Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs? The Science Behind the Myth

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Author: Jacob Kay

We always choose the best for ourselves, whether it is soap or shampoo and we try to do the same for our furry friend. We choose the best shampoo that suits his skin and maintains a shiny coat. However, what if you need to bathe your dog and find your dog’s shampoo to be empty? Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

You might think of reaching out to your shampoo to bathe your dog. But can you do so? Can you use human shampoo on dogs? Is it safe? Let us explore whether or not human shampoo is safe for dogs.

Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs

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Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

No, you cannot use human shampoo on dogs. As we know both dogs and humans have to maintain a certain pH level of the skin. Said so, products specifically designed for dogs retain the pH level of dog skin. However, if this pH level is disturbed then the dog might get rashes and irritation on the skin.[1]

Thus, it is not recommended to use human shampoo on dogs. Your pet should only use shampoo as well as other products that are formulated for dogs. Human products can cause irritation and damage to the skin. It disrupts the acid mantle, leaving your dog vulnerable to parasites, viruses, and bacteria. Using a dog shampoo specifically formulated for antibacterial and antifungal properties would be ideal, such as the best antibacterial and antifungal dog shampoo uk.

Human shampoos and conditioners have pH levels that can harm your pets’ skin and cause irritation.“, confirms Dr Mark Stickney, a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine.

It also makes their skin feel dry and flaky, which can lead to repeated scratching and abrasions. Using human products can result in skin irritation and damage, leading to skin allergies and fur shedding in the long run.

Shampoo for dogs

However, in case of emergency, if you run out of dog shampoo and need to bathe your dog, then human shampoo can be okay to use. The harshness of human shampoo on dogs also depends on the frequency of use. Once in a blue moon is completely fine. The pH level of a dog won’t disrupt with just one use of human shampoo.

Additionally, human shampoo is also available with natural ingredients and minimal chemicals. You can check for the pH level and chemicals used in the product. If they are minimum and the pH level is close to 7, then such shampoo can be used sometimes on your dog. Most skin complications arise with repeated use of human shampoo, so a one-time bathing emergency won’t likely cause any serious harm to your pup.

Understanding Canine Skin

Both dogs and humans have a layer on the top of their skin called the acid mantle. The acid mantle refers to the thin layer of oil that covers the surface of the skin. It essentially serves as a skin barrier. The acid mantle has a certain pH level in both dogs and humans which s important to maintain for smooth functioning of the skin layer.

Dog skin has a pH range of 5.5 to 7.2, with even higher pH levels found between 6.4 to 9.1 on the dorsal thoracolumbar area (somewhere around the spine region). On the other hand, human skin’s pH is much lower in comparison with dogs. The average pH level of human skin is 5.5.[2]

Moreover, a dog’s skin is actually more sensitive than ours. We have 10-15 layers of skin cells, while canines have only 3-5. Shampoo with the wrong pH balance or harsh chemicals can irritate a dog’s skin and strip away the protective oils from its coat and skin.

Can You Use Baby Shampoo on My Dog?

Now the question arises to use baby shampoo on dogs. Well, baby shampoos are naturally formulated with fewer chemicals and are water-based. They only contain glycerin for smoothness and other cleansing agents in small quantities. Most importantly, baby shampoo has a pH level of around 7, the perfect number for dogs.

Though this seems perfect to use for your Fido, it’s still too acidic for canine skin and over time, is likely to cause problems. This shampoo is not for regular use, but it will be less harsh than adult shampoos and will likely decrease the risk of skin irritation.

Substitutes for Dog Shampoo

Dog shampoo should be your priority to bathe your dog. However, if you run out of it and it is necessary to bathe your dog, then you can consider some DIY dog shampoo. You can prepare them at home or use them as a substitute for dog shampoo.

dog shampoo

Here are some alternatives for dog shampoo:

  • Pet Wipes

Pet wipes are available specifically to remove light dirt and give shine to that fur. It saves your dog from getting wet. If your dog hates bathing then this can be an option to consider.[3]

  • Castile soap

Castile soap is free of chemicals as well as fragrance. It provides a good pH balance on your dog’s skin and does not cause any irritation. It is safe to use on your dog’s skin.

  • Vinegar and water

For a light clean-up, you can combine water and vinegar together for a handy spritz. Combine equal parts of either white vinegar or distilled water into a spray bottle and shake to blend. You can spray it on the dog can then wipe him with a clean cloth.

While vinegar can help repel fleas, it does not kill fleas instantly. If you need a solution for what kills fleas on dogs instantly, talk to your vet about fast-acting flea treatments

  • Baking soda

You can simply mix baking soda with oatmeal and warm water and apply it directly to your pet. Another option is to fill it in a bottle and spray it on the dog.

Baking soda can help remove dirt and debris where fleas may be lurking. For a natural flea treatment for dogs uk that kills adult fleas, combine baking soda with other natural ingredients


What can I use if I don’t have dog shampoo?

Dish soap and vinegar are common dog shampoo substitutes. It can be used in a small quantity, but it should only be used as a last option as it can be harsh on your dog’s skin. Simply mix equal parts water and vinegar or dish soap, apply it to your dog’s coat, and rinse well.

Can I use normal shampoo on a dog?

It’s best not to use human shampoo on a dog. Human skin is more acidic than canine skin, so the shampoos are balanced to take this into account. Canine skin is also thinner than human skin, meaning it’s more prone to damage by harsh shampoos and is generally more sensitive.

Can I put coconut oil on my dog?

Aside from feeding it to your pup, coconut oil can also benefit your dog’s skin and coat when applied topically. Not only can coconut oil make your dog’s coat look glossy and polished, but it can also help soothe irritated, itchy skin.

How do you make homemade dog shampoo?

You can use water, vinegar and baby shampoo for a homemade flea bath. Mix together one quart of water, one cup of white vinegar and one cup of baby shampoo. Mix all of the ingredients until the mixture is uniform throughout. Use this mixture on your dog during a bath to address a flea problem.

Wrapping Up

In a nutshell, the answer to, ‘Can you use human shampoo on dogs?’ is no! Human shampoo, having unbalanced pH cannot be used on dogs as it can be harsh on them. Using human products can harm the skin as well as the fur of your dog. Long-term use can lead to irritation, rashes and shedding of fur.

Thus, you should never use human shampoo on dogs on a regular basis. Using it once out of emergency is completely fine. However, doing so can also affect the dog if he is very sensitive. Thus, it is better to ask your veterinarian for effective guidance.


  1. Admin. (2017). Addressing Myths about Cat and Dog Grooming. Merryfield Academy.
  2. Matousek, J. L. (2003, January 1). Evaluation of the effect of pH on in vitro growth of Malassezia pachydermatis. PubMed Central (PMC).
  3. Contributor, S. (2021, January 30). How to “dry bathe” your animal for therapy visits – College of Health and Human Sciences. College of Health and Human Sciences.
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Jacob Kay
Jacob Kay is a Veterinary Advisor and Editor at WWD. He’s also a dog lover and has two pet dogs of his own. He has extensive knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine and is always happy to share his insights with others.

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