Can You Use Your Human Shampoo On Dogs? What Science Says?

Written by Amber LaRock
Published: September 27, 2022
Image Credit WilleeCole Photography/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:

No matter how much we love the dogs in our family, there is no denying that they become smelly from time to time. Many of us have a few human shampoo options in our home at all times. Some pet parents wonder if they can simply reach for their shampoo when it is time to bathe their pup. Human shampoo is safe for our hair and skin, so is it safe for dogs as well?

In this article we will dive into the details of why you should never use human shampoo on your dog. We’ll also review the potential complications that come along with bathing your dog in a human hair care product.

Here we go!

15,819 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?
Dandruff shampoo for dogs
In this article we will dive into the details of why you should never use human shampoo on your dog.

/Shutterstock.com

Dog Skin & Human Skin Are Very Different

Before we discuss the reasons why you should not use human shampoo for dogs, it’s important to understand just how different human and dog skin is. The differences in their skin is what makes it so important to only use dog approved products on your pup. They have a delicate balance of pH and natural oils that is unique to them.

First, it’s important to be aware of the fact that while people have 18-20 cell layers that make up their epidermis, dogs only have 8-10. This means their skin is much more sensitive and at risk to irritation if one disrupts the protective oils on their skin. In addition to having a much thinner epidermis than humans, dogs also have an entirely difference pH on the surface of their 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 pH of the acid mantle on humans is typically very acidic (around 5.6). The dog’s acid mantle pH is more neutral (6.2-7.3). The design of human hair care and skin products is for an acidic acid mantle only.

When you use a human shampoo on your dog, this can severely disrupt the natural pH balance on the surface of their skin. Because their acid mantle serves as a protective barrier, any damage to this barrier can put them at risk of skin infections and skin parasites. It can also lead to irritating dryness and skin cracking. The design of human shampoo is not with dogs in mind.

why do dogs lick themselves
Using human shampoo can also lead to irritating dryness and skin cracking. Human shampoo is not designed with dog’s in mind.

Rattanapon Ninlapoom/Shutterstock.com

Can You Use Human Shampoo On Dogs?

No, we do not recommend using any kind of human shampoo on dogs. The only shampoo or skin care products you should use on your pup are ones specifically for dogs. Any other products can cause severe skin irritation and damage. No matter how gentle a human hair care product claims to be, you should never use it on your dog.

Dangers Of Using Human Shampoo On Dogs

We want you to be informed when it comes to your dog’s skin and coat health. It’s important to be aware of the complications which can occur when using human shampoo on your dog. Ranging from skin irritation to skin infections, let’s break down the risks below.

Immediate Skin Irritation

Human shampoos contain ingredients and fragrances not for dogs. This means that not only will some dogs develop immediate skin irritation after their bath, some may even be allergic to certain human shampoos. Human shampoo in dogs can cause skin redness, itchy skin, skin rashes, hives, and even fur loss in some cases.

Severe Skin Dryness

Due to the fact human shampoo has human skin pH levels in mind, this means these products will strip the dog of their natural skin oils. These natural oils not only offer the dog’s skin protection, but they also help to hydrate the skin and coat. The loss of these natural oils quickly lead to dry skin, itching, and even cracked skin. Not only is this irritating for the dog, but it will cause them to scratch. Scratching only further traumatizes the skin. This can also increase the risk of infection when they are constantly scratching and biting at their body.

dog with flaky skin
Human shampoos can put a dog at risk of bacterial or viral skin infections.

natnaree sangkaew/Shutterstock.com

Bacterial Or Viral Skin Infections

Human shampoos can put a dog at risk of bacterial or viral skin infections for a couple reasons. First, the human shampoo can strip the skin of its natural oil and throw off the pH of the acid mantle. The oils on the outer layer of skin serve as a layer of protection. Compromising this layer can allow bacteria and viruses to attack their skin.

In addition to altering the pH balance of the outer skin layer, human shampoo can also lead to skin irritation and dryness. These pups will often bite and scratch at their skin as a result. Scratching and biting can lead to minor injuries that compromise the skin surface. This offers bacteria and viruses a point of entry into the skin layers, which in turn can lead to infection.

Skin Mites

Compromising their skin allows bacteria and viruses to make a home out of your dog’s skin. Skin mites like to live there too. A healthy pup typically fights off these critters when their skin oils are in balance. The human shampoo will disturb their natural protection. These mites can lead to patches of fur loss, itching, skin infections, sores on the skin, and even systemic infections in severe cases.

A pug scratching on a white background
Not only can bacteria and viruses make a home out of your dog’s skin when their skin is compromised, so can skin mites.

iStock.com/adogslifephoto

Will One Bath With Human Shampoo Harm My Dog?

Your are enjoying a relaxing day at home, only for your dog to come barreling through the dog door covered in mud. They are just moments away from spreading mud all throughout your home, so you know you have to get them into the bathtub quickly. The only problem is, you don’t have any dog shampoo. If you have no other option, is it okay to use human shampoo just once?

In most situations, one use of human shampoo is okay. Most of these complications arise with repeated use of human shampoo, so a one time bathing emergency won’t likely cause any serious harm to your pup. However, there are some dogs that have allergic reactions to human shampoos, so we do suggest keeping an eye out for any skin irritation in the 12-72 hours that follow their bath.

The best way to prepare for a smelly dog emergency is to have a bottle of dog shampoo in your home at all times. You can find a quality dog shampoo at any pet store, and even at your local supermarket in some cases. A dog shampoo with soothing agents like oatmeal or aloe are typically best, but you can browse our suggested dog shampoo options here.

Should I Use Baby Shampoo On My Dog?

If it ever comes down to using either human shampoo or baby shampoo in a smelly dog emergency, we always suggest going for the baby shampoo. 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. Again, this is only when you are in a pinch and don’t have a dog shampoo on hand, because it is still not ideal for our canine friends.

Muddy Dog
If it ever comes down to using either human shampoo or baby shampoo in a smelly dog emergency, we always suggest going for the baby shampoo.

Final Thoughts

Human shampoo is not a suitable bathing option for the beloved dogs in our life. We always suggest keeping a dog shampoo in your home at all times, so even if you are in a pinch, you will always have a way to clean your furry friend.

Up Next:

Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?

How about the fastest dogs, the largest dogs and those that are -- quite frankly -- just the kindest dogs on the planet? Each day, AZ Animals sends out lists just like this to our thousands of email subscribers. And the best part? It's FREE. Join today by entering your email below.

What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?

X-Small
Small
Medium
Large
Xtra-Large

If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Kids
Other Dogs

Should they be Hypoallergenic?

Yes
No
How important is health?
Which dog groups do you like?
How much exercise should your dog require?
What climate?
How much seperation anxiety?
How much yappiness/barking?

How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
How trainable/obedient does the dog need to be?
How intelligent does the dog need to be?
How much chewing will allow?
A dogue de bordeaux puppy getting a bath on white background
A well-made dog bathtub should be durable, easy to clean, and safe for your pet.
WilleeCole Photography/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:
About the Author

My name is Amber, and I am a Licensed Vet Tech with a degree in Veterinary Technology. My love for animals and their pet parents drove me to work remotely in this field, aiming to provide pet education and guidance whenever it's needed. There’s nothing I love more than helping you feel empowered about your dog or cat’s care!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can I use human shampoo on my dog?

The short answer is no. It is not good for their skin and its protective barrier. In a pinch, sure you can use it, but don’t make a habit of it.

Could I use baby shampoo on my dog?

If it ever comes down to using either human shampoo or baby shampoo in a smelly dog emergency, we always suggest going for the baby shampoo. 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.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.