Can I Use Head and Shoulders on my Dog?

Last Updated: March 16, 2023

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Dealing with itchy and flaking skin on your dog can be a nightmare! Not only does it affect their pristine coat, but it's incredibly uncomfortable for your dog. Skin issues can lead to intense scratching.

Some dogs are so dead-set on getting some relief that they may end up scratching themselves to the point of bleeding. Beyond that, leaving flaky skin untreated can cause bacterial and fungal infections that quickly spread to other parts of the body.

using head and shoulders on a dog in a bath tub

Flaky skin is not just a canine problem. Humans also experience it in the form of dandruff. One of the most popular dandruff products, Head and Shoulders shampoo, is very effective at putting those skin problems to rest.

If it can help your own skin, you might be tempted to try it out on your dog. You're not alone. You'd be surprised at just how many dog owners are asking the same question.

So, is it safe to use on your dog? The answer may surprise you.

Is Head and Shoulders Safe for Dogs?

Typically, it's not recommended that you use human products for dogs. Your dog's body is completely different from your own. Thus, your pup has different reactions to cosmetics ingredients. However, Head and Shoulders is a unique exception.

Head and Shoulders shampoo is safe to use on dogs in moderation. Many groomers swear by the shampoo and use it to treat a bevy of ailments.The primary ingredient in Head and Shoulders is zinc pyrithione, also known as ZPT.

ZPT is a water-soluble ingredient that helps to treat dandruff and its underlying cause. It has the same effect on dogs as it does in humans, so you can use it to treat skin issues without too much worry.

In Head and Shoulders shampoo, there's a very low dose of ZPT. It's only one percent of the formula, making it safe for your pup.

Things to Consider

With all that being said, don't use Head and Shoulders shampoo on your dog regularly. You must use it in moderation to avoid any complications. Canine skin is much more sensitive than your own.

There are only 3 to 5 layers of cells. For comparison, humans have upwards of 15 layers. Not only that, but the pH balance of your dog's skin is considerably higher than humans.

PH balance

Dog shampoos are specifically formulated to regulate their pH balance, which is between 6.5 to 7.5.

Using human shampoos, which have a pH of around 5.5, can throw the balance off and cause a slew of problems.

It's perfectly fine to use Head and Shoulders on your dog every once in a while. However, it should never be the go-to product that you use for their baths.

Why Use Head and Shoulders on Your Dog?

Head and Shoulders shampoo is great for treating several ailments. You can find ZPT-based shampoos for dogs. However, they come at a premium. Cheaper shampoos that are targeted toward skin relief use coal tar.

While it may provide some temporary relief, it's nowhere near as effective as ZPT. Head and Shoulders is a cost-effective way to treat your pup's skin with ZPT. 

Some Issues You Can Treat with Head and Shoulders


Seborrhea is a common skin condition that many dogs face. It's very similar to dandruff in humans. It causes itchy and flaky skin. However, it also has some other symptoms. For one, it can cause your dog's skin to become red and slightly inflamed. 

Because the skin flakes are preventing oil from escaping, it can also make your dog's coat look greasy. In severe cases, that trapped oil can start to emanate foul odors, too.

The ZPT in Head and Shoulders is great for treating this condition. The shampoo will remove existing flakes and provide some relief to that itchiness. While seborrhea is often associated with oily skin, dry skin is often the culprit. 

There are plenty of moisturizing ingredients in the shampoo to give your pup's skin a nice boost of hydration.

Bacterial and Fungal Infections

In many cases, bacteria and fungi are to blame for your dog's skin problems. Luckily, ZPT is an antifungal and antibacterial agent. It can take care of yeast infections and help to promote healing.

Overactive yeast can wreak havoc on your dog's body if it's not addressed in time. It's not uncommon for the problem to spread to paws, ears, and other areas of the body. By using Head and Shoulders, you can put a stop to the spread of fungus and bacteria before things get out of hand.

Related article - Anti Yeast Dog Foods to Combat Yeast Infections


If your dog is suffering from fleas, Head and Shoulders shampoo may be the solution you're looking for. The shampoo is popular among groomers because it's capable of paralyzing the little pests.

After about five minutes on your dog's skin, those fleas will be unable to move. You can simply wash them away down your drain.

The shampoo can even weaken the exoskeleton of fleas that are left behind. They'll become incredibly vulnerable, causing them to die off pretty quickly.

How to Use Head and Shoulders on Your Dog Safely

Thinking about bathing your dog with Head and Shoulders? Follow these steps.

Step 1: Brush Your Dog

First things first, you need to brush out any tangles or mats. Use a slicker brush to loosen mats. Then, follow up with a standard bristle brush to make their coat nice and smooth.

Step 2: Prepare the Bathing Area

Next, you need to make your bathing area safe for your dog. Give your dog some stable footing with a rubber mat or find a nice grassy clearing outside. Use a hand sprayer and start warming up the water so that it's comfortable for your pup.

Step 3: Starting the Wash

Start off rinsing your dog off. Make sure to fully saturate the coat with lukewarm water from the neck down. Avoid washing your dog's face. Most dogs aren't keen on getting their faces wet. Plus, you need to prevent the shampoo from getting anywhere near the eyes or mouth. It's best to just wash from the neck down.

Step 4: Lather Up

Squeeze out a quarter-sized portion of the shampoo in your hand and work it through your dog's coat. Use your fingers to lather the shampoo until it saturates the fur completely. If you have a long-haired or double-coated dog, pay special attention to making sure that the shampoo makes contact with the skin.

Step 5: Wait

For the best results, you need to let the shampoo sit on your dog's skin for 10 to 15 minutes. This gives plenty of time for the ZPT to work its magic. In the meantime, keep your dog entertained and use a damp cloth to wipe their face clean. Don't apply any shampoo to the cloth. Just use water.

Step 6: Rinse

After 10 to 15 minutes, it's time to rinse off! Use the sprayer and your fingers to wash the shampoo away until the water runs clear. Work your fingers to the skin to make sure that there isn't any leftover shampoo. Leaving soap suds behind could cause even more skin irritation.

Step 7: Drying Off

Use some dry towels to remove as much of the water off your dog's coat as possible. Then, use a hairdryer or air dryer to take care of the rest. Keep the device several inches from the skin and keep it in motion to avoid any burns. Once that's done, finish off with a good brushing to remove tangles.


Head and Shoulders is great for tackling canine skin issues. It can be used up to three times a week to treat the skin issue. Exercise caution and keep an eye on your dog's skin to monitor the healing progress.

Once the irritation has healed completely, you can switch back to your pup's regular shampoo.

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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.