Can You Use Baby Shampoo on Dogs?

Last Updated: June 4, 2023

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Whether you own a short-haired Pug or a curly-haired Labradoodle, regular baths are an important part of grooming. It's recommended that you bathe your dog at least once every month. Depending on how messy your pooch gets, you might have to increase that frequency to once a week.

While most dog shampoos are designed to get your dog fresh and clean without any unwanted side effects,

not all dogs react the same to commercially available products. 
dog bathing in baby shampoo

Some dogs suffer from allergic reactions that result in hair loss, itching skin, or worse. If you're the proud owner of one of these dogs, bathing time becomes much more complicated.

You may have to invest in expensive specialty shampoo, constantly sift through ingredients list, and perform a lot of trial and error. Even then, you may not find a product that's right for your dog. Some dog owners have resorted to trying some unique alternatives to get their canine companion clean.

One of the most common techniques for getting around sensitivity issues is baby shampoo. Many owners swear by the stuff and recommended it to anyone they can. It's cheap, easier to find, and is supposed to be safe on delicate skin.

If baby shampoo is safe enough for human children, it has to be safe for dogs, right?

Baby Shampoo Safety

While it's generally a big no-no to use human products on a dog, baby shampoo is an exception. It's the one product that's safe and effective for canine use.

Baby shampoo is specifically formulated to be gentle and mild. A baby's skin is very susceptible to irritation. As a result, most products contain simple ingredients. You'll usually find glycerin and sulfate, which both act as non-irritating cleansers. 

You may find additional ingredients beyond those two, but the list won't be anywhere near as long as a standard dog or human cleansing products.

Fragrance Free

One of the things that make baby shampoo so great for dogs is that it doesn't have a fragrance or artificial colors. Those chemical additives are known to cause a lot of skin issues among dogs.

Fragrances, in particular, can cause respiratory discomfort, rashes, and a host of other issues. This is because it contains harmful alcohol.

The same goes for the colorant. The chemical compound is a foreign ingredient that has no place on a dog's skin. Luckily, most baby shampoos lack those ingredients. They're clear and odor-free.


So, baby shampoo is considered to be safe for dogs. Does that mean you should make the switch to baby shampoo completely? Despite its mild and non-irritating formula, you should never rely solely on baby shampoo. It's always better to stick with products that are made for the needs of dogs.

Generally, baby shampoo is fine if you only wash your dog every four to eight weeks. If you bathe your dog more than that, baby shampoo may do more harm than good. 

The pH balance of your dog's skin is higher than that of humans. Baby shampoo doesn't have a huge effect on the pH balance. 

However, dog shampoos are formulated to return your dog's pH balance to a healthy range. If you continually use baby shampoo, your dog's skin may start to dry out.

Using Regular Human Shampoo on Dogs

regular human shampoo

Now that we have determined that baby shampoo is safe for dogs, let's get into the safety of traditional human shampoo. Adult human shampoo is much more complex than baby varieties.

Manufacturers make shampoo and conditioning products to meet virtually every need. You can easily find a product for your specific hair type, damage level, color, and more.

Due to this complexity, most human shampoos are filled with chemical ingredients that are not safe for dogs. Baby shampoos are mild in nature and only contain a fraction of the ingredients you would find in adult products.

When you're dealing with adult shampoos, you're dealing with manufactured fragrances, colorants, serums, and sometimes even bleach. Needless to say, you should avoid using your shampoo on your dog, even if its only one time. You could end up doing more harm than good with just a single wash.

Can You Use Dawn Dish Soap on Dogs (to Kill Fleas)?

Another point of contention among dog owners and veterinary professionals is the use of Dawn dish soap. Dish soap has been used for decades by people looking for a cost-effective flea remedy.

Even today, it's not uncommon to hear people recommending the soap as an alternative to shampoo.

Truth is, using dish soap can be risky. Dish soap is not made for canine or humans. It's made for dishes! The ingredients in dish soap are strong enough to cut through grease and loosen caked-on messes.

dawn dish soap

If you're not careful, those ingredients can wreak havoc on your dog's skin.In fact, it's been known to cause itchiness and significant irritation among dogs with sensitive skin.

If you're searching for a gentler alternative to standard dog shampoo, Dawn dish soap is not it.

With all that being said, it is safe to use in moderation. Again, you should always stick to products approved for dog use. However, if you're in a pinch and need to deal with a serious flea infestation immediately, Dawn dish soap may be able to help you out.

Toxic Chemicals

Many people have the misconception that fleas are killed by the toxic chemicals in dish soap. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Of course, you should never let your dog lick up soap suds or eat dish soap, but the ingredients are relatively tame in comparison to stronger pest products.

Many varieties of dish soap even contain essential oils, such as lavender. Lavender is known to repel fleas, so you may see continued success long after you bathe your pooch.

Fleas are actually killed by dish soap in two different ways. First, the grease-fighting ingredients in the soap strip fleas of their wax coating. This thin coat allows them to slide through fur without any issues. It also provides some protection to their exoskeleton. Without it, these little insects are incredibly vulnerable. 

Then, to top it all off, the soap changes the surface tension of the water. Usually, fleas can sit on top of the water and hop to safety. In soapy water, they sink down to the bottom, suffocating along the way.

Use in Moderation

As mentioned earlier, Dawn dish soap should not be your go-to shampoo alternative when you're washing your dog.

It can be great in moderation, but too many washes with strong dish soap will throw your pup's pH balance all out of whack. This can lead to dry skin, irritation, infection, and more.

If you do need to use dish soap to get rid of fleas, stick with the simplest formula available. There's not a specific type of scent or color that will do the job better.

If you want to provide your dog with a bit more comfort and a better smell, you can also use a soap that's designed to be gentle on human hands. They often have natural essential oils to make the skin more supple.

In Conclusion

baby shampoo

To sum up, baby shampoos are perfectly fine for your dog as long as they are used infrequently. Baby shampoos can be a great way to get rid of dirt and grime on your dog's body without all of the unwanted effects of sensitive skin.

Even still, it's always recommended that you stick with dog shampoos whenever its possible. A high-quality dog shampoo can improve your dog's skin quality, smell, and overall cleanliness.

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.