Dog Shampoo – Any Substitutes?

July 24th, 2020

Your dog needs a bath but you don’t have any dog shampoo 😱. I bet you’ve found yourself in this situation before?

Before I owned my grooming salon it happened to me countless times and it was so frustrating! I’d get so annoyed with myself for not keeping an extra one handy. It was especially frustrating when one of our Howavart girls decided to roll in 💩.

I grabbed just about anything I had at home to wash her because all I knew was that I had to remove the 💩  as quickly as possible. By anything, I mean washing up liquid, my shampoo, my conditioner… anything to make her clean and smell nice. 

Now I bet you’re thinking…can I use human shampoo on my dog?

The answer is… kind of. Basically, in emergencies like this, I wouldn’t hesitate because, yes, the human shampoo will clean your dog, however, I wouldn’t recommend using it as a substitute to a good quality, as natural as possible, dogs shampoo.

What is The Acid Mantel?

The acid mantle is a very fine, slightly acidic film on the surface of human skin and it works as a barrier to protect the porous top layer (the stratum corneum) from bacteria and viruses. The stratum corneum keeps the outer body well hydrated by absorbing water and not allowing excessive evaporation.

When we wash our dog with shampoo, like it or not, we wash away the acid mantle. It’s for this reason why most human and dog shampoos, as well as soaps, are formulated with moisturizers – to replace the protective layer that has been washed away. This is at least until the skin is able to replenish itself around 12 hours later. If the stratum corneum is left unprotected without its acid barrier, it will be open to a host of microorganisms. This may show up as dry, flaky, irritated, or peeling skin and perhaps even as a rash of itchy lumps.

The acid mantle is also defined as the relative pH balance of the skin. As you probably remember from your school days, the pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with levels less than 6.4 considered high acidity, and levels more than 6.4 considered high alkalinity. The normal range of skin pH levels for humans is 5.2 to 6.2, which means it tends to be on the acidic side. Human shampoos and other skin products are formulated specifically to maintain this balance. Relative pH balance for dogs ranges from 5.5 to 7.5, tending toward a more alkaline concentration (depending on breed, gender, climate, and the anatomical size).

So, what does all this mean?

In a nutshell, if we use shampoo formulated for human skin on a dog, the dog’s acid mantle will be disrupted and it will create an environment where bacteria, parasites, and viruses can grow happily. Unknowingly many pet owners will repeat wash their dogs with human shampoos for different reasons. Perhaps it’s also more convenient because the human shampoo is always there and it smells nice too?

Before learning about the acid mantle, I too was a culprit. I’d even been advised by a friend who breeds and shows Poodles to use Pantene Silk and Smooth as it protects the hair really well allowing for faster growth too. But what about the skin? I’d never thought of that…

The more we learn, the better choices we can make. Don’t you agree?

A lot of people bath their dogs often because of their smell. This can be caused by a proliferation of bacteria, making the problem worse as the skin’s acid mantle (pH level) becomes more out of balance. If they then use a shampoo that makes the skin feel dry, their dog will scratch thereby creating abrasions for bacteria to invade and this will quickly become a vicious cycle.

In conclusion, what’s the lesson learned?

When you’re choosing a shampoo for your dog check the pH balance as well. Dog shampoos should be in the neutral range, around 7. Many shampoo manufacturers provide this information on their labels and even if there’s no specific number, they should clearly state that the shampoo is pH-balanced for dogs.

On a side note… make sure that the shampoo doesn’t contain artificial fragrance and perfumes and try to find natural skin moisturizers like vitamin E, aloe vera, honey, coconut or argan oil. Don’t rely on the front label alone – rather read the ingredients list.

How do I make natural dog shampoo?

Feeling creative and want to create your own homemade dog shampoo? Why not?! You may have some of these ingredients at home already and others can easily be ordered from Summer Naturals.

Aloe Vera and Glycerine Shampoo
  • 1 litre of water.
  • 230ml of shampoo base
  • 230 ml of apple cider vinegar.
  • 75ml of glycerine.
  • 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel
I recently discovered this homemade shampoo for itchy skin too 🙂
  • one cup of oatmeal flour (you can also chop up a cup of oats in a blender until it reaches a powder consistency)
  • ½ cup of baking soda
  • cups of warm water

Do you enjoy making your own shampoo? Perhaps you have your own recipe? What do you look for when choosing a shampoo for your dog?

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