Can You Use Human Shampoo on a Dog?

Human Shampoo on Dogs

It might happen that you want to give your dog a proper bath but you find yourself without professional dog shampoo at hand. What can you do? Can you actually use human shampoo instead for your dog?

You surely know the need to clean your dog immediately after a walk, especially if you have a very messy pup around the house. Regardless of whether they’re walking everywhere with their muddy paws or they’ve just rolled into something smelly, your first thought might be to just toss some of your own shampoo on them.

But even though it might be tempting to do so, you should always consider the best for your dog and his health.

You should always avoid using human shampoo on your dog because it can easily lead to all kinds of problems like diseases of the skin. These animals have very delicate skin which is why it is always a good idea to go for shampoo specifically made for them. They might even need some specialized shampoo to treat some skin conditions they might have.

Going for the best shampoo won’t always be about making the fur of the pet shiny and soft. It might be about providing treatment as well, depending on the dog’s needs.

You might also like my articles on seed ticks, atopic dermatitis, and paw infections in dogs.

Even with the best shampoo out there, you should still consider how often your dog will get its baths, as too many of those can really damage the pet’s skin.

Why shouldn’t you use human shampoo on dogs?

The dog’s skin is usually a combination of a few very delicate layers that can easily get irritated or worse, damaged by chemicals with different acidity. As the pH level of a dog is different than that of a human, the shampoo made specifically for humans will be too harsh for the skin of your pup.

As you know, humans have a pH balance on the skin somewhere between 5.5 and 5.6. Dogs, on the other hand, will have a pH balance over 6.2, sometimes even reaching 7.4. It is more neutral than acidic.

When you use human shampoo on your dog, you will actually destroy the protective outer layer of the skin, which is made of an acid mantle and has the job of repelling parasites, yeasts, viruses, and bacteria.

What human shampoo is safe for dogs?

Although you understand at this point that you shouldn’t use human shampoo on your dog, you might be wondering if baby shampoo would be a better alternative. Although when possible, you should completely avoid using human shampoo on your dog’s baths, there are experts arguing that the gentle formula of a baby shampoo makes it at least slightly safer than adult human options.

There are also some veterinarians that advise on trying a heavily diluted version of your least fragrant shampoo and using it on a test patch to see if it causes any potential side effects to your pet. Even if there are no short-term reactions to the shampoo, you might never know whether your dog’s fur will have any adverse reactions in the long term. As a dog owner, instead of looking for on-the-spot solutions like trying all kinds of combinations of your own shampoo, it will always be better to just stockpile specialist dog shampoo.

Can you use baby shampoo on a dog?

Bathed DogEven though you should generally not use your own shampoo on your dog, baby shampoo on the other hand, or at least most of the brands, are safe for your dog, as long as you use them in moderation. Human shampoo is pretty harsh but baby brands are usually gentler. The best ones are those that have no fragrance or added colors.

Even when going for baby shampoo, ingredients in the bottle aren’t everything and it is very important to also consider how frequently you’re bathing the dog. If you have a rather messy dog and you need to wash him more than four times per week, then it is better to look for dog shampoo alternatives and avoid any type of human shampoo, even ones designed for babies.

If instead, you’re washing your dog only from time to time, then you can still use baby shampoo on the dog if it has a healthy coat and skin. These products won’t work for dogs that have skin or coat issues like allergies, fleas, or any other skin conditions. When in doubt, always talk to your vet. They can read the ingredients sticker and tell you if a product should be avoided or not.

DIY dog shampoo alternatives

There are also a few dog shampoo alternatives you can make at home, regardless of whether you’re looking for all-natural solutions or you’ve simply forgotten to buy shampoo for your dog.

These homemade solutions will be great when used occasionally, but for the best results when it comes to the cleanliness of the dog, you should still stick to good bath sessions with a professional dog shampoo.


Cornstarch powder, which you will usually find around the kitchen, is a great solution as a type of dry dog shampoo. For best results, you can shake it over the coat of your pet as a way of freshening it up, and then work the powder into its fur. When you’re done, any left powder can be pulled out with a brush or a comb.

Vinegar and water

You can combine some vinegar with water to create a handy spritz if you’re only looking for a light clean-up. Just mix distilled or filtered water with ACV or white vinegar in equal parts, put them in a spray bottle, shake thoroughly and create a shake-like mixture.  Pray the mixture on your dog at need.

Baking soda

Baking soda is yet another common ingredient people use to make homemade dog shampoo. Although you can also apply it directly to your dog’s coat, it would be a lot better to mix it with water and oatmeal to stop it from drying up. Baking soda should be mixed with one cup of oatmeal and warm water.

Castile soap

Usually, Castile soap offers a very good pH balance for the dog’s skin, but it is also free of chemicals. It has no fragrances that would lead to irritation and can also work on dogs with very sensitive skins.

THere are pet owners who use Castile soap to make a type of homemade dog shampoo, mixing it with other ingredients found at home.

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