Keeping our dogs clean and smelling nice can be a huge problem if your pet has itchy, flaky skin or is sensitive to the chemicals in human shampoos. Finding a canine shampoo that matches your dog’s skin type is often a matter of testing different products to see what works best for your dog. When you maintain the proper pH balance in your dog’s skin, you can prevent a lot of issues that lead to itching, scratching, and a dull hair coat.
What is the normal pH balance of a dog’s skin and how is it different than human skin?
All mammals have what is called an “acid mantle” – a thin layer of acidic oil that covers the top layer of skin and protects it from bacteria, viruses, and other harmful elements. When humans bathe, we wash away that protective mantle. Human shampoos and soaps are typically formulated with oils and moisturizers that replace that acidic layer until the body is able to rejuvenate it on it’s own…usually within 12 hours. If that acid mantle is not replaced, we see irritated, dry, flaky skin, or even a bumpy rash.
That acidic layer is what determines the relative pH of both human and canine skin. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with levels more than 6.4 considered high alkalinity, and with levels less than 6.4 considered high acidity. Human skin falls into a pH range of 5.2 to 6.2, fairly acidic, and human shampoos and soaps are made to maintain that balance.
Canine skin, on the other hand, can range from 5.5 to 7.5, moving into more of an alkaline range depending on the breed, sex, and size of the dog. The climate of where the dog lives also factors into skin balance.
Pet parents can make the mistake of using human shampoo on their dogs, and totally remove that acidic mantle without the dog’s body being able to replenish the needed oils back to its normal range. When that happens, you’ll see a dog with dry, itchy skin that can lead to scratching sores and bacterial infections.
What do I look for in doggy shampoos?
Read the labels on canine shampoos. Look for all-natural, organic ingredients, fragrances, moisturizers.
Shampoos containing natural, colloidal oatmeal, aloe vera, and tea tree oils will replace your dog’s natural skin balance more quickly than shampoos made with chemical components. Shampoos and rich conditioners with natural fragrances such as lavender, peppermint oil, or eucalyptus not only replenish skin oils and keep your pet smelling nice, they can also work as insect repellents.
Contrary to popular belief, you can wash your dog every week to every month (depending on the breed). Keeping your dog clean means washing away allergens that can make her itchy. And if you (the human) have allergies you really want to keep your dog allergen free. Buying a good quality, all-natural doggy shampoo and conditioner may mean digging a little deeper into your pockets than it does when you purchase your own shampoos and soaps – but one bottle can last 6 months and can save your dog from the incessant itching and scratching that comes from using a cheaper, human product. Click here to learn more about how washing your dog can help eliminate itchiness.