Dogs have quite the knack for finding the most atrocious things to roll in and then bringing them directly onto your bed. Most dog owners use their own shampoo to wash their dogs, but there’s some controversy regarding this. Some people think it’s damaging to the dog’s skin and coat, so is your favorite bottle of shampoo doing more harm than good?
Is Human Shampoo Unsafe?
It certainly isn’t harmful to your dog. Despite some mystery ingredients in most shampoos, it’s very unlikely there’s anything in there that will be toxic to your dog. While they aren’t toxic, they can be very harsh on your dog’s skin and fur. If your dog regularly needs a bath, it’s best to skip the human variety to avoid drying out their skin. Dry skin in dogs leads to excessive scratching and chewing that may lead to the development of painful hot spots. If you rarely bathe your dog, it’s fine to use a human shampoo, especially if your dog is covered in vomit and you need to get them clean quickly. A rare occasion isn’t going to do anything but make them smell sweet and fruity.
Sensitive Skin and pH Balance
We sometimes forget that dogs have different skin and hair needs than we do. Sure, dogs eat some unmentionable items and their stomachs fare quite well, but that doesn’t mean the rest of their body is bullet-proof. Dogs have a set pH for their skin that protects them from allergies, parasites, infections, and excessive dryness. Human bath products are acidic, and dogs require alkaline products to protect the skin’s moisture.
If your dog has dry, itchy, flaky skin, it’s not always allergies that are the problem.
Bathing them too frequently (even with canine-specific products) affects the health of their skin, leading to rashes, peeling skin, and coarse, dry fur. Bathing them fairly regularly with human shampoos also leads to these problems, so you need to find the balance between frequency and the products you use.
Choosing a Dog-Friendly Shampoo for Your Dog
If you like to bathe your dog regularly or they require baths often, choose a quality dog shampoo. Learn to read the labels and look for ingredients that are good for your dog’s skin. Natural moisturizers like vitamin E, honey, and aloe vera should make up a large component of the shampoo. If you insist on a pleasant smelling dog, the fragrances should be natural (think citrus or eucalyptus).
A Note About Bathing Dogs
Dogs may not clean themselves like cats do, but they really don’t need to take baths that often. A bath every few months is all that’s really necessary to keep their coat and skin healthy and clean. The exception is dogs with severe allergies to their environment, and in those cases, your vet will recommend a bathing regimen based on their specific needs. For touch-ups between baths, you can wipe them down with a bathing spray or wipes with natural, moisturizing ingredients.
Baths requiring shampooing need to be done with care. Shampoo in the eyes is still uncomfortable even if it doesn’t burn, so there are two options. If your dog’s face needs to be washed, put petroleum jelly around their eyes to keep any soap from seeping into their eyes. Use the shampoo sparingly. A better choice is wetting a washcloth and wiping their face down. Dumping water over their head is unpleasant, and getting water in their ears is a leading cause of ear infections. The general rule of thumb is to wash from their neck back and “spot clean” anything north of their collar region.
Whether your dog loves a good bath or they look like a drowned rat afterward, bathing should ideally never happen more than once a month unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian. Trust your dog’s system to naturally keep them clean, and remember that your dog smelling like warm, healthy dog is normal!