What Can I Use Instead of Dog Shampoo?

By Cindy Quarters

If your pet needs a bath and you're out of dog shampoo, you might find yourself searching for an acceptable substitute. You don’t always have to have shampoo; plain water can remove mud and other debris from his coat. A simple vinegar rinse will remove odors as well as leave his coat soft. You also have some other options that can stand in for dog shampoo.

Your Dog’s Skin pH

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Skin provides a barrier against bacteria, viruses and other contaminants normally present in the environment. When you alter the skin’s pH, you affect this barrier and may make your dog vulnerable to infection. The normal pH of your dog’s skin is in the range of 5.5 to 7.5, while humans have a skin pH from 5.2 to 6.2. This means that using shampoos designed for humans may cause problems for your dog, especially if he gets a small cut or scrape. Bathing him with shampoo designed for people can cause him to smell worse than he did before his bath, due to the presence of large numbers of bacteria.

Using Human Shampoo

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Despite the differences between human skin and dog skin, it’s OK to bathe your dog from time to time with “people shampoo” if you use a fairly neutral shampoo with a pH of around 7, such as a good baby shampoo. It’s not a good idea to use shampoo for humans on your dog on a regular basis. Avoid shampoos with harsh ingredients that may irritate your dog’s skin and instead opt for more natural additives such as chamomile, citrus and lavender. Never use anything on your dog with tea tree oil in it unless it was specifically formulated for dogs, as too much tea tree oil can be toxic to pets.

Make Your Own Shampoo

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If your dog is in serious need of a bath and you don’t have any suitable shampoo on hand, it’s possible to make your own with just two simple ingredients. Mix equal amounts of dish detergent and apple cider vinegar, and use in place of shampoo. It is a safe solution that will leave him smelling fresh, and it has the added benefit of killing fleas. As with any shampoo, keep the mixture out of his eyes and ears. Rinse him thoroughly to remove all traces of the detergent to complete the job.

Dry Baths

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To freshen your dog without water, try rubbing baking soda into his coat and brushing it out. Not only will it remove dirt and other contaminants, it will help him to smell clean. Cornstarch can be used the same way on an oily coat, but doesn’t deodorize as well as baking soda. Mix it half and half with baby powder to add a pleasant scent. Another option for quick cleanups is to wipe him down with doggy wipes, which are helpful between baths and to clean a dog who doesn’t like the water.