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Do You Really Need a Shampoo Designed for Dogs?

shampoo-designed-for-dogsWhether it is because they’d rather avoid paying a groomer or because they just enjoy the activity, many owners choose to bathe their own dog. Many use shampoo designed for dogs while others do not. And while some dogs can put up quite a fight at bath time, it is usually a pretty simple task – just be sure to prepare for the zoomies following the towel-dry portion of the bath.

But many owners wonder whether the often-pricey shampoos that fill pet store shelves and pet-oriented websites are really necessary. Do you really need a shampoo designed for dogs? How different can dog shampoo possibly be?

Canine Chemistry

As it turns out, dog shampoo is rather different from the shampoo you and your two-legged family members use.

Your dog’s body is coated with a very thin layer of oils. These oils form a protective barrier for the skin, shielding it from the elements, biting insects and the basic indignities of daily life. This layer is continually replaced, and it will regenerate if removed, but your dog will feel and look her best if this oil layer remains intact.

This is where the rub lies: The pH of your skin – and therefore the shampoo you use – is much lower than that of your dog’s. This means that human shampoos will cut right through the oils on your pooch’s coat and wash them away.

This can leave your pup’s fur and skin dry, and it will cause irritation for those with sensitive skin. The severity of the reaction will vary from one individual to the next, but it is almost always stressful for the dog and an unnecessary eventuality.

Accordingly, it is wiser to use a shampoo specifically formulated for your pet.

Emergency Exceptions

It is always best to use a shampoo designed for your pet, but if you are faced with a hygiene-emergency, you can use a bit of your own soap or shampoo to clean off your canine. Don’t feel like you have to drop everything and run to the store after catching your pet rolling around on something dead, foul or slimy – just clean her off as best you can and worry about her coat health later.

You’ll want to use the gentlest soap available, like the “no tears” versions formulated for toddlers, to mitigate the damage done. If you can, try to use a soap with the highest pH you have. This type of information is rarely printed on shampoo bottles, but a little Googling may uncover answers.

Shampoo Selection and Other Bathing Tips

When you start shopping for your new dog shampoo, be sure to keep a few things in mind:

  • Dogs with sensitive skin may benefit from shampoos that include coconut oil and other skin-protecting lipids. These types of ingredients are fairly common among high-end shampoos, but be sure to glance at the ingredient list first when selecting products at the affordable end of the price spectrum.
  • Use caution when purchasing shampoos or soaps that contain fragrances. Some fragrances can cause skin irritation, and your dog may not enjoy smelling like lavender or lilacs.
  • Consider a soapfree shampoo if you bathe your pup frequently. Soap-free shampoos are a great option for dogs who must endure frequent baths. They are gentler than typical shampoos on your dog’s skin and coat. There are also waterless shampoos which are designed to keep your dog looking and smelling clean between baths, which you may also want to consider.
  • Always be sure to rinse your dog thoroughly after lathering her up. If you leave a soap film on your dog’s skin and fur, she won’t look as shiny as normal and her fur will feel rather coarse.
  • Most owners use too much shampoo when bathing their pet. This won’t cause any serious problems, but it will force you to spend more time rinsing your pet, and it is a waste of money. You don’t have to turn your dog into a ball of suds when you bathe her; just use enough shampoo to break the water tension to help remove the dirt and gunk on her.

best type of dog shampooSo, there you have it. Your dog won’t spontaneously combust if you bathe her with human shampoo. However, it can make a mess of her coat and skin. Because of this, you’re always better off using a shampoo specifically designed for dogs.

Do you have a particular pet shampoo you like to use for your dog? We’d love to hear all about it. Let us know the product’s name and what you like most about it in the comments below.

Caroline Kellam

Caroline Kellam

Caroline Kellam is the co-owner of PAWSitive Strides Dog Walking and Pet Sitting Services and a huge animal lover. She and her husband, Brian, share their home with six (yes, you read it right, six!) rescued dogs and three cockatiels (one of which was found on a neighbor's roof). She would love to have a cat or two as well, but the dogs (and the birds) will simply not stand for it.
Caroline Kellam

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