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?
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?
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,
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
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.