Can I Use Cat Shampoo On a Dog? All You Should Know

Can I Use Cat Shampoo On a Dog? Photo of a cat with cat shampoo on his paws, and a dog after taking a bath.

The dog needs a bath, and all I have on hand is cat shampoo. But, can I use cat shampoo on a dog safely? Here’s what you need to know.

Generally, you can use general cat shampoo on a dog with no complications. The most common thing that you’ll notice in using it is that it won’t work as well as a classic dog shampoo would. This is because it is formulated for cat skin and not dog skin.

Learn about the power of different shampoos and the differences between their skin below!

Are dog and cat shampoos the same?

Even though you can technically use cat shampoo on a dog, they are not the same because they are formulated for two different animals! There are a few differentiating factors that you should know about. These include:

  • Strength of ingredients
  • Amount per use
  • Health-specific treatments

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Strength of ingredients

Cat and dog skin are different, as you’ll read about later in more depth. So, going specifically with one or the other will offer a different strength of ingredients. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, this is something to think about seriously.

Amount per use

Cats will require less than dogs, so you’ll notice that the amounts instructed to use will be lower. After all, a classic cat doesn’t need as much as a Great Dane, right? If you are trying to use a cat product on a large dog, you’ll need to do some math!

Health-specific treatments

Cats and dogs require different kinds of treatments for their skin and fur. So, cats products and formulated for their skin, and dogs’ products are for a dog’s skin. For example, you wouldn’t expect a shampoo to work the same on a poodle as it would on a tabby cat, right?

Can you use cat products on dogs?

So, using the points above to help you understand what you’re dealing with, can you use cat products for dogs? If you’re in a pinch, yes. You can safely use general cat shampoos and products on dogs.

You will find that it won’t be as effective or as deep-reaching on dogs, especially those with shaggy and thick fur. But, they can be better than just plain water if you have nothing else.

Possible risks to using cat shampoos on dogs?

The main risk to know about, which would be possible in some cases, is allergies. Dogs tend to have allergies more than cats. There might be a possible allergen in cat shampoo that would cause your dog to react poorly to it.

This is another reason you should check with your vet first since most of us don’t know the complete list of ingredients or how o check them against dog allergies.

FAQ about using cat shampoos on dogs

Here are some common questions when it comes to figuring out what is okay and not okay for dogs as far as cat shampoo types:

  • Can you use Hartz cat shampoo on dogs?
  • Can you use Burt’s Bees cat shampoo on dogs?
  • Can you use waterless cat shampoo on dogs?

The answer to all of these questions is yes. You can use cat shampoos for dogs safely, including waterless ones. The exceptions are, of course, if it says otherwise on the bottle. The notes and cautions are on the bottle for a reason, so you won’t want to ignore them!

If in doubt, you can always ask your vet, too, as they’ll be able to give you more professionally-trained and specific information about your dog.

Can I use cat flea shampoo on my dog?

Most experts will recommend against using a cat flea shampoo on a dog since it is formulated to work differently. Fleas are very similar to cats and dogs, and this means that medications, including medicated shampoos, should be, too. However, “very similar” is not “the same” in both cases.

You can’t kill canine fleas the same way you kill feline fleas, and it means that a cat flea shampoo isn’t going to be the same as a dog flea shampoo in its effectiveness. You’ll find it more helpful to find DIY flea treatments instead of using cat flea treatments if you need them.

What is the difference between dog and cat flea shampoo?

The difference is in the fleas that they kill, as introduced above. Canine fleas are not the same as feline fleas. This is why fleas tend to spread from dog to dog and cat to cat, but not a dog to cat or cat to dog.

Technically, they can, but fleas are actually species-specific and need to be treated as such in using the matching shampoos for one versus the other!

What happens if I use dog shampoo on a cat?

General cat shampoo is harmless to dogs, assuming it’s just your classic cat shampoo. However, dog shampoo can be very harmful to your cat. While you can use cat shampoo for bathing your dog if you must. Don’t ever use dog shampoo on cats. Not even a little bit. It can cause them skin irritations that can be severe if you don’t get medical attention for your cat.

If you need to clean your cat’s skin, it’s much safer to go with a vet-approved DIY option or hold off from cleaning them until you can buy a cat shampoo. Cat and dog skin are very different when you reverse the shampoo switch!

Dog skin vs. cat skin

Is there a difference between dog skin and cat skin, with all of this being discussed? Yes, there is a difference in sensitivity level. Cats have much more sensitive skin than dogs, and they will react to things much more than dogs. This is a huge part of why you can commonly use cat products for dogs, but not vice versa.

This often confuses many experts because dogs and cats have a very similar pH level, so they should be able to share products back and forth with no possible complications. Nonetheless, their skin will react differently than most would think.

In short

For the most part, cat shampoos are considered safe for dogs if you use them. They won’t be as effective compared to dog shampoos, and you will go through them faster than planned since cat shampoos are formulated for smaller animals!

You should never use flea shampoos from one to the other, however. You also won’t want to use dog products on cats due to their difference in skin sensitivity.

Cat shampoo is generally safe to use on dogs if you need to, though you should always check with your vet before doing so, just to be sure.

Know someone who’s curious about this very thing? Or perhaps considering the opposite approach without realizing the danger? Share this with them!

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Sara Santos

Writer, Editor and member of the Council, I am a dog person and I thrive to get the answers that will help you provide the best care a dog can have. You can also find me on my personal blog here.