Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs

Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs

Whether you’re a first-time dog owner just getting your feet wet or an experienced trainer with years of furry friendships under your belt, one question that frequently pops up is: Can you use human shampoo on dogs?

The Short Answer: No, But Let’s Dive Deeper

Contrary to what you might think, the answer isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. While many might be tempted to reach for that bottle of human shampoo when bath time rolls around for our four-legged companions, the answer, simply put, is no.

Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs
Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs

But why is this the case?

The pH Factor

Here’s a term you might remember from high school chemistry: pH level. What does this have to do with your dog’s shampoo? Well, quite a lot, actually.

You see, humans and dogs have different skin pH levels. Human skin tends to be more on the acidic side, typically between 5.2 and 6.2. On the other hand, a dog’s skin is more neutral, clocking in between 6.2 and 7.4. In other words, human shampoo is far too acidic for your dog’s skin. So, what happens if you do use human shampoo on your furry friend? The consequences can range from dry, flaky skin to more severe reactions like inflammation and infections.

Not All Shampoo is Created Equal

You might be thinking, “Well, I use a gentle, natural shampoo. Surely that won’t harm my dog, right?” While your thought process is understandable, unfortunately, that’s not quite right.

Dog shampoo is specially formulated for a dog’s unique skin and fur needs. It’s designed to clean without stripping away natural oils, maintain a balanced pH level, and help manage any skin conditions your dog might have.

Human shampoos, even the most gentle or organic ones, simply aren’t made with these canine-specific considerations in mind.

Breaking Down the Ingredient List

Peering into the world of shampoo ingredients can feel like navigating a labyrinth of scientific jargon. But it’s essential to understand what we’re applying on our furry friends’ skin. Let’s reveal a list of potentially harmful ingredients found in human shampoos that could harm your dog.

  1. Sulfates: As mentioned earlier, sulfates create the rich lather synonymous with cleanliness in human shampoos. Specifically, look out for Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). These harsh detergents strip away natural oils from your dog’s skin, leading to dryness and irritation.
  2. Fragrances: Artificial fragrances can cause an array of issues, from skin irritation to serious allergic reactions in dogs. Look for vague terms like “perfume,” “parfum,” or “fragrance” on the ingredient list, which often mask a cocktail of undisclosed ingredients.
  3. Parabens: Common parabens to watch out for include methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. These preservatives are used to prevent microbial growth, but they can disrupt your dog’s hormonal balance and potentially cause skin irritation.
  4. Phthalates: These chemicals are used to enhance the performance of other ingredients, such as fragrances, but are known to cause hormonal imbalances and toxicity in dogs.
  5. Alcohol: Certain types of alcohol, such as ethanol, benzyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol, can dry out your dog’s skin and cause irritation.
  6. Artificial Colors/Dyes: Synthetic colors may make the shampoo look appealing, but they contribute nothing to its effectiveness. They can cause skin irritation and allergies in dogs, and some are suspected to be carcinogenic.
  7. Mineral Oil: Derived from petroleum, mineral oil creates a film on the skin that can block pores, leading to skin problems. It can also strip the skin of its natural oils.
  8. DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), and TEA (Triethanolamine): These chemicals can cause skin irritation and allergies in dogs. They’re used to provide a creamy texture and pH balance, but they can react with other ingredients to form potential carcinogens.
  9. Propylene Glycol: While it’s used as a humectant in shampoos, propylene glycol can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in dogs.

Remember, not all human shampoos will contain all these ingredients, but these are commonly found in many formulations. In general, it’s always best to opt for a dog-specific shampoo to ensure you’re using a product tailored to your dog’s unique skin needs.

As a conscientious dog owner, it’s always a good idea to read the label of any product you’re considering for your pet. If you don’t recognize an ingredient or aren’t sure about its potential effects, don’t hesitate to research or consult with your vet.

After all, when it comes to the health and well-being of your furry friend, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

What to Do Instead: Finding the Right Dog Shampoo

Now that we’ve established human shampoo is a no-go for our canine friends, what’s a dog owner to do? Fear not! There are plenty of dog-specific shampoos on the market designed with your pet’s health in mind.

  • Consider your dog’s skin condition. Is it generally healthy, or does your pooch suffer from dry skin or allergies? Choose a shampoo specifically formulated for their condition.
  • If your dog has a more serious skin condition, consult your vet. They might recommend a prescription shampoo.
  • Look for natural ingredients. Oatmeal, aloe vera, and certain essential oils can be soothing and beneficial for dogs’ skin.
  • Avoid any product with the harmful ingredients listed above.

Paws and Reflect: Crafting Safe, All-Natural Shampoo for Dogs

If you’re not quite sold on the shampoos available on the market, or you just love a good DIY project, creating your own all-natural dog shampoo can be an excellent option. This not only allows you to have full control over what goes into your product, but it can also be cost-effective.

Let’s explore a couple of recipes that are safe, gentle, and perfect for your four-legged companion.

1. Oatmeal Dog Shampoo


  • 1 cup uncooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 quart warm water


  1. Using a blender or food processor, grind the oatmeal until it becomes a fine powder.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the ground oatmeal, baking soda, and warm water.
  3. Stir until well combined.
  4. During bath time, apply this mixture to your dog’s coat.
  5. Massage it in for a few minutes and then rinse thoroughly.

Oatmeal is great for soothing itchy skin, and baking soda can help eliminate odors. It’s a simple, two-ingredient shampoo that’s easy to whip up at home.

2. Gentle Aloe Vera and Glycerin Shampoo


  • 1 quart of water
  • 1 cup baby shampoo or nontoxic dish soap
  • 1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup glycerin
  • 2 tablespoons aloe vera gel


  1. In a large container, combine water, baby shampoo or dish soap, vinegar, glycerin, and aloe vera gel.
  2. Stir until well mixed.
  3. Apply to your dog’s wet coat, work it in with your hands until it lathers.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.

This shampoo is slightly more complex, but still straightforward to make. The aloe vera has soothing properties, while the glycerin moisturizes your dog’s skin and coat.

When using any homemade shampoo, always avoid your dog’s eyes and inner ears, as these areas can be quite sensitive.

3. Infusing Aromatherapy: Safe Essential Oils for Dogs

Essential oils can add a lovely scent to your homemade dog shampoo and some may even boast potential health benefits. However, it’s crucial to remember that dogs have a much more sensitive sense of smell compared to humans, and not all essential oils are safe for them.

Here are some dog-friendly essential oils you might consider adding to your homemade shampoo. But remember, less is more when it comes to essential oils and dogs – a couple of drops will usually do the trick!

  1. Lavender: This oil has calming properties that can help soothe an anxious dog. It also has potential anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.
  2. Chamomile: Known for its soothing qualities, chamomile can be beneficial for dogs with skin irritations.
  3. Peppermint: With its cooling effect, peppermint can provide relief for irritated skin. It’s also a natural antiseptic and can help repel fleas and ticks.
  4. Sweet Marjoram: This oil is known for its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.
  5. Cedarwood: Cedarwood can help repel pests and has antifungal benefits.

When adding these to your homemade shampoo, make sure to thoroughly mix the essential oil into the blend. Also, be aware that some dogs may have allergic reactions to even the safest essential oils. It’s always recommended to do a small patch test and wait a day to see if your dog reacts before using the shampoo all over.

Note: NEVER use the following essential oils on dogs as they can be toxic: tea tree, cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, pine, sweet birch, wintergreen, and ylang ylang.

Homemade shampoo can be a game changer for your furry friend’s bath time, making it a more enjoyable and less irritating experience. With these tips, you’re well on your way to creating a bespoke bathing experience for your canine companion. Enjoy the process, and may your dog enjoy the results!

Creating your own all-natural dog shampoo can be a fun and rewarding task. By taking the reins, you’re ensuring your pup is bathed with a product free from harmful chemicals, and filled with love, care, and natural goodness. Happy shampoo making!

Closing Thoughts

Sure, bathing your dog with human shampoo might seem like a handy solution in a pinch, but remember: our canine companions aren’t just shorter, hairier humans. They have their own unique physiological characteristics and needs that we need to respect and cater to.

So the next time bath day comes around, put your human shampoo back in the shower caddy and reach for a dog-friendly alternative instead. After all, our dogs give us their unconditional love every day—let’s return the favor by making sure their baths are as pleasant and healthful as possible. Remember, while homemade shampoos can be fantastic alternatives to commercial products, they may not always be enough if your dog has specific skin conditions or needs.

In such cases, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian to get a recommendation for a suitable product.

Remember, dogs are not our whole lives, but they certainly make our lives whole. Their care, including bath time, should be a priority to ensure their health and happiness. Your dog will surely thank you with wet kisses and happy tail wags! So, isn’t it worth getting the right shampoo?

Dennis & Becca
Authored by Dennis & Becca

Dennis and Becca, have always shared a passion for man’s best friend. As dog enthusiasts, they put together articles that inform, engage, and captivate fellow dog lovers.

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