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Can I Use Baby Shampoo on My Dog?

Dog looking up confused at camera while being bathed with shampoo
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Whether at the park or in the yard, dogs always seem to find a way to get dirty. Taking your pup to the groomer is great, but sometimes your dog needs a bath between appointments. 

Hopefully you have the necessary supplies—but if not, can you use baby shampoo for dogs in a pinch? We consulted veterinarians and pet grooming experts to get the final word on safe shampoo options.

Can I Use Baby Shampoo on My Dog?

Dog getting shampooed in the bath

Is baby shampoo safe for dogs? The short answer is no. 

“Baby shampoo is formulated for babies and shouldn’t be used on dogs,” says Dr. Ellen Hirshberg, a veterinarian at The Humane Society of New York. She explains that under a vet’s direction, baby shampoo can sometimes be used on tiny puppies to treat fleas, but that is the only exception. 

“People most likely think that if it’s a safe formula for babies then it’s probably also safe for puppies and kittens, but that’s not the case,” she says.

Is Baby Shampoo Safe for Dogs?

Dog getting head massage while shampoo in bath

Dogs and humans have very different skin. Humans have a skin PH between 5.4 to 5.9, while canine skin can range from 5.5 to 7.2. Using products made for the wrong PH can lead to inflammatory skin conditions and may make a dog’s skin more sensitive, cautions says Molly Bissantz, owner of Grooming by Molly in Boise, Idaho, 

“Baby shampoo can also be drying to a dog’s skin and fur, which leads to more shedding, tangles, and matting,” Bissantz adds. 

Sometimes people use baby shampoo on their dogs because it is marketed as “tear-free” and “gentle,” and it is inexpensive to purchase. “However, it is soap-based, so it will strip the skin and coat of the natural oils and can be irritating to eyes and skin, even if tear-free,” explains Bissantz.

Baby shampoos contain ingredients that may not be as well received on dog skin, such as added fragrances. “In human products, certain ingredients and scents can be harmful to pets, like eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, and ylang ylang,” says Janet Rabbie, CEO of Wow Grooming

Alternatives to Baby Shampoo for Dogs

Dog has baby shampoo on head

Finding a quality dog shampoo brand is important because these products have been specifically created to be the best shampoo for dogs, unlike baby shampoo. “These products will be tested on dogs to ensure accuracy and quality,” says Bissantz. 

“It is important to use dog-specific shampoos on dogs,” says Hirshberg. “It’s just like you would only feed dog food to a dog and cat food to a cat. You want the right treatment for the right animal.” 

Before using any new dog shampoo, run the product by your veterinarian. What works for one breed or individual dog might not be ideal for another. “Some of the best ingredients can be the worst ingredients if your dog is allergic to them, so consult your vet to prescribe what formula is the best for your dog,” says Hirschberg.

5 Safe Dog Shampoos

Looking to upgrade your pup’s spa day? Here are five quality shampoos that are safe for dogs:

All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Great Pet Living may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Earthbath 2-in-1 Conditioning Shampoo 

earthbath 2-in-1 Conditioning Shampoo for Pets

This all-in-one formula is a personal favorite of Bissantz. “Having a conditioning aspect to the shampoo will help restore moisture back into the skin and fur and reduce tangles and shedding by allowing for easier drying and brushing,” she says. Bissantz adds that Earthbath shampoos can be diluted to save you money and reduce the amount of shampoo in the fur for easier rinsing. 

Pros

  • All-in-one shampoo and conditioner 
  •  Made with natural and organic ingredients
  • Money-back guarantee if you don’t like the product
  •  Mango scented

Things to Consider

  • This natural shampoo is sulfate-free, meaning it doesn’t lather as well as conventional formulas
  • A few customers said the scent didn’t last as long as other dog shampoos  

Miracle Care Natural Flea and Tick Shampoo

DeFlea Ready to Use Flea & Tick Shampoo for Dogs and Puppies

“This is amazing for killing fleas and ticks right away, and it aids in the repellant of fleas and ticks for up to seven days,” Bissantz says. She considers it an easy, natural solution to keeping those pests away.

Pros

  • Kills fleas, ticks, and lice on contact
  • Non-toxic parasite control
  • Can be used in conjunction with topical treatments 
  •  Safe for dogs 12 weeks and older

Things to Consider

  • Some customers reported that it didn’t lather well

Bio-Groom So Gentle Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo

Bio-groom So-Gentle Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo

Bissantz uses this shampoo, along with the brand’s conditioner, as her standard for grooming. “The shampoo is tough on grease and build-up, but is gentle enough to not strip away all the natural sebum,” she says. The conditioner, she adds, works wonders for detangling and deshedding, all while adding softness and shine. 

Pros

  • Mild, hypo-allergenic, tear-free formula
  • Designed not to strip a dog’s coat of natural oils
  • Safe for puppies
  • 1 gallon size reduces packaging and lasts longer

Things to Consider

  • Some customers reported a strong smell
  • One customer reported it didn’t rinse well 

Best Shot Pet UltraMAX Pro 4-in-1 Shampoo

Best Shot Pet UltraMAX Pro 4-in-1 Shampoo

“This shampoo can be diluted up to 50:1 depending on the level of dirtiness of the dog,” says Bissantz. It’s advertised as diluting 50:1 for general cleaning, 30:1 for coarse coats, and 15:1 for deep cleaning needs. “It is hypoallergenic and leaves the dog soft and smelling fresh, but not overly fragranced so the dog feels comfortable after being groomed,” Bissantz adds. She likes this shampoo, along with the brand’s conditioner, as a general way to remove dead undercoat for optimal deshedding, and detangling on all coat types.

Pros

  • Unique sweet pea scent
  • Customers report that it lathers well
  •  Works on dogs with very dense hair
  • Can be used on dogs and cats of all ages

Things to Consider

  • One customer reported eye irritation 
  • Pricier than some other shampoos for dogs

Artero Hidratante Moisturizing Shampoo

ARTERO Hidratante Shampoo

“This shampoo lives up to its hype,” says Bissantz. “Combined with any Artero conditioner, your dog will feel and look like a million bucks.” This, she adds, is a standard shampoo in her grooming shop and works especially well on long-haired breeds and dogs with dry, damaged coats.

Pros

  • Mild base with natural ingredients
  • Infused with a vitamin complex to help nourish and moisturize the coat

Things to Consider

  •  One customer reported not liking the smell
  • Another customer said it didn’t lather well and required a lot of shampoo to get their dog’s coat clean
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