap and lather system, modern shampoo takes something into account called skin mantle.

All organisms with skin have this, including our beloved dog and us.

The skin mantle is responsible for making our skin moisturized with natural oils. Without it, we’d be continually flaking from all the dry skin we’d be having.

The skin mantle can be defined by its pH level - for us, human skin pH levels generally range around 5.2 to 6.2 pH

The pH scale measures things by how alkaline or acidic things are, with 6.4 being the threshold for alkaline to acidic.

Anything lower than 6.4 is considered as having high alkalinity, and anything smaller than 6.4 usually tends towards the acidic side.

Modern shampoo takes this into account, as most shampoos already on the market are formulated around this magic number.

Even as different people have different pH levels - usually depending on environment and grooming habits - these pH levels typically remain around the 5 to 6 range.

Studies have been performed on the effects of pH levels in shampoo on human skin - and generally agree that a higher alkaline level in shampoo formulation is terrible for humans, as the increased friction will most likely lead to more cuticle damage and fiber breakage.

We usually associate this with frizzy hair once we’re out of the shower, but it could lead to more severe problems like scalp infection.

Human Shampoo on Dogs

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Dogs do not have that problem. Remember that most of their body is covered in fur, while we only use shampoo on our head. 

More importantly, the skin mantle of dogs ranges higher up the pH scale - from 5.5 all the way up to 7.5.

Factors like size and density of their fur can affect this, but for the most part, their pH levels are considered more alkaline than acidic.

So if you end up using human shampoo on dogs, there might not be any discernible effects - at first.

Unless otherwise specified by their physician, dogs are quite hardy by nature and will most likely just shrug off the impact of human shampoo on their fur.

Smaller dogs will perhaps feel more uncomfortable, and other breeds with a stronger sense of smell can tell the difference, but in a pinch, human shampoo will work fine if you happen to get caught unawares.

Coupled with their fur and their general way of living, continued use of human shampoo on dogs will disrupt their normal skin mantle, creating an environment where bacteria, disease, and even parasites can thrive.

An afflicted dog will most likely scratch at its dry skin, opening small tears in them that can worsen the problem.

Conclusion: Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

So if you ask yourself: Can you use human shampoo on dogs?

The answer is “Yes, but very, very rarely.

If your dog’s come from a particularly dirty place (like a fun day in the park) a little spritz of your favorite shampoo can’t hurt but remember: human shampoo is designed for humans.

Your beloved pet will fare much, much better with a formulation that’s designed solely for their use - and you’ll thank yourself for keeping their shampoo bottle stocked.

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