Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

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

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Shampoo bottles

Unfortunately, accidents happen. For dog owners, cleaning up messy accidents is just part of the job description. But sometimes, you get caught unprepared. The rain caught you by surprise in a dusty area that quickly became mud. Lo and behold, when you made it home, you discovered that there was no doggy shampoo left to clean off your best friend!

No big deal, right? You’ve got a bottle of human shampoo that you put on your head every day and it never hurts you. That should be fine for your canine too, correct?

Well, hold on a second. Human skin is drastically different from dog skin and when you wash your dog, it’s really the skin that’s going to take the brunt of the effects. Human shampoo can damage your dog’s skin and dry it out, so it’s not a safe alternative. That said, if you’re in an emergency situation, it won’t immediately cause your dog harm. Let’s take a closer look at why human shampoo isn’t a great idea for your pooch.

Divider 1

The Difference Between Human and Dog Skin

Truthfully, your shampoo won’t cause damage to your dog’s coat. But their skin underneath is a different story. This has a lot to do with something called the acid mantle. This is a thin acidic layer that provides protection for the skin.

For humans, acid mantle is pretty acidic, so our personal cleaning products are formulated to reflect that and work with the pH levels that human skin produces.

But a dog’s acid mantle is not the same pH as a human. Dogs have skin that’s closer to neutral, which is much more alkaline than our skin. Naturally, dog-cleaning products are also made to work specifically with the pH of their skin.

Is Human Shampoo Safe for Dogs?

dog bathing
Image Credit: oritslama, Pixabay

If you wash your dog with human shampoo a single time, it’s probably not going to cause any lasting damage to their acid mantle. But if it’s something that gets repeated several times, then it can start to create problems for your pooch.

For example, your dog’s skin will dry out and become itchy and flakey. This also strips away the protective oils that naturally occur on your dog’s skin. As a result, your dog will be more likely to get parasites. And scented shampoos can cause this to happen even faster.

Alternatives to Human Shampoo

Obviously, the best thing for you to use to wash your dog is dog shampoo. But if that’s not available and you desperately need to give your dog a bath, then what alternatives can get you through in a pinch?

Unscented Shampoo

Human shampoo is never a good option for dogs, but if you’re in a situation where you have no other options, then shampoos without fragrances are the best choices. The chemicals used to create those smells can alter the pH of the shampoo, making it even worse for your furry friend.

Baby Shampoo

Baby shampoo is made to be very gentle. It’s generally odorless and completely clear, so it contains less harmful chemicals than other options. Still, this is only an option to be considered in emergencies. When possible, it’s best to wait until you can get shampoo intended for canines.

Best Dog Shampoos

Dog Flea Bath
Image Credit: Pxfuel

As we’ve mentioned, even if you can use human shampoo as a one-off solution when you’re in a desperate situation, it’s not good for your dog and it should never be used more than once.

So, if you’ve been forced by circumstance to use human shampoo on your dog, you’ll be wanting to get some dog shampoo on-hand so that you’re never caught unprepared again!

There are two that we really like because they’re affordable and effective, leaving our dogs’ skin and coat healthy and vibrant.

One option that we recommend is the Buddy Wash Original Lavender & Mint Dog Shampoo & Conditioner. This is a completely soap-free two-in-one shampoo and conditioner that leaves your dog’s coat feeling soft and luxurious. It’s affordably priced and made with nourishing ingredients like sage, green tea, chamomile, and aloe vera.

Another dog shampoo that we’ve had great experiences with is the FURminator DeShedding Ultra Premium Shampoo For Dogs. This one keeps your dog clean and their skin and coat healthy while also serving the dual purpose of reducing shedding. For anyone tired of seeing piles of hair building up in every corner of your home, this is the shampoo for you.

Divider 3


If you’re in an emergency situation and there’s no dog shampoo available to you, it’s not going to cause any lasting damage to bathe your dog using human shampoo once. It’s definitely not optimal, but it’s not going to harm them. Still, you should opt for one that’s scent-free if possible. Baby shampoo is another option.

Make sure you prepare for the future by stocking up on some shampoo that’s made for your canine compadre. Their skin and coat will thank you for it!

Featured Image: monticello, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database