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french bulldog takes a bath
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When it’s bathtime, the best way to keep your pet clean is with products specially formulated for dogs. But what happens if you run out of dog shampoo? Can you use soap made for people on your dog?

What Can I Wash My Dog With?

Dog shampoos made with detergents work best on canine skin. They support the dog’s skin without irritating it, and they don’t disrupt the skin’s pH balance. The pH scale measures acidity or alkalinity. A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. Depending on size and breed, a dog’s skin pH ranges from 5.5 to 7.5, while human skin pH tends to range from 4.0 to 6.0.

Because soap tends to be alkaline, or higher pH, using soap instead of detergents to bathe your dog could raise the pH of your dog’s skin and disrupt the protective natural acid mantle of your dog’s skin. When purchasing dog shampoo, check the label to make sure the product is pH-balanced especially for dogs. Natural skin moisturizers, including vitamin E or aloe vera, can be soothing bonuses.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi getting a bath at the groomers.
©Irina Meshcheryakova-

Quality dog shampoos are sometimes more expensive than others, but a little goes a long way. Even after a wash and a repeat, a bath doesn’t need a lot of soap suds to get the job done.

Manufacturers recommend using only a tiny amount of the product mixed with water. Prepare a fresh mixture of diluted shampoo every time you bathe your dog. Then, dispose of any leftover shampoo to avoid bacterial growth.

When shopping for canine shampoo, you’ll find many types for hypoallergenic conditions or formulas specifically created for oily, dry, or long coats. If you’re unsure which dog shampoo to buy, ask your breeder, veterinarian, or groomer for recommendations.

Can I Wash My Dog With Human Shampoo?

“You can, but after a couple of shampoos, you’ll notice the dog’s coat is dry, itchy, and dull,” DiMarino says. People shampoo is formulated to replenish the outer layer of human skin according to human pH levels. “One or two baths won’t hurt the dog, but if you use people shampoo too frequently, the coat will lose its luster.” Some human shampoos also contain artificial additives, dyes, and perfume, which can irritate your dog’s skin and cause allergies.

©Wojciech Kozielczyk -

Can I Wash My Dog With Dish Soap?

Is dish soap a permissible option for dogs? “No. Dish soap used to clean food bits off dinner plates and to scrub off your pots and pans is not an option,” says Teri DiMarino, President of the California Professional Pet Groomers Association. “This product’s job is designed to cut grease.”

Canine skin contains natural oils that maintain sufficient hydration to keep the coat soft and lustrous. Dish soap gets rid of oils on the skin, but a dog’s coat needs those natural oils. And while dish soap manufacturers may advertise their wash-up liquid’s gentle nature, this degreaser can irritate a dog’s skin.

Wet in shampoo brown puppy in woman hands take shower
©PixieMe -

If dish soap accidentally winds up in a dog’s eyes, it can cause irritation. Many dish soaps produce a large volume of lather, which also takes time and effort to rinse thoroughly.

But if your dog has a flea infestation, washing them with dish soap can be a helpful first step. Dish soap has been used to remove oil from the feathers of rescued wildlife, and the chemicals in it are effective at killing some fleas on dogs. However, dish soap doesn’t repel or prevent dog fleas from returning, and it’s not a viable long-term strategy for managing these parasites. A more effective way to deal with a flea-infested dog is by washing them with a dog- or puppy-safe flea shampoo, grooming fleas or eggs out of their coat with a flea comb, or applying an age-appropriate flea-killing product.

Can I Wash My Dog With Baby Shampoo?

Mild baby shampoos with neutral pH levels may be effective for hairless or short-coated dog breeds. Baby shampoo doesn’t tend to dry out the skin and is gentle enough to use when bathing puppies. It can also soothe irritated skin. Just as you would with canine shampoo, be sure to thoroughly rinse your dog to remove all of the suds. Follow up with warm towels for drying or a canine dryer on a low setting.

Dog Cleansers for Itchy Skin

If your dog is scratching up a storm, ask your veterinarian or groomer about a medicated shampoo. Medicated dog shampoo can come in various types, both over-the-counter and prescription, depending on its formulation and ingredients. Some medicated dog shampoos are antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-itch, or designed to control oil production, all depending on what the issue with your dog’s skin and coat may be. Some newer formulations may help address allergy symptoms by reinforcing the skin’s natural barrier. Your vet and your groomer can help you decide what’s best for your dog’s individual case.

Related article: Avoid a Sticky Situation: How to Get Sap Out of Dog Fur
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