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Health & Wellness

Can my dog and I share shampoo?

What to look for in dog-friendly shampoos.

This scenario may sound familiar: You spent a day at the dog park, and your pup had a great time running around and rolling in the muddy grass. But unfortunately, all of that fun is showing their dirty, messy fur.

If it’s a little too late to book a grooming appointment and you don't want them to make a mess in your home, don’t go reaching for any human shampoo — it may be best to rinse them with water, and water only, until you get pet shampoo.

 According to Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch's on-staff veterinarian, it may not be the best idea to use human shampoo on dogs. Here's why you should stock up on vet-recommended dog shampoo. 

Is human shampoo safe for dogs?

Generally, you shouldn't use human shampoo or conditioner on your dog unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise. The shampoo we put on our heads is usually too drying for dogs' skin — especially for dogs who have underlying endocrine disorders, like skin allergies or hypothyroidism, Dr. McCullough says. 

“A dog's skin pH is higher than a human’s,” she adds. “The pH difference between dog and human shampoo could disrupt the healthy bacteria on a dog’s skin, which can predispose dogs to skin infections.”

Instead of reaching for the bottle of human shampoo, talk to your veterinarian. While you’re on the hunt for the perfect dog-friendly shampoo, look for brands that include natural ingredients with no added chemicals or artificial fragrances, Dr. McCullough recommends. 

RELATED: Dog tear stains: causes and how to get rid of them

What to do if your dog has a negative reaction to human shampoo

Red or dry skin, pus-filled bumps, scratching (which could lead to ulcerations) and hair loss are all signs that your pup is negatively reacting to human shampoo. 

“If a dog is having a negative reaction to human shampoo, pet parents should wash the shampoo off as soon as possible and contact their veterinarian,” Dr. McCullough explains. 

Tips for bathing a dog at home

You don't always have to leave it to the professionals when bathing your pup. Here are Dr. McCullough's tips for getting your dog squeaky clean in the comfort of your tub: 

  • Treats and positive reinforcements will help your pup feel confident. 
  • Use a soft, lukewarm stream of water and a small amount of shampoo (if you’re using a new brand, test it on a small area of your pup’s skin first to see if they have a negative reaction).
  • Avoid getting soap or water in your dog’s ears, eyes and nose. 
  • Gently lather the soap on your dog’s skin. 
  • Thoroughly rinse the shampoo off your dog’s skin, as any lingering soap can cause skin irritation. 
  • Be ready with lots of towels to dry your pup. Beware: Your dog will likely want to shake off and potentially zoom around the house as soon as you're finished. 
  • Create a bathing routine if your pup had a great experience so your pup knows what to expect.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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