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

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

cat and dog sitting together in a luxury tub_Susan Schmitz_shutterstock

You’ve just returned from the park, and Fido is covered in muck. You reach for the doggy shampoo and, damn, you’ve run out. Do you dare use Felix’s shampoo? Well, the answer is yes, you can use cat shampoo on dogs, but there are some exceptions.

Here we will educate you on everything you need to know about dog skin vs. cat skin, why it’s okay to use it, and when you shouldn’t use it on Fido. We’ll also answer other questions relating to the subject and recommend universal dog and cat shampoos to solve your problem.

So, let’s get down to the squeaky clean details.

Divider 1Dog Skin vs. Cat Skin

Just like dogs have different skin compared to us humans, they also have different skin to cats. Cats have super sensitive skin. So much so that the warnings on some dog treatments, such as topical flea treatments, often state to keep it away from cats because it can be fatal to them.

Many sources online state that this is to do with the pH of their skin and that a cat’s pH level is more acidic than a dog’s pH level. But, this is a myth!

Research shows that cats and dogs have a similar pH range, so this cannot be the reason. Essentially, all it comes down to is that their skin is more sensitive.

golden retriever bathtime
Image Credit: MPH Photos, Shutterstock

Dog Shampoo vs. Cat Shampoo

Because cats’ skin is more sensitive, shampoos are made with gentler ingredients that will not irritate their skin. Ingredients such as oatmeal and coconut are both natural, soothing, and ideal for cats.

Cat shampoo also has fewer chemicals. Cats clean themselves daily with their tongue, far more than dogs do. As such, cat shampoos need to be mild enough for them to ingest it in small quantities.

There are a lot of pet shampoos on the market, but not all of them will keep your pet's skin and coat happy and healthy. The Hepper Pet Shampoo products are pH balanced and made with natural, safe ingredients like soothing oatmeal and aloe vera. Our shampoos will keep your pet clean, smelling fresh, and fully moisturized! The hardest part is deciding whether to get to traditional shampoo or the rinse-free version! Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the right option for your pet’s next bath!

Hepper Oatmeal pet shampoo
Hepper Colloidal Oatmeal Pet Shampoo

Hepper Waterless No Rinse Pet Shampoo
Natural cucumber & aloe scent
Natural cucumber & aloe scent:
Natural cucumber & aloe scent:
Safe for cats & dogs
Safe for cats & dogs:
Safe for cats & dogs:
Rinsing required
Rinsing required:
Rinsing required:
Free of harsh chemicals & nasty ingredients
Free of harsh chemicals & nasty ingredients:
Free of harsh chemicals & nasty ingredients:
Lathers easily
Lathers easily:
Lathers easily:


Additionally, because many dogs have double coats, the shampoo needs to be stronger to penetrate the top layer to reach the undercoat. It also has to be strong enough to remove the grease, oils, and dirt too.

Divider 4

Can You Use Cat Shampoo on Dogs?

With all that being said, the truth is that you can use cat shampoo on dogs. It’s not harmful, it won’t cause Fido any problems, and it will offer a better clean than just water. However, just like most things in life, there is always a “but.”

For some dirty dogs, cat shampoo will not cut it. Because cat shampoos are gentler, they will not have the cleaning power to penetrate the fur, lather well, or remove grease and oils on some dogs.

So, it all comes down to your dog. If they have longer and thicker fur than most, we suggest sticking to a doggy shampoo for a thorough clean. If they have shorter hair, or if it isn’t that dirty, you can use cat shampoo if it’s all you have.

Puppy bathing
Image Credit: AmandaCullingford, Pixabay

Pet Shampoo

If you have just dogs, we will always recommend dog shampoo, just like we would recommend cat shampoo if you only have cats. But if you are a multi-pet household with both, we have the solution to your problem.

Many brands have created generic pet shampoo. These are ideal for those households who have both cats and dogs and do not have space or the time to buy several bottles of pet shampoos. Here, are three highly-rated dog and cat shampoos suitable for both Fido and Felix:

Rating Image Product Details
TropiClean Luxury 2 in 1 Papaya & Coconut Pet Shampoo and Conditioner TropiClean Luxury 2 in 1 Papaya & Coconut Pet Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Enriched with coconut oil
  • Second place
    HyLyt Hypoallergenic Shampoo with Essential Fatty Acids for Dogs & Cat HyLyt Hypoallergenic Shampoo with Essential Fatty Acids for Dogs & Cat
  • Enriched with coconut oil
  • Third place
    Frisco Oatmeal Shampoo with Aloe for Dogs & Cats, Almond Scent Frisco Oatmeal Shampoo with Aloe for Dogs & Cats, Almond Scent
  • Made with Certified Organic Aloe Vera juice
  • But remember, if you have, say, a gorgeously hairy Newfoundland, these shampoos aren’t going to cut it. You’ll need to stick to a doggy-only shampoo that is a bit thicker and more concentrated.

    Can You Use Dog Shampoos on Cats?

    If, however, you find yourself in a situation where you need to use Fido’s shampoo on Felix, the answer is that you can’t. Dog shampoos aren’t suitable for sensitive kitty skin, so please don’t be tempted to use it even once.

    Divider 2The Wrap Up

    So, now you know that you can use cat shampoo on some dogs, but never dog shampoo on cats because cats have more sensitive skin compared to dogs.

    We would always recommend using dog shampoo if you only have dogs simply because they do a better job cleaning them. But if you are a multi-pet household and you need a streamlined grooming schedule and product selection, you can buy pet shampoo that is designed for both cats and dogs.

    Featured image credit: Susan Schmitz, Shutterstock

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