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Does dog shampoo expire? How to tell

does dog shampoo expire
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Does dog shampoo expire? If you have bathed your dog recently and they don’t seem as clean as usual or they’re itchy and irritable, you may be asking yourself just that. As pet owners, we all want to ensure our dogs are kept clean and well-groomed, but it’s equally important that they are safe and healthy. Dog shampoos do have expiry dates and they do need to be followed.

Dogs don’t have to be bathed that often. Depending on the breed and how dirty they get, you may only need to bath them once every two months. This is because dogs have sensitive skin and bathing them too often can strip them of their natural oils. 

Similarly, you need to research the best dog shampoo to buy to make sure you have the right product for your pet and, most importantly, when buying or using dog shampoo, make sure it’s in date. 

Check the expiration date and if it’s expired don’t buy it or throw it in the bin. Using expired dog shampoo could lead to skin problems, infections and in the worst case, serious health problems so stick to the date on the bottle and keep your pet safe.  

How to tell if dog shampoo has expired  

All dog shampoos have an expiration date. Even if they’re top of the range, they will expire over time, but not all manufacturers label their bottles so how can you tell? Most dog shampoos have the expiration date on the bottom, sides or back of the bottle so always check the label as these dates vary from shampoo to shampoo.

If there’s no expiration date, don’t buy it and if you’ve already got a bottle at home, but can’t see the use by date, throw it in the bin. It’s important not to use dog shampoo if there’s no expiration date as it’s difficult to tell if it’s still in date and using expired shampoo could harm your pet.

There are a number of ways to tell if dog shampoo has expired:

First, open the bottle and check inside. If the walls of the bottle have changed color or you can see fungus or bacteria growing, it’s a clear sign that it’s past its sell-by-date. Pour some of it out and give it a sniff. Expired shampoo may change texture becoming more watery and won’t smell as strong.

If the shampoo looks and smells the same, check your pet. Are they clean? Expired shampoo won’t be as effective in cleaning your dog when it comes to smell and removing clumps of dirt. And even if they seem clean, if they’re scratching themselves more than usual or if their skin looks dry, red or irritated, this could also be a sign you need to throw your dog shampoo out. 

dog in bath

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How long does shampoo last once opened? 

Dog shampoo can last up to around three years unopened, but once opened, it expires surprisingly fast as once the bottle is opened, oxygen changes the chemical composition of the product. Once opened, most dog shampoos will last around 12-18 months. 

However, organic shampoos can last longer (some as long as 36 months) and medical shampoos including flea shampoos expire more quickly (around six months or less as their chemical make-up is more complex. 

To make sure your dog shampoo last as long as possible, check the label for an expiry date when buying it and store it at room temperature, somewhere dry and not in direct sunlight. 

How long can you use shampoo after the expiration date?  

You may think a few days past the expiration date won’t make a difference, but the expiration date is there for a reason. 

A few days after the expiration date, the product may be fine, it may just be less effective at cleaning or, worst case, it may cause a skin irritation or infection. The guideline is there because the product is best before that date and it’s not worth the risk. Don’t buy it or throw it out if the expiry date has past.   

dog being rinsed in bath

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What to do if there's no expiration date on dog shampoo bottle 

The best solution is to buy dog shampoo with an expiry date which you can check, but if there is no date you could check the manufacturer’s website or give them a call. Some shampoos may not have an expiry date, but will have a batch code on the bottle which you can check to see when the bottle was made. 

If there is no expiry date and you don’t want to throw it out immediately, think about how long you’ve had it or how long it’s been open. As a general rule, throw it out after 18 months after opening or three years unopened.

What are the side effects of expired shampoo?  

When dog shampoo expires, its chemical components begin to break down and bacteria builds up inside the product. 

Bacteria can cause a number of skin conditions including itching, fungus, allergic reactions, and inflammation. The skin can become dry, flaky, red and irritated. In worst cases this can lead to serious health conditions if not treated.  

Can I use human shampoo on dogs instead?  

If your dog shampoo has expired you may reach for your own shampoo to groom your pet – don’t! Human shampoo is not made for dogs. The chemical make-up is different and is not appropriate for your pooch. Dogs have softer, more sensitive skin and different pH levels to us (on average human pH level is 5.5 to 6.5 compared to a dog’s pH level which is between 6.2 and 7.5). 

If you use human shampoo on them this may result in dry and itchy skin as human shampoo is too aggressive. Dogs need products that moisturize while they clean. There are lots of different brands of dog shampoo to try, but if you don’t know which one to choose speak to the pet store or your local vet and be sure to read our articles on safe dog shampoo alternatives and using baby shampoo on dogs for further information. 

Zara is Editor on bookazines and covers a range of topics from cookery to travel and animals. Her latest first edition, What Your Dog Wants You To Know, is the ultimate guide to understanding your dog’s body language. 
Former editor of World of Animals magazine, she has over 8 years of experience in publishing inspiring children and adults about the wonders of the animal kingdom as well as teaching them about their pets. She also has over 5 years experience working with vets, wildlife experts and animal behaviourists in her comms roles for various animal charities. 
A keen animal lover, Zara can often be found researching her next wildlife destination to travel to. Having just moved into a bigger house she is currently looking at which dog and cats breed would suit her new family so she can fill her house with pets.