Using human shampoo on dogs and cats: What you need to know

Maybe your dog decided that rolling around in the mud in the yard would be fun, and now they’re at your back door, filthy and looking quite pleased with themselves. Maybe you found a stray kitten and it is filthy. Maybe your cat got underfoot and something sticky spilled on them in the kitchen. Whatever the case may be, you might be wondering how to best clean your furry friend. You’re probably asking yourself, well, can’t I just use regular shampoo on cats and dogs?

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Why it’s not a great idea to use human shampoo on dogs and cats

It all comes down to how human shampoos are formulated. Firstly, most have additives, artificial colors, and fragrances that are simply not suitable for use on our pets. Human shampoos can be extremely irritating to their delicate skin. Secondly, the pH of our skin is much different than theirs; while the average pH of human skin is 5.5, it’s around 7.0 for dogs and cats (but this can vary between 5.5 and even 9 for certain breeds!). The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, with a lower pH being more acidic and a higher pH being more basic.


So, what can happen if I use human shampoo on my dog or cat?

Human shampoos are formulated for human skin, which is more acidic, meaning that this might disrupt the skin barrier if used on a cat or dog.  Some shampoos contain ingredients unsuitable for pet’s skin.  If used, you may notice that your pet’s skin becomes dry and itchy, and/or irritated and inflamed. When stripped of its natural balance, the skin becomes the perfect environment for an overgrowth of bacteria, viruses and fungi that can multiply out of control. Itchiness can cause our pets to scratch raw spots on their skin, which further complicates the problem. In short, using a human shampoo on dogs or cats can cause skin issues and should be avoided.


Someone told me I can use baby shampoo on my dog, is that true?


Baby shampoo is made with less fragrances and designed to work on more sensitive skin.  It is better than “regular” human shampoo, but it is still formulated for the pH of the human skin. If your dog is just dirty, not greasy or sticky, then it’s best to just use warm water and forgo regular or baby shampoo (if you don’t have dog shampoo on hand).  But be sure to buy a good dog shampoo as soon as possible. Our furry friends always seem to be getting into something and you should definitely have a special dog shampoo for them.

Using baby shampoo on cats

The same guidelines apply to cats, with one notable difference: any shampoo used should be thoroughly rinsed to remove every bit of shampoo residue, as a cat will lick themselves all over in an attempt to get dry. If there is any residue left on their coats, they could ingest it and potentially become ill. They are also prone to the same dry, itchy, skin that can lead to rashes and serious skin problems if bathed with human shampoo.


A word of caution: What to avoid

In addition to human shampoo, there are certain products that should never be used to wash your pets. These include dish detergent, soap, body wash, and of course human conditioner. These products should be avoided at all costs when bathing your pet!

Why is using dog or cat shampoo so important?


Shampoo specially formulated to protect the natural pH of our pets’ skin, such as DOUXO® S3 CARE also has additional benefits. It preserves the natural flora of the skin, provides hydration, and locks in moisture. DOUXO® S3 is also made to benefit fur, helping to untangle and prevent mats, and leaving the fur silky and soft. Human hair and pet fur is quite different, so this one is important! Lastly, it is formulated with a hypoallergenic fragrance that is pleasant to both us and them.




We hope that this has given you a better idea of what to use to bathe your furry friend and what not to use. Remember:

– Never use human shampoo, baby shampoo, soap, detergent, body wash or regular conditioner on your dog or cat.
– A specialized dog or cat shampoo is a must for pet owners.

If you use the correct products, your pet’s skin will thank you!

DOUXO® is a registered trademark of Ceva Santé Animale S.A.

©2022 Ceva Animal Health, LLC.

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