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Can you use human shampoo on a dog? Five safe alternatives

can you use human shampoo on a dog
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If you don't have specialist dog shampoo to hand, you might be wondering, 'Can you use human shampoo on a dog'?

If you have a messy mutt in the family, you'll know the feeling of wanting to clean up your pooch immediately after their walk. Whether they've rolled in something undesirable or are placing muddy pawprints all over your kitchen floor, picking up the nearest bottle of Head And Shoulders can start to feel rather attractive.

But however tempting it feels to forego the best dog shampoo treatment for your pooch, it's advisable to consider what's best for your canine chum. 

Using human shampoo on dogs can cause a variety of problems, such as skin irritation, or even lead to skin disease and should be avoided. Some pooches need a spot of specialist treatment to help with any skin conditions or allergies they may have, so opting for a good medicated shampoo is one of the best ways to look out for their sensitive skin. 

Selecting the best dog conditioner for your pooch too can also often target any problem areas and leave your pooch's coat feeling soft and shiny. 

Be sure to also consider how often you bathe your dog, as bathing your canine too often can further irritate your dog's skin. 

Why shouldn't you use human shampoo on dogs?

homemade dog shampoo

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A dog's skin is made up of several delicate layers that can be damaged by chemicals that have a different acidity level. Dogs have different pH levels to humans, meaning human shampoo is far too harsh for your pup.

While human skin typically has a pH balance of between 5.5 and 5.6, it's normal for your canine friend to have a normal pH balance of between 6.2 and 7.4; typically more neutral than acidic.

Using human shampoo on dogs can disrupt the outer layer of skin called the acid mantle that protects their body from nasty organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and yeasts. 

What human shampoo can I use on my dog?

why do dogs hate baths

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If you've been wondering 'can you use human shampoo on your dogs?' it might be because you've heard of using baby shampoo instead. While it is best to avoid using any human shampoo on your dog, some experts suggest that, due to its gentler formula, baby shampoo is a safer option.

Some industry sources have also suggested heavily diluting your least fragrant shampoo and carrying out a test patch to check for any potential adverse reaction. However, there isn't necessarily a way to know how your dog's coat may react in the long term. Stockpiling specialist dog shampoo in advance is always the preferred solution to applying any DIY treatments of your own.

Can you use baby shampoo on dogs?

Though using human shampoo for dogs is generally considered a no-no, when used in moderation, baby shampoo can be a safe way to bathe your dog.  Baby shampoos are typically much gentler than adult shampoo; opt for one that is unscented and clear without any added colors or fragrances. 

If you choose to use baby shampoo, it's important to consider the frequency of bathing in addition to the ingredients. If you wash your dog more frequently than every four to eight weeks, it's best to avoid any human shampoo at all, including baby shampoo.

For infrequent bathing, however, baby shampoo on a dog with healthy skin and coat is generally considered okay. Keep in mind, however, that any canines who require special attention due to fleas, allergies, or skin conditions will not be suitable for this method. Consult your vet for the best options for your dog.

DIY dog shampoo alternatives

homemade dog shampoo made with aloe vera gel

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Whether you've forgotten a few essential pet supplies or fancy trying out an all-natural solution, there are a few DIY dog shampoo alternatives you can try.

Whilst they may not replace a good home shampoo session in your bath, these homemade solutions can work well for an instant freshen-up. 

1. Pet wipes

Wipes are growing in popularity in the pet world thanks to their convenience and ease of use. Especially if your dog hates baths and only has light dirt or dust on its coat, a pet wipe will remove any surface dirt without resorting to a trip to the bathtub. They're particularly handy for wiping down small areas, such as muddy paws, but are not effective for providing a deep cleanse. 

2. Castile soap

Castile soap is typically free of chemicals and provides a good pH balance on your dog's skin. It can work on canines with sensitive skin and contains no fragrances that could potentially cause irritation.

Some pet owners create their own homemade dog shampoo using Castile soap and other common ingredients found around the home. 

3. Baking soda

Another common ingredient found in homemade dog shampoo is baking soda. It can applied direct into your dog’s coat, but it can be dry, so you may look to mix it with oatmeal and water. Simply mix one cup of oatmeal with half a cup of baking soda and warm, not boiling, water. 

4. 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 ACV plus filtered or distilled water into a spray bottle and shake to blend. 

5. Cornstarch

A handy substitution for dry dog shampoo is cornstarch, which is commonly found in most kitchen cupboards. Shake it over their coats to freshen up your pooch and work the powder into their fur for best results. You can pull out any excess powder with a grooming comb or brush.

Ashleigh Gibbs
Ashleigh Gibbs

Ashleigh is Digital Editor on PetsRadar. With over 8 years of experience in print and digital media, she has acted as an editorial lead on a variety of projects, with animal themes a keen interest. As an avid animal lover, you can often find Ashleigh checking out the newest trends in animal care or looking at cute cat videos on TikTok.