Do your dog’s feet smell like Fritos? Does your cat have litter clinging to his legs? These are signs your furry friend needs a bath.

If you want to wash the Frito smell off your dog, but don’t have any dog shampoo handy, the temptation to just douse him with your own coconut-scented jojoba-infused, color-safe hair product might tempt you.

But, as a responsible dog owner, you hesitate. Is human shampoo safe for your furry friend? What brand in your collection of scented rinses is the safest for your corn-chip-smelling pooch?
Meanwhile, the mere idea of bathing a cat can be daunting enough. And, the thought of him licking himself dry puts a whole new spin on the risk of the shampoo’s ingredients.

Here’s everything you need to know for peace of mind.

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The science is a wash
Experts say that you should avoid using a shampoo with artificial scents and perfumes. Also, avoid making a habit of washing your dog with your hair stuff. Once might be okay. But, doing it repeatedly will mess up your pet’s pH balance. If you have to wash your pet with human shampoo, go for the baby variety. Baby shampoo is more compatible with the dog’s pH level, which ranges from 5.5 to 7.5. As a bonus, it will not irritate your pet’s eyes either. Cats tend to have a pH of about the same range, although some studies have found cat pH ranging up to a nine.

Human skin and your pet’s skin both have an acid mantle, a protective layer that guards the upper layer from bacteria and other contaminants. This topmost layer of skin helps to keep the body hydrated, as it prevents excessive evaporation. When we use soap and shampoo, we wash the acid layer off. Most commercial brands of shampoo contain moisturizers that will help to act as a stand-in, protecting the skin until the acid layer builds up about twelve hours later.

Human shampoo strips your dog’s acid mantle away and leaves pet susceptible to bacteria and parasites. Furthermore, if your dog’s skin is flaky or dry afterward, it may become itchy, leading to abrasions from excessive scratching, or lick granulomas.

Ingredients for your pet
Pet shampoos should have a pH balance of around 7. Many pet shampoo labels will state the pH on the label, or at least state that the product is pH balanced. Check the labels and make sure there are no artificial scents or colors in the shampoo. Some natural scents are good to use. These include:

Some of the natural ingredients that will help a pet’s sensitive skin feature a “pet-friendly” label. These may include:

Aloe vera
Vitamin E
Tea tree oil
You do not need to bathe your dog using shampoo each month. A good cleaning every few months is all a dog generally needs. An occasional good rinse in the meantime should suffice.

Speaking of rinse, when you do wash your pet, make sure you rinse excessively. Make sure you wash all the soap residue off your dog’s fur coat.

Be aware that some cats do just fine living their whole life without ever getting a bath. Most cats prefer it that way.

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