Can You Use Cat Shampoo on Dogs?

If you have both cats and dogs in your home, you might consider saving some money and using the shampoo you bought for your cats on your dogs as well, but is that really a good idea? The bottom line is that cats and dogs have different types of skin and therefore, they shouldn’t really use the same shampoo. Nevertheless, you can use your cat shampoo on dogs if you like, but just like most other rules in life, there are exceptions to this one.

Which One Is Correct?

So, can you use your kitty shampoo on your dogs or not? In reality, cat shampoo won’t hurt your dogs, but they also might not clean as well as you’d like them to. This is why the experts recommend that if you’re going to use your cat shampoo on any of your dogs, you should do so only occasionally and only when you have no other choice. This is mostly because the skin on cats and dogs is completely different, and you need to use a shampoo that can do the job right each time.

For one thing, cats have very sensitive skin, which is why cat shampoo is usually extremely gentle. By comparison, shampoo for dogs is usually thicker and heavier, and this is due to the fact that it has to soak through two separate coats in order to get to the dog’s skin. To prove how important this is to remember, consider this: some topical flea treatments made specifically for dogs will tell you never to use them on your cats. Why? Because a cats’ skin is so sensitive, the treatment might kill them.

Is a Cat’s pH Level More Acidic Than a Dog’s?

Some of the things you read will tell you that cats have a pH level that is more acidic than dogs’, but in reality, this is a myth. The truth is that the pH level of both cats and dogs is roughly the same, but a cat’s skin is very sensitive, and a dog’s skin is much less so. If you look at the ingredients in a cat shampoo, you’ll notice it often contains ingredients such as coconut, oatmeal, and other ingredients made to clean without stripping the skin of its natural oils.

cat bath

Cat shampoo also has fewer chemicals in it and is made to be safe even when cats clean themselves and ingest some of it. Since dogs clean themselves with their tongue far less than cats do and have tougher skins as well, dog shampoos don’t have to be that thin and gentle. Because of this, cat shampoos do not often clean a dog’s skin as well as it needs. Remember, dogs have thicker coats and tougher skin, so if they are very dirty or have coats that are especially thick, cat shampoo might not work on them.

Other Things to Consider

By now, it’s likely becoming clear that using cat shampoo on dogs is not always a good thing to do. If you’re in a bind and you’re out of dog shampoo, you can certainly use cat shampoo as a last resort. But if your dog is unusually dirty or has very long or matted hair, cat shampoo is likely not to work. In reality, cat shampoo simply isn’t strong enough to clean a dog’s coat. If the dog has short hair and isn’t that dirty, cat shampoo will work, but regular dog shampoo will work even better.

Because of all these things, it’s recommended that you use cat shampoo only when necessary and not on a regular basis. Cat shampoo won’t harm dogs, but it also may not get them as clean as you’d like them to be. Since dogs tend to have a lot of oils and grease on their skin, the thin shampoo used on cats likely won’t produce the lather and the cleaning ability that you need to make sure your dog is nice and clean and comfortable.

What About Dog Shampoo?

If you’re wondering if the opposite will work—using dog shampoo on your cats—the answer is a resounding “no.” Cats’ skin is sensitive, and dogs’ skin isn’t, and using a shampoo that is strong enough to clean a dog’s skin on a cat instead will produce results that are a little harsh. Even if dog shampoo is all you have, you’re much better off running out and buying pet shampoo made specially for cats in this case. Regular pet and dog shampoo is simply too harsh and strong for the sensitive skin that cats have.

Sometimes there’s another option, however. Some companies that make and sell pet products now make a general “pet” shampoo that can be used on most pets. It’s recommended that you read the literature that comes with the shampoo first to make sure it is appropriate for your cat and that it won’t cause any harm to your animals. Each brand is different, but if you read the directions for each product, you’ll be able to tell if it’s safe for all of your furry family members.


As a general rule, you can use cat shampoo to clean your dog’s hair occasionally, especially if the dog is not very dirty or has a short coat. It is not recommended to use dog shampoo on cats, however, because it is usually too harsh to be used on a cat’s sensitive skin. The best thing to do is stick with cat shampoo for cats and dog shampoo for dogs, and never mix them up and use them interchangeably if you can help it.