If you're a dog owner who likes to moisturize your canine's fur with conditioner, or if you have a dog who needs a little extra soothing after a bath, you may have wondered if your conditioner will work on him. While human conditioner can, technically, be applied to a dog, should it be? Or is dog conditioner really worth the money?
Is Human Conditioner OK?
The short answer to this question is, no, it is not, at least not for use on dogs. This is because conditioners, along with other skin, body, and hair care products, are formulated to be pH balanced, meaning they won't disrupt the thin layer of protective skin called the acid mantle, says the American Kennel Club. Humans have skin that is slightly acidic with a pH of around 5.5, while dogs are a bit more alkaline, clocking in somewhere between 6.2 and 7.4. Because the skin's acid mantle is washed away each time we bathe, our products are formulated to restore that balance, but a human's conditioner will not restore the balance on a dog's skin as the pH isn't the same.
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Often, people wonder if a more gentle formula, like baby conditioner or conditioner made with botanical ingredients and oils, may be more suitable for their canine than less gentle formulas, but generally, it's best to keep the human products on human heads. Despite being potentially less drying or damaging to the hair, nearly all commercial hair products contain ingredients like preservatives, surfactants, and fragrance, any of which can potentially irritate a dog's skin.
Consequences of Disrupting pH
So, the pH will be knocked off balance, but what's the real harm in that? The acid mantle is in place to protect the outermost layer of the skin from harmful bacteria, and it works to keep the skin and the body well hydrated. When that mantle isn't restored, your dog can potentially become ill if harmful pollutants enter their body.
Additionally, VCA Hospitals states that a dog's skin has a different thickness from our own, which can also contribute to irritation if the wrong products are used. Because their skin is much thinner than ours, skin conditions like dryness, itching, or flaky skin can occur.
Conditioner Alternatives for Dogs
If you wish to condition your dog's hair but don't want to buy products specially formulated for that purpose, there are a few things you can do from home to get a soft, healthy coat. A DIY conditioner can be made by mixing coconut oil, finely ground oatmeal, water, and a small amount of honey, then applying it to your dog's coat and allowing it to sit for a couple of minutes before rinsing away thoroughly. Alternatively, aloe vera gel is known for its hydrating and restorative properties and is generally safe for use on dogs as a conditioner or a conditioning spray. To make a spray, mix a tablespoon of aloe vera gel, water, and a few drops of glycerin in a bottle, shake well, and spray onto your clean dog and brush it into her hair.