Differences Between Dog Shampoos & Human Shampoos

by Jo Chester
    Dogs are "man's best friend," but they deserve shampoos of their own.

    Dogs are "man's best friend," but they deserve shampoos of their own.

    Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Significant differences exist between dog shampoos and human shampoos; however, these differences exist due to the different problems they are used to address. While dogs and humans differ in terms of skin thickness and pH, these differences should not be the primary reason to consider using shampoos formulated strictly for dogs on your dogs.

    Dogs have more acidic skin than humans. However, according to groomer Barbara Bird, pet shampoos had a pH range of 2.2 to 7.5, while many human shampoos had a pH range between 5.0 and 6.5. Bird says the difference in the pH range among the pet shampoos is greater than that between human and pet shampoos. In addition, while dogs have skin that is more alkaline than human skin, the alkalinity can range from 5.5 to 9.1 pH. These two things combined indicate that, while differences exist between human and dog shampoos, there is a great degree of overlap between the two products.

    Humans do not typically need shampoo for insect control, with the general exception of lice. Although dogs do occasionally carry lice, they typically require shampoos that control fleas and ticks. Shampoos developed for lice control may control pyrethrins, but they are otherwise generally absent from human shampoos. Shampoos containing pyrethrins paralyze the insects with which they come into contact, making them useful for pet insect control, but they may cause skin rash and breathing difficulty in humans.

    Like humans, dogs sometimes have dandruff. Canine dandruff can occur due to dry skin, shampoo that has not been rinsed properly, a poor diet or lack of grooming. Human dandruff shampoos should not be used on dogs as they contain zinc pyrithione, which is not commonly used in dog shampoo. They also may contain coal tar, which may irritate your dog’s skin. In addition to dog dandruff shampoos, colloidal oatmeal soap and baby shampoo can be used to treat dog dandruff.

    Dog owners use a wide range of specialty shampoos on their dogs. Some of these specialty shampoos include color-enhancing and whitening shampoos, texturizing shampoos, odor-control shampoos and conditioning shampoos to enhance the dog’s coat. Many of these shampoos are formulated specifically for dogs’ fur. Some formulations may even be specific to single or double coats or may affect the health or the presence of the outer coat or undercoat. Although some human shampoos do include whiteners or conditioning agents, they do not serve as many purposes as shampoos for dogs’ coats.

    Photo Credits

    • Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Jo Chester has been a professional writer and editor for more than a decade. She holds a Master of Arts in professional writing. Chester specializes in dog-related subjects and is a registered agent for Onofrio Dog Show Superintendents. She is also a certified dog trainer and has stewarded at numerous dog shows.

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