Baby Shampoo for Dogs – Yes or no?

If your dog is like most, then he probably loves to get dirty. Frolicking in the mud, trekking through dense shrubbery and rolling in something stinky he discovered in the yard are likely among his favorite pastimes. This means that your dog’s hair can get dirty and matted pretty quickly. On top of that, dogs who spend any time outdoors are more likely to pick up fleas, ticks and other pesky pests that you’d rather they got rid of. Moreover, it’s impossible for dog parents to deny that their furry companions often pick up a smell that is less than desirable.

All of this means that it’s necessary to bathe your dog on occasion. It’s important to use the right shampoo for taking care of your dog’s skin and coat, and many people have wondered over the years whether or not it is appropriate to use baby shampoo for dogs. Some dog owners come to prefer this option because baby shampoo is far more affordable than a good quality dog shampoo. They reason that the formula is gentle, so it probably can’t do their dog any harm.


While this may be true, it’s also true that baby shampoo may not have all of the ingredients it needs to take really good care of your dog over the long haul. Let’s take a look at why it’s important to give your dog baths and why baby shampoo makes sense only for occasional use.We’ve already covered the fact that dogs get dirty just like humans do. This means that they need periodic baths. Veterinarians and other pet experts typically recommend bathing dogs once a month or once every two months depending upon the type of dog and the condition of their skin and coat. Bathing more often is generally not recommended because it can strip essential oils from your dog’s skin and hair. The result is dry, itchy skin and hair that can become dull, frizzy and lifeless.

While many people see giving the dog a bath as a tiresome chore, the truth is that dogs need to be washed from time to time. Neglect this job and you could be putting your pup’s health and safety at risk. A clean coat and skin protect your dog from the buildup of dirt that is like a magnet for bacteria. Once you dog gets covered in bacteria, it becomes very easy for him to get an infection. Keep in mind that dogs also pick up fleas and ticks as they wander in the outdoors, and regular bathing can help to get rid of these pests.

If you’ve heard other pet parents talk about using baby shampoo for dogs, then you’re not alone. Thousands of people have sworn by this bathing method for decades. There is some truth to it. Baby shampoo can be all right to use on dogs because of its mild formulations. This means that occasional use will not harm your pup. However, the mildness of the formula may also make the baby shampoo less effective than a shampoo that is formulated especially for dogs, making it essential to only use baby shampoo as an occasional substitute.

Understanding pH

Baby shampoos are formulated to be much gentler on the skin and hair than regular, adult shampoos are. This makes it less likely to irritate your dog’s skin or cause dryness than a shampoo that is made for human adults. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the pH of a dog’s skin is quite different from that of a human’s skin. This means that a shampoo that is made for human use may actually do more harm than good.

Understanding your dog’s pH and how it is different from yours will probably help you see why it may be advisable to use a dog shampoo more often on your pet. Both people and dogs have a skin component that is called the acid mantle. This invisible layer covers every inch of your skin and that of your dog, acting as a barrier that protects the topmost layer of the skin, which is porous. The acid mantle keeps bacteria and viruses from entering our skin. It also helps to keep the body hydrated by absorbing water and preventing too much water from evaporating from our bodies. When bathing, the soaps and shampoos that we use tend to strip this acidic layer away from our skin. This is why so many soap manufacturers include moisturizing lotion in their formulas. The lotion acts like an artificial acid mantle until the skin can replenish the layer naturally in about 12 hours. If the acid mantle is unable to repair itself, skin can become dry, red and itchy.

The acid mantle is measured in terms of pH balance. On a range from zero to 14, normal pH for human skin is between 5.2 and 6.2. This translates to human skin having somewhat high acidity. Human shampoos and soaps are formulated to help skin maintain this balance.

The numbers are different for dogs. A pup’s skin pH can range anywhere from 5.5 to 7.5, depending upon a number of factors like gender, breed and climate. Accordingly, where human skin tends toward the acidic, a dog’s skin tends more toward the alkaline. Using a human shampoo that is formulated to balance human pH disrupts the dog’s acid mantle. Viruses, bacteria, and parasites can all get to your dog when this happens, putting him at risk for a number of uncomfortable and potentially dangerous medical conditions. Additionally, all of that bacteria can mean that your dog gets stinky again really quickly, which leads you to bathe him again. Extra bathing just dries out your dog’s skin more, causing him to feel itchy. This leads to scratching, potentially open wounds and more ways for bacteria to cause problems for your pup.


To protect dogs from this vicious cycle, it’s best to use dog shampoo when bathing them. These shampoos are specially formulated to fall at about seven on the pH scale, making them neutral. This helps your dog maintain his acid mantle, thereby protecting his skin from bacteria, viruses, and other problems. Baby shampoo is formulated to be gentler than adult shampoo. Accordingly, it won’t disturb a dog’s acid mantle quite as much as adult shampoo would. However, it also does not protect this important acidic layer the way that an authentic dog shampoo does. That’s why it is probably all right to occasionally bathe your dog with baby shampoo, but it is not recommended that you do so regularly or exclusively.

Tips For Buying

When you are buying a shampoo that is especially made for dogs, you’ll often see the pH rating right on the label. Remember that you want to see a number that is, or is close to, seven. To make certain that a dog shampoo is nourishing for your dog’s skin, choose one with skin moisturizers such as tea tree oil, aloe vera or vitamin E. Try to find a formula that doesn’t have artificial colors or fragrances, as these can be irritating to your dog’s skin, causing him to feel itchy and uncomfortable. If there are fragrances in the shampoo, then focus on natural ingredients like lavender, citrus, and eucalyptus. These not only make your dog smell nice, but they also may function as an effective insect repellant.

If your pup is experiencing some health issues related to his skin and coat, then it may make sense to seek a medicated shampoo. Ask your trusted veterinarian for a recommendation. Dealing with psoriasis, infections, lesions and more can be serious, and it’s always best to follow your vet’s advice. Other medicated shampoos are designed to deal with fleas, ticks, and other troublesome pests. These are readily available in pet supply stores. Many of these products include an insecticide called pyrethrum. In general, this substance is safe to use on dogs. However, it can be dangerous to use on dogs that have certain health concerns. Before using a shampoo that is designed to deal with fleas and ticks, ask if this is safe for use on your dog.

To ensure success with your dog bathing adventures, take a few moments to brush your pup before putting him in the water. This gets rid of tangles and mats, making it easier for the water to move through your dog’s hair and clean it thoroughly. If your dog is prone to ear infections, you might consider placing a cotton ball in each of his ears to prevent water from getting in them. Make sure that you don’t turn up the heat on the water too much. A lukewarm bath is better for your dog’s skin. That’s because dog skin tends to be pretty sensitive to heat. It burns easily, so when in doubt, turn the temperature down.

While washing your dog with a baby shampoo can be done, it’s best not to do it all the time unless your vet has recommended this practice. Human shampoo is simply not formulated to protect and nourish your dog’s skin and coat, which are very different from your skin and hair. For best results, don’t wash your dog too often, and when you do, use a shampoo that’s made especially for him.

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