You find yourself with a smelly dog and an empty bottle of dog shampoo. However, you do have a big bottle of your own shampoo. For your hair, the bottle tells you to lather, rinse, and repeat. Does this apply to dogs as well?
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You also may wonder if some human shampoos are better than others for your dog's coat and skin. Some straightforward instructions with a few adjustments and considerations for your dog's more sensitive skin will ensure that your pooch does not become itchy or scratchy due to your corner-cutting makeover.
Can you use human shampoo on dogs?
While it's not ideal, it is safe to use human shampoo on dogs. The reason that human shampoo isn't the best product to use on your canine companion is because human skin has a more acidic pH than the skin of a dog, which is more neutral. In fact, human skin pH is around 5.5, and dog skin is between 6.4 and 7.2.
Human shampoos are designed to work with human skin, so they are more acidic, making them harsh on your dog's sensitive skin. Dogs also have much thinner skin than humans, which is two to three times thicker than a dog's skin. Overall, this means that human shampoo can easily irritate your dog's skin.
Preparing to use human shampoo on dogs
The best dog shampoo for dry skin is one designed for use in canines that contains moisturizing ingredients, like oatmeal. In a pinch, you can substitute human shampoo for dog shampoo — just don't make it a habit.
To select a shampoo that will work best for your dog, choose your least fragrant, most neutral shampoo, like a baby shampoo if you have it. Dilute your shampoo by at least 50 percent with water.
To be absolutely certain your shampoo is not too harsh for your dog's skin, do a test patch. Wash a small area of your dog's belly with your diluted shampoo and wait a day to see if any allergic reaction occurs. If there is no reaction, proceed with washing your dog.
How to bathe your dog
Brush your dog's coat to remove loose fur, dirt, and any mats. In a tub of clear, lukewarm water, thoroughly wet your dog's coat, making sure to saturate the undercoat as well. If you have a hose, this will work best. Otherwise, a plastic cup or bowl will work well for wetting your dog using water from the tub.
Using a small amount of your diluted shampoo, work a light lather into your dog's fur. Be careful to avoid his eyes. Rinse all of the shampoo from your dog's coat using clean, clear water. Keep rinsing until you are certain that all of the shampoo is out of his fur. Residual shampoo can irritate the skin. Once you are certain, you can attempt to towel dry your dog before he shakes off and sprays water all over your bathroom.
Making adjustments to human shampoo
Because your dog's skin and coat are more neutral than a human's, you can add a teaspoon of baking soda into the shampoo and water mixture before you use it. Baking soda is more alkaline and can balance out some of the acids in your shampoo. That and a teaspoon of uncooked oatmeal will help to moisturize your dog's skin.
After bathing your dog with a human shampoo, if you can follow that up with a dog-specific conditioner, that would be a great way to add moisture to your dog's skin and coat. Remember that overbathing can be damaging to your dog's coat and skin regardless of what type of shampoo you use, so don't bathe your dog more than once a week.