Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

Can you use human shampoo on your canine companion? Please make sure you don’t! Find out more in the detailed blog below.

May 15, 2024By Nikita Hillier
can you use human shampoo on dogs

Using human shampoo on dogs can sometimes feel like the easiest and most convenient solution. This is especially true if you’re out of their usual pet shampoo or if you want to save a trip to the store. However, while you can technically use human shampoo, it’s not recommended for pets.

It can have many adverse effects on your furry friend’s skin. Dogs have unique skin compared to humans, making them more sensitive to certain ingredients often found in human shampoos. While it may seem okay at first, it’s not.

Human Shampoos Aren’t Made for Dogs’ Skin

pomeranian dog in towel after bath
Image Credit: Hayffield L on Unsplash

Human shampoos have been specifically formulated for use on human skin. That’s because human skin has a very different pH level compared to the skin of dogs. Usually, the pH level of human skin is usually much more acidic and ranges from 4.5 to 5.5.

Canine skin, on the other hand, ranges from 6.2 or 7.4 usually. This massive difference in pH means that human shampoos can easily disrupt the natural balance of your dog’s skin, leading to a lot of potential issues that could cause your dog’s quality of life to take a hit.

For example, it can lead to dryness, irritation, and other common skin issues in dogs. Using a shampoo designed for human skin on a dog can even result in discomfort and may further exacerbate existing skin conditions. This is why it is so essential to choose products that are actually formulated for canine skin.

Human Shampoos Can Have Harsh Ingredients

black dog shaking during bath time
Image Credit: Elisa Barrantes on Unsplash

Many shampoos that have been formulated for human skin contain some harsh ingredients, including sulfates, fragrances, and artificial colors. These can be extremely abrasive for a canine’s sensitive skin. They will often strip away the natural oils that keep your dog's skin and coat healthy.

This can lead to your dog feeling very dry, itchy, and vulnerable to irritation. On top of this, dogs always have a tendency to lick themselves after a bath. When they lick themselves, they may be ingesting harmful chemicals left on their coat from the shampoo.

So, not only could human shampoo be really bad for your pup on the outside, but it may even damage them internally if they lick their coat after a bath! Over time, exposure to harsh ingredients can even lead to long-term health conditions. It’s also important to consider your dog’s health when grooming, bathing, and brushing your dog.

People Shampoo Can Cause Skin Irritation and Allergies

small dog in bath tub with head sticking out
Image Credit: Darren Richardson on Unsplash

Dogs can have allergic reactions to certain ingredients that are commonly found in most human shampoos. These reactions will usually include:

Because dogs come in various breeds and coat types (from double coats to no fur at all), each dog reacts differently to different ingredients. This is what makes it super hard to predict how your dog’s skin will react to a specific shampoo you want to use. Even if a human shampoo is labeled as gentle or natural, it may still contain ingredients that will trigger allergic reactions in some dogs.

Dog Shampoo Promotes Coat Quality and Texture

small brown dog in bath
Image Credit: Benjamin Lehman on Unsplash

Using human shampoo on dogs can also impact the quality and texture of their coat over a longer period. Dog shampoos are formulated specifically to maintain the natural oils in their fur, keeping it soft, shiny, and healthy.

Human shampoos, on the other hand, may contain ingredients that will strip away your pup's natural oils. This will leave their coat dry, dull, and very prone to tangling, especially if you own a longer-haired breed. This will often result in a coarse, brittle coat that is susceptible to breakage and damage.

Having a brittle coat can spell trouble for dogs with water-resistant fur, like Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundland dogs. They may have problems drying off after a swim or suffer bald patches.

Alternative Shampoos for Dogs

dog getting blowdried after bath
Image Credit: J. Balla Photography

To ensure that your canine companion is in the best condition possible, use a shampoo that is specifically formulated for dogs. Luckily, there are so many great options available on the market that are tailored to meet the unique needs of all different breeds and skin types. They include:

Oatmeal-Based Shampoos

Oatmeal-based shampoos are gentle and soothing, making them the perfect choice for dogs who deal with dry or sensitive skin. Oatmeal has heaps of natural moisturizing properties that can help stop any itching or irritation. This makes it really helpful for dogs who deal with chronic skin conditions.

Hypoallergenic Shampoos

Hypoallergenic shampoos are specifically formulated to treat various skin conditions in dogs. This includes fungal or bacterial infections. These shampoos often contain active ingredients like ketoconazole, chlorhexidine, or benzoyl peroxide. These things can all combat underlying skin issues while cleansing and soothing any areas of concern.

Flea and Tick Shampoos

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Flea and tick shampoos are designed to kill and repel fleas, ticks, and other parasites from your dog's coat all while cleansing it. These shampoos often contain insecticidal ingredients such as permethrin or pyrethrin. They may also contain natural essential oils like cedarwood or neem which have insect-repelling properties.

Avoid Using Human Shampoo on Your Dog

small bug in the bath
Image Credit: Justin Jason on Unsplash

While it can sometimes be tempting to use human shampoo on your dog when you’re in a pinch, it is best to avoid it altogether. Instead, use a shampoo that has been specifically formulated for dogs and will be kind to their skin and coat. Make sure you take into account their unique skin and coat needs before you select a shampoo. Doing so ensures that your furry friend will look (and feel) their best!

Nikita Hillier
By Nikita Hillier

Nikita is a huge animal lover who has grown up on a farm with many different animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cows! She has a lot of experience in the equine industry and is even in the process of studying for an internationally accredited Equine Sports Massage Certificate! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her beloved animals!