Dogs are gross. Whether they’re blissfully rolling in something that has definitely been dead for a while or they manage to find every landmine at the dog park, a bath is inevitable at some point in your dog’s life. Is it necessary to go buy a special dog shampoo, though? Is baby shampoo okay to use on your dog?
First, a Quick Anatomy Lesson
All mammals, humans included, have something called an “acid mantle” in their skin. It sounds complicated, but it’s just a thin, acidic layer covering the skin. It protects the porous layer of the skin (the stratum corneum) from bacteria and viruses. The stratum corneum keeps the body hydrated by absorbing water and preventing excessive evaporation. If the acid mantle on dogs is constantly stripped away, their skin becomes dry and itchy.
Your Dog’s Skin pH
This sounds like something your dermatologist or hair stylist might talk about, but it matters for on dogs, too. Every living creature has a skin pH (a scale that ranges from 0 to 14). A human’s normal skin pH is 5.2 to 6.2 (acidic), so our shampoos, soaps, and skin products are designed to help maintain this pH. Human shampoos and soaps have added moisturizers to temporarily protect the skin until the acid mantle is naturally replenished within 12 hours.
Your dog’s skin pH balance runs anywhere from 5.5 to 7.5 (alkaline). When you use a product designed for acidic skin on alkaline skin, you completely strip away the dog’s acid mantle and leave their skin vulnerable to bacteria, viruses, and even parasites.
Signs of a Disrupted Skin pH:
- Dry, flakey skin
- Rashes or bumps
- Frequent licking, itching, or chewing
- Abrasions from scratching/chewing that lead to infections
So…is Baby Shampoo Okay to use on Dogs?
Not really. Logically, it seems like a shampoo designed for the delicate skin of a baby would be fine to use on dogs, but remember that a newborn baby is still a human and has a skin pH that’s acidic. Your dog has a skin pH that’s alkaline. No matter how gentle that baby shampoo is, it isn’t designed to protect your dog’s skin pH.
It seems silly to buy a shampoo made specifically for dogs, but if your dog is frequently filthy, you need a product designed to maintain an alkaline pH. When you’re looking for a dog shampoo, make sure there:
Aren’t any artificial fragrances or colors added
Are natural moisturizers like vitamin E, aloe vera, or honey present
Are natural fragrances like chamomile, eucalyptus, and citrus
Consider Your Dog Self-Cleaning
Unless your dog is covered in something nondescript, baths really aren’t necessary! A lot of owners bathe their pups on a weekly basis, and this is far too excessive if they aren’t physically in need of one. Even if you’ve gone for a hike and your dog is caked in mud, see if you can get away with a quick water bath free of soaps or shampoos. This protects the acid mantle and prevents dry skin.
Dogs can actually smell quite pleasant if they’re fed a healthy diet and in good health! It’s nice to have a dog that smells like lavender or something citrusy, but dogs aren’t meant to smell like a human does. Before you give your dog a bath, ask yourself if they really need one or if they can do without. The fewer baths they have, the healthier their skin and coat stays!