Dogs love to roll around in the mud and get as messy as they possibly can. Your dog comes back dirty and smelly, leaving you to deal with the mess. Bath time can sometimes be a nightmare too. You get the water ready and finally get your dog into the tub. Then you realize you’ve run out of dog shampoo. It’s not a big deal you may think. You start to reach and grab some of your run-of-the-mill shampoo or soap you use on yourself and call it a day. However, is it truly safe to use what you have on hand? Can you wash a dog with human shampoo and soap?
Can You Wash a Dog With Human Shampoo?
The short answer, no. You shouldn’t ever use human shampoo on a dog’s fur or skin.
Why? Shampoos designed for humans contain different chemicals, ingredients, and pH levels than those in dog shampoos. Human soaps and shampoos can cause harm to areas of the skin that are sensitive. They can have fragrances that may upset your dog. In the worst cases, it can cause fur loss or wounds due to extreme itching.
There will be times you’re in an emergency and need to use what you have on hand. Use the smallest amount possible. If you have a soap like Dawn, you are better off using that over commercial shampoo. Baby shampoo can also be used in cases of emergency. Baby shampoos have a higher pH level than regular shampoos. Some baby shampoos do contain dyes, fragrances, and coloring that could cause damage to your dog’s skin if used on a repeated basis. Avoid ones that contain these chemicals to lessen harm.
Why does the pH matter in shampoo for dogs? A human has a thin layer of acidity that covers the skin to protect the top layer. This thin mantle has around 5.2 to 6.2 pH. However, dogs have a pH on their skin of 6.2 to 7.5 making their skin less acidic than a human’s and more neutral. Human shampoo is highly acidic, so it’s never recommended for dogs. Human shampoo can even leave your dog vulnerable to parasites, bacteria, dry skin, or viruses.
In the instances you do use human shampoo, try to avoid any that contain chamomile, lavender, eucalyptus, and citrus. These scents or essential oils may cause a burn or sting your dog’s skin.
If you must use an essential on your dog, try gentler carrier oils. These oils reduce irritation when combined with other oils. Some of these oils are coconut oil, almond oil, and olive oil. When you do have to use human shampoo or soap, these oils can help calm the skin and soothe potential irritation.
What Shampoo Should I Use on My Dog?
Only dog shampoos are safe for your dog’s skin and fur. However, emergencies do arise where you may need to use what you have on hand. In these cases, we recommend using only baby shampoos or gentle dish soaps sparingly.
So, what can you use? There are only two non-dog shampoos/soaps recommended for use on dogs in cases where you don’t have dog shampoo on hand.
Johnson’s baby shampoo makes a great option for washing your dog when you don’t have dog shampoo. The pH level in this shampoo is closer to a dog’s skin pH than a human’s. It’s also gentler on the skin and you can buy a fragrance-free version that won’t contain as many harsh chemicals.
Other regular human shampoos can cause chemical burns, itchiness, fur loss, or exacerbation of skin conditions. You won’t use a large amount like you would for a baby but a pea-sized to quarter-sized amount will work in a pinch for your messy dog. You may have to dilute it first too to further reduce the chance for irritation.
Dawn dish soap is another alternative to dog shampoo when you’re out of your dog’s regular shampoo. This dish soap has gotten a reputation for working on animals because of oil spills in wildlife. It’s used on ducks, sea turtles, and removes the smell from skunks.
Like the baby shampoo, you don’t want to use a large amount and a little goes a very long way. You also don’t want to use it without dilution first. Straight soap could irritate the skin but combine a pea-sized amount with half a cup of water. Shake in a bottle or mix in a cup and apply to the fur. This will reduce the chances of irritation or dryness.
Some people recommend other soaps like castile or Dove but vets strongly have advised against these because of the dryness they cause.
Best Dog Shampoos
TropiClean shampoo is pH balanced for dogs and puppies. It can be used on cats and kittens too. It’s free from soap, parabens, and dyes. It contains natural ingredients like coconut oil that are naturally derived. Animals with sensitive skin will benefit from this shampoo. It soothes red, itchy, or allergic skin. It will keep coats and skins moisturized.
Users of this product highly recommend the shampoo. Some users have found that the shampoo helps heal and calm skin conditions and irritated skin. One user’s dog suffers from eczema and oatmeal baths failed to help. They tried this shampoo, and their dog no longer had any bumps or irritations.
Another user bragged about the smell. Their dog typically has a smell that lingers with other shampoos. When they used this shampoo, the smell no longer was around, and the scent starts to fade just in time for the next bath. It also made their coat shinier and softer too.
Arm & Hammer dog shampoo includes baking soda ingredients and natural ingredients. It works great on dogs that have sensitive skin and have a natural odor. This shampoo will leave their coat shiny and soft. It contains essential oils and extracts to give a kiwi blossom scent. The shampoo can be used on both dogs and puppies.
Users of this product love the reduction of odors it has on their dogs. One user mentioned how smelly their dog is. They live on a ranch, so frequent washes are required but never seem to last. Within days the odor seeps through. They also mentioned their dog has sensitive skin and can’t use any old product. This user started using the shampoo and was able to go a week in between washes.
Another user was happy to find a gentle wash for their chihuahua. They have an itching problem that seems to get worse with most shampoos. It was made worse by playing in the yard too. The user washed their dog with this shampoo, and it made their fur shinier and didn’t cause any irritations. In fact, it healed problems that previous shampoos caused.
Burt’s Bees shampoo for dogs uses higher quality ingredients safe for a dog’s skin and fur. It contains colloidal oatmeal, honey, and beeswax. It’s free from all unnatural fragrances and harmful chemicals. Dogs that already have sensitive skin or need frequent baths will benefit from this shampoo. Other dog shampoos only allow for sparse washes or contain special medication in them. This one allows for regular bathing.
Users of this product love what it does for their dog’s sensitive skin. One user mentioned how they have Yorkies. Their skin was very sensitive and dry once they changed to higher-end dog shampoos. Since they have made the switch to Burt’s Bees, they no longer have hotspots or dry skin.
Another user mentioned how their Maltese benefited from the shampoo. Their dog has sensitive skin and a dull coat before using this shampoo. Once they started using it, their coat became shiny and soft. It didn’t irritate the dog’s skin and left a wonderful scent.
Can You Wash a Dog with Human Shampoo: A Wrap-up
You might have wondered if you could use your regular shampoo on your dog if you happen to run out of dog shampoo. It seems like a great plan to get your dog from filthy to squeaky clean.
However, it’s not safe to use human shampoo on a dog. It will cause more trouble than it’s worth and may result in a visit to the vet, costing you hundreds of dollars.
If you’re in a pinch or emergency, you can use a gentle baby shampoo without fragrances or a diluted dish soap like Dawn. If you can stick to dog shampoos, though, you’re better off.