Helpful Tips

Can You Use Regular Shampoo on Dogs?

Cocker spaniel dog

Your dog may not smell so great these days, but if you don’t have the best dog shampoo for shedding, then you may wonder whether or not you can use regular shampoo on dogs. Unfortunately, you can’t. But why? Let’s find out.

Can you use regular shampoo on dogs? No. Using human shampoos and body wash on dogs can disrupt their acid mantle, which is a protective layer on the topmost layer of skin. Additionally, a dog’s skin is more alkaline while human skin is more acidic. Using human shampoo on a dog will interfere with their skin’s pH balance. This can result in a rash, dry skin, not to mention it will make them more susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections. Because of this, only use shampoos and soap that’s specifically formulated for dogs.

Dog-Formulated Shampoos

So, why can’t you use the same type of shampoo you use on your hair to clean your dog’s coat? Human shampoo has a much higher acidity content. Over time, using human shampoo on your furry friend’s coat can actually ruin it and cause severe skin damage. Human shampoo can harm your dog’s sensitive skin and can also contain certain scents that dogs can’t stand, such as citrus. While it’s understandable that you may need to use your shampoo on your pet in an emergency, don’t make a habit of it. Now, let’s learn more about the science behind healthy skin, pH levels, and how your skin is very different from your furry friends.

The Science Behind Your Dog’s Sensitive Skin

Dog scratches himself

The acid mantle is a very important component of skin. This layer is very acidic and it covers the skin, working as a barrier of sorts. It protects the topmost porous layer of the skin from harmful environmental contaminants such as viruses and bacteria. This layer of skin is also responsible for keeping the body hydrated, and it does so by preventing excessive evaporation from occurring, and by absorbing water. When we take a bath and use shampoo and soap, we end up washing away the acidic oil layer.

Because of this, most shampoos and soaps designed for humans are specially formulated with important moisturizers that are designed to replace that protective layer we scrubbed away. Fortunately for us, our body is able to replenish that layer in a matter of hours. But if the skin is left unprotected and stripped of this layer, then it opens us up to infections or a variety of microorganisms, which often present as irritated, flaky, dry skin. It can also present as an itchy, bumpy rash, or peeling skin.

pH Balance in Humans and Dogs

The acid mantle is also responsible for the pH balance of the skin. The pH scale ranges from zero to fourteen. A level that’s less than six is considered very acidic, while levels that are higher than six is considered highly alkaline. A normal pH range for humans is around five to six. This means our skin is usually more on the acidic side. Because of this, we have to use products that are specifically formulated to maintain this type of delicate balance.

In terms of a healthy pH level for dogs, most have a range of five and a half to seven and a half, depending on the breed. Basically, a dog’s skin typically has a higher alkaline concentration. Because of this, if you normally use a shampoo that’s designed for human use on your dog’s skin, you’ll disrupt their acid mantle, which will create an environment where viruses, parasites, and bacteria can run rampant.


Body with red irritated skin

Unfortunately, not many dog owners are aware of their dog’s delicate skin and their pH level, which is why some owners will continue to repeatedly wash their dogs using human soaps and shampoos. With continued use, a dog’s skin will become dry, itchy, and rashes may develop. Their skin may even begin to smell, especially if a fungal infection has developed as a result of frequent baths. If the dog continues to lick or scratch their rash, it can lead to a secondary bacterial infection.

As you can see, using human soaps and shampoo on your pet can cause a whole new load of problems.

Instead of using your soap products on your pet, opt for a shampoo that’s specially formulated to clean and soothe your dog’s sensitive skin.

Giving Your Dog a Bath

When you’re ready to give your dog a bath, the first thing you should do is pick up dog-specific shampoo. If you’re dealing with a dog that sheds excessively, products such as Colloidal Oatmeal Dog Shampoo can help to cut down on shedding while moisturizing your dog’s coat and restoring it’s fullness and shine.

After you’ve purchased the right products, you’re ready to get started. Where you choose to bath your dog is entirely up to you. If you want to bath your dog outdoors in a small kiddie pool, then you’ll need to be prepared for your dog to make a run for it the moment they’re free. The last thing you want is your freshly cleaned dog rolling all over the front lawn or in the mud. If you’re planning on using your bathtub, make sure you shut the door and have all of your supplies readily available so you don’t have to leave your dog unattended in your bathroom, where they can do a lot of damage in the time it takes you to grab a few extra towels.

Water Temp

If you’re bathing your dog outdoors, then there really isn’t much you can do about the water temperature. Hose water is cold, but if you’re bathing your dog on a hot day, then the odds are cold water will be more than a little refreshing. If you’re bathing your dog in your tub, make sure you adjust the water to a lukewarm temperature. This will be especially important if your dog currently has skin issues such as dry skin, a skin rash, broken skin, or flea bites. Lukewarm water will feel refreshing and won’t cause further skin irritation.

Shampoo Use

Follow the instructions on the bottle. Most will require you to lather up your pup and leave the shampoo on for three to five minutes before you rinse. Once you’ve carefully rinsed away all of the soap, now comes the fun part.

Drying Your Dog

Once you let your dog out of the tub, be prepared for that inevitable shake off. At this time, you can use towels or a hairdryer to dry off your dog. Some pet owners prefer using a hairdryer on a cool, low setting, which is perfect. If your dog can tolerate a hairdryer, it can be a more efficient way of drying them compared to towel drying, however, in most cases, the sound of a dryer is enough to set off a dog. If possible, at least use the hairdryer on their ears, especially if you have a floppy-eared dog. These dogs are more prone to yeast infections in the ears. If you have no other choice but to use towels, do your best to thoroughly dry off your dog using three or four towels before you set them free.

Related Questions

What Can I Do About My Dog’s Shedding?

You can use shampoo that’s specifically designed to prevent excessive hair fall. Brushing your dog daily can also help to cut down on pet hair around your home and on your clothes. To learn more, read my guide on how often should I brush my dog?

Can I Use Baby Shampoo On Dogs?

Yes. If you don’t have dog shampoo on hand, baby shampoo is the only type of human shampoo that’s deemed safe for use in dogs. These shampoos are specially formulated to treat sensitive skin. However, I don’t recommend regularly using baby shampoo on dogs because over time, just like with regular human shampoos, baby shampoo can also throw your dog’s pH balance out of whack.

Can I Use Dawn Dish Soap to Kill Ticks On My Dog?

Yes. This type of dish soap is commonly used to kill fleas and ticks in most animals, but it should not be used regularly since it can also destroy your dog’s acid mantle over time. However, if your dog is heavily infested with ticks and/or fleas, then you can use it as an effective way to get rid of these harmful external parasites.

Final Thoughts

So, can you use regular shampoo on dogs? No. Doing so repeatedly will ruin a dog’s acid mantle, which is a protective skin barrier that keeps bacteria and viruses at bay. You will also interfere with your dog’s pH balance, which is more alkaline than acidic. This can lead to a whole host of skin problems including bacterial and fungal infections. So, instead of reaching for your favorite coconut-scented shampoo, order a shampoo that’s specifically formulated for your pet in order to ensure skin health, while also restoring your dog’s coat back to its former shiny glory.