Can Dogs Use Baby Shampoo?

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Introduction

Bath time for your dog is either the best or the worst experience ever, depending on your pooch's preference, and both of these outcomes can be exacerbated further depending on how sensitive your dog is to specific shampoos. 

There are hundreds of shampoos out there made specifically for dogs - dogs with sensitive skin, dogs with certain conditions, and even no-tear dog shampoo. But doesn't all of that sound like baby shampoo to you? Wouldn't buying baby shampoo to use on your dog be a bit cheaper? The answer? Yes, it is, but it begs the most important question - is it safe to use baby shampoo on your dog?

It is! The type of shampoo you use on your dog is important, and some soaps can lead to lots of skin irritations, redness, or discomfort. Often, baby shampoo is the perfect alternative to dog shampoo, especially if your pup has sensitive skin. 

While dog-tors often do not recommend people shampoo for pooches, baby shampoo is designed with a gentle formula that is mild and safe for your dog. It's always important to read the labels and check with your vet first, though! Make sure you remember that not all human shampoos are safe for dogs, but specific brands, and shampoos designed to be sensitive, unscented, and clear, like baby shampoo, can be the perfect alternative to the harsh dog soaps and shampoos you might find on the market. 

Signs You Should Consider Baby Shampoo

If you think your dog might have sensitive skin and you're considering giving baby shampoo a try, we recommend checking with your dog-tor before you do anything. Chat with them, explain your dog's issues, and go from there. However, you'll need to understand the symptoms and signs of troublesome shampoos and how you can tell if your dog is struggling with his current set-up. 

If you notice that your pup is suddenly very, very itchy after bath time, that's one of the most obvious indications that his shampoo might be giving him some trouble. But, the symptoms can be much more troublesome than that, too. Your dog might start biting his paws obsessively, shaking his head, rubbing his face, and nipping at his body. He can even get ear infections, develop hives, skin rashes, and infections, and start obsessively licking. 

The worst symptoms are pretty brutal - if your dog is terribly allergic to his shampoo, he could develop bald patches on his skin, blistery skin lesions, ulcerations, and even severe swelling. In the worst case scenario, your doggo could be very, very allergic to his shampoo and go into anaphylactic shock, something you need to react to immediately by rushing your dog to the vet. 

Body Language

It's possible that your dog is giving you some subtle signs that demonstrate something isn't right with his shampoo. If you think your dog might be having a reaction to his shampoo, look for signs like this:
  • Panting
  • Raise ears
  • Pacing
  • Ears drop
  • Scratching
  • Chewing
  • Shaking
  • Head tilting
  • Alert

Other Signs

There are bigger signs that something could be wrong with your dog's shampoo, though. Keep a look out for things like:
  • Obsessive Licking
  • Bald Patches
  • Face Rubbing and Head Shaking
  • Anaphylactic Shock
  • Blisters
  • Skin Ulcerations
  • Skin Infections
  • Skin Rashes
  • Hives
  • Muzzle Swelling
  • Inflamed Feet or Ears
  • Paw and Body Biting/Nipping

Vets' Historic Opinions on Baby Shampoo

Historically, people shampoo isn't the wisest choice for pups! Dogs have special needs and skin conditions that are best treated by prescribed products. However, baby shampoo, because of its mild formula and gentle application can be the perfect choice for your doggo. 

Vets like Dr Debora Lichtenberg, have been quoted saying that human shampoos, like baby shampoo, can be the best option even though using most human shampoos is not the healthiest for your dog. In fact, according to Petful, she says, "veterinary dermatologists recommend Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo frequently for sensitive dogs. It seems human shampoos are milder than in years past, even for humans." 

In fact, many experts agree that baby shampoo is okay for dogs as long as it's cleared by your dog-tor, is unscented, and is clear. It's made for sensitive skin, so it can be a good choice for pet owners that are concerned about the harshness of many soaps and dog products. 

The Science of Baby Shampoo

To understand why baby shampoo is a good, mild choice for your dog, it'll probably help to understand the ingredients in it. The first step to deciding if something is good for your dog is always to check with your vet, so make sure you're not skipping this step when deciding if baby shampoo is the right choice. 

Most baby shampoos are safe and mild because of the ingredients that go into them - most baby shampoos contain water, glycerin (which helps with smoothness), potassium acrylates copolymer (which helps the shampoo maintain proper thickness), and things like sodium trideceth sulfate, which is formulated to act like a low irritation cleansing agent. They also specialize in a non-stress PH balance of about 7, and uses surfactants, which can be less irritating than other shampoos.

How to Train Your Dog to Deal with Allergies

If your dog suffers from shampoo allergies, it's important to train him to deal with the treatments that come along with them. While you'll certainly change his shampoos and his cleansers, it's likely that you'll have to deal with a few outbreaks every now and then. 

First, train your dog to take the medications your dog-tors prescribe. Do this by training him to play a throw-and-catch game, take the pills out of your hand gently, or eat them with his food. Additionally, train your dog to be calm when you apply topical medications to him. Reinforce this process with lots of treats and pats so that he feels positively about being treated. 

To get to the root of your dog's problem, it's likely he'll have to undergo a skin-scraping test, so make sure your visit to the vet, and this procedure, is very positively reinforced and that your dog feels safe and comfortable.

How to React if Your Dog Has Shampoo Allergies

  • Talk to your vet about alternative shampoos.
  • Consider a mild baby shampoo.
  • Talk to your vet about medication for his allergies.
  • Immediately rinse your dog's skin with cool water if he reacts to something.
  • Ask your vet about an allergy test.
  • Make sure you don't have the shampoo that your dog is allergic to in the house.