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Can You Use Baby Shampoo on Dogs? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

baby shampoo

If you have both a baby and a dog at home, then you may eventually wonder: why not save some money and just use the baby shampoo on the dog? Can you use baby shampoo on dogs, and is baby shampoo safe for dogs?

In most cases, baby shampoo is perfectly fine for use on dogs, although it should only be used as a last resort. To learn more about why this is and which shampoos you should use instead, read our handy guide.

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Is Baby Shampoo Safe for Dogs?

Generally speaking, human shampoos are terrible for use on dogs. Most are formulated with harsh chemicals, as they’re designed to strip away dirt, grime, and other pollutants from your follicles.

Dogs, however, have something that’s known as an “acid mantle,” which is a barrier that protects their skin from being penetrated by viruses, bacteria, and other contaminants. When you use human shampoo on your dog, that acid mantle gets stripped away, leaving their skin prone to irritation or infection.

Baby shampoo, on the other hand, is specifically designed to be gentle. These shampoos usually don’t have many chemicals or fragrances, so not only will they be easy on your dog’s skin, they won’t irritate their nose or eyes either.

A mild baby shampoo won’t affect your dog’s acid mantle, but it’s probably not the best choice for removing caked-on dirt and mud. You also need to make absolutely sure you rinse it all off when you’re done. As a general rule of thumb, rinsing your dog off should take twice as long as lathering them up.

If your dog has extremely sensitive skin (to the point that regular dog shampoos irritate it), then a baby shampoo may actually be the best option for them. However, in those cases, you should try to refrain from bathing them unless it’s absolutely necessary.

shih tzu taking a bath
Image Credit: liilxliil, Pixabay

What Should I Look For in a Dog Shampoo?

Think about the human shampoo aisle at your local grocery store for a second. There are dozens of options, many of which are designed for special conditions, like dry hair, frizzy hair, or dyed hair. It’s impossible to design a one-size-fits-all shampoo for people.

So, why should dogs be any different? Different dogs have different needs, and you’ll have to figure out what your dog’s mane requires on your own or with help from your vet.

The biggest determining factor will be the thickness of your dog’s coat. You wouldn’t bathe a thin-coated Chihuahua with the same shampoo that you’d use on a Bernese Mountain Dog’s forest of fur. Most shampoos will indicate what level of thickness they work best with, so pay attention to the labels.

If your dog has skin conditions like mange or dermatitis, then you’ll likely need a specialty shampoo. You should ask your vet what they recommend, as they might encourage you to buy something medicated or a soothing shampoo with ingredients like oatmeal instead.

Are There Any Things I Need to Avoid in Dog Shampoos?

Surprisingly enough, even shampoos made specifically for dogs can be full of ingredients that shouldn’t be applied to your pup’s skin.

One thing to look for is vague language. For example, if the label says that it has a “proprietary blend” of ingredients, that means they don’t want you to know what those ingredients are. They may be completely innocent, but that’s the point — you don’t know.

Artificial fragrances and colors are a big no-no as well. These can strip your dog’s acid mantle, and they’ve been known to cause allergic reactions. Remember, your dog’s nose is much more powerful than yours, so they probably won’t like having a strong fragrance follow them around everywhere they go.

Try to skip sulfates as well. These come in a variety of names, but the ingredient will almost always end in “sulfate.” Sulfates create a richer lather, but they’re extremely harsh on the skin and coat, and they can be absorbed by your pup’s internal organs.

If you can, stick to an organic shampoo. These won’t have any questionable ingredients, though they may not be as effective or easy to use as other shampoos. The health benefits for your dog will be well worth it, however.

golden retriever bathtime
Image Credit: MPH Photos, Shutterstock

What Are Signs That I’m Using the Wrong Shampoo on My Dog?

Using the wrong shampoo on your dog can be disastrous, as it can lead to a variety of health issues, like skin irritation or even dangerous infections. In extreme cases, prolonged exposure can lead to anaphylactic shock.

Fortunately, it’s easy to tell if your dog’s shampoo is a bad fit for them, and you won’t have to wait long to find out either. Their reactions should happen almost instantly, and they’ll get worse the longer they’re exposed to the shampoo.

Look for the following symptoms if you suspect that your dog may be suffering an allergic reaction to their shampoo:

  • Bald patches
  • Hives
  • Head shaking or face rubbing
  • Blisters or lesions
  • Chronically inflamed feet
  • Obsessive licking or biting
  • Rashes or infections
  • Swelling (especially around the face)

If you see any of those symptoms, discontinue use of the shampoo right away. If the symptoms get bad enough, call your vet to see what they recommend.

Dog taking a bubble bath in grooming salon
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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Can You Use Baby Shampoo on Dogs?

If you absolutely have to bathe your pooch but you’re out of dog shampoo, baby shampoo can work in a pinch. It may even be the best option for dogs with especially sensitive skin, as it’s extremely gentle and mild.

In most cases, though, you should only bathe your dog with a shampoo that’s actually designed for use on canines. These are much less likely to contain troublesome ingredients, so you can use them without fear.

Also, before you ask, you should never use dog shampoo on your baby. It’s easy to get mixed up, especially when you’re sleep-deprived!

Featured Image: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock

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