It’s a common misconception that all shampoos are the same. They all do the same job which is keeping hair cleaning and surely human hair is just the same as dog hair! This is not actually the case. There are many good reasons why you should not use human shampoo on your dog. But is baby shampoo safe for dogs? Read on to find out what the experts say and to unpick the science behind shampoos.
Dogs and Shampoo
Dog bath times can be a challenge but it helps if you have the right equipment and a cooperative pooch! Always keep bath times to a minimum and only bathe your dog when you really have to. Finding the right shampoo for your dog is vital and there are hundreds to choose from. Dog shampoos are available for dogs with skin problems and dogs with allergies. They claim to be gentle and to work in harmony with your dog’s body which sounds remarkably similar to claims made about baby shampoos!
No wonder so many owners ask ‘can I use baby shampoo on my dog’? In general, the answer is yes but you have to be careful. Choosing the wrong shampoo can cause a lot of problems for your dog including skin irritation and inflammation. Baby shampoo is made for sensitive skin and does not contain many of the harsh chemicals that regular shampoo has. It also has a ‘tear-free’ formula so it will not hurt your dog’s eyes. Even so, it is a good idea to avoid the face area as much as you can when you are bathing your dog.
It is always important to check with your vet first. Not all human products are suitable for dogs. In general, if the shampoo contains no scents or colors and is designed for babies, it is unlikely to cause a lot of problems. Some owners have found that they can successfully use baby shampoo for puppies.
Take a look at our article on what is the best puppy shampoo.
What’s Wrong with Using Human Shampoo on Dogs?
Regular human shampoo should never be used on a dog. This is because they are designed to strip away the acid mantle. In humans, this is replaced with a moisturizer but in dogs, it leaves the hair and skin exposed. Bacteria, viruses and fungi can multiply rapidly and your dog’s skin will become dry and irritated and will start to peel.
Human shampoo is designed for human skin which has a pH of between 5.2 and 6.2. this is a measure of how acidic the skin naturally is. The pH of dog skin is between 5.5 and 7.5 and is therefore less acidic. If you use regular human shampoo on dogs, you will destroy the natural pH of the skin and break down its ability to fight off infection. As the microorganisms multiply, it causes irritation and scratching which causes further damage to the skin and introduces even more bacteria. The situation can quickly deteriorate into a nasty dermatitis that will need treatment by a vet.
Dogs that Would Benefit Most from Baby Shampoo
Sensitive skin is a medical condition for dogs and you need to talk to your vet about how best to manage it. There may be some medication that will assist. They may also ask you to use a particular product when you are bathing your pooch. Don’t change to a baby shampoo without talking to your vet first.
Perhaps you have noticed that your dog has started to scratch a lot after bath time? This is a sign that the shampoo that you are using is irritating them. Some more serious symptoms can also develop. These can include paw biting, head shaking, face rubbing and nipping at lots of different parts of the body. Some dogs even develop ear infections. Once the irritation has established, it can develop into full blown hives which will be visible through the fur.
Dogs will not leave an itch alone! They will obsessively lick and pick at their skin. Eventually, they may develop bald patches, blisters and even ulcers. The most serious type of allergic reaction is anaphylactic shock which is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment by a vet.
What’s in Baby Shampoo?
Many vets will now recommend baby shampoo for dogs with some sensitive skin conditions. This is because the formulation of baby shampoo has been altered over the years to make them so mild. Baby shampoos are usually unscented and have no colors.
The formulation of each brand is different but in general, they contain glycerin which makes the skin smooth. They are also likely to have potassium acrylates copolymer to make them the correct thickness. The cleansing agent is often sodium trideceth sulfate which is unlikely to cause irritation. Baby shampoos have a neutral pH of around 7 and contain surfactants that are not as irritating as some other ingredients.
The Last Word…
The only person that can advise you on what shampoo to use on your pooch is your vet. Shampoos can cause serious skin irritation and allergies in dogs which can lead to secondary infections. Regular human shampoo should never be used on a dog and will inevitably lead to skin issues. Once a dog develops dermatitis, it can be very difficult to treat.
Keep an eye out for signs of skin irritation such as hot spots and excessive scratching. Your vet may recommend that you use a baby shampoo on dogs that have sensitive skin, at least in the short term.