If you’re a pet parent to both dogs and cats, you might have wondered at some point: Can you use dog shampoo on cats? It’s a common question that arises when you’re juggling the needs of multiple furry friends.
In this article, we’ll dive deep into this topic and uncover the facts, myths, and considerations surrounding the use of dog shampoo on our feline companions. Plus, we’ll share some helpful tips for making bath time less stressful for you & kitty.
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Please give a warm welcome to our guest author, Jacob Kay
Jacob Kay is a dedicated Veterinary Advisor and Editor at We Want Dogs, whose passion for dogs extends beyond his professional life. With two cherished canine companions of his own, he brings a wealth of knowledge in the realm of veterinary medicine to the forefront.
Jacob’s writing delves into essential topics like selecting the ideal diet for your dog and ensuring their ongoing health and happiness. His expertise isn’t limited to nutrition; he offers valuable counsel on various aspects of dog care, including exercise, well-being, and safety. Jacob Kay is a fervent advocate for spaying and neutering, firmly believing in its pivotal role in diminishing the population of homeless animals.
Can you use dog shampoo on cats? Here’s why you should reconsider
The main reason why you should not use dog shampoo on cats is that a dog and cat’s skin are very different. Dogs have a skin pH of around 7.5, which is slightly alkaline, while cats have a skin pH of around 6.5, which is slightly acidic. This means that dog shampoo can disrupt the natural balance of your cat’s skin and make it more prone to irritation, infection, and dryness.
Another reason you should not use dog shampoo on cats is that some ingredients in dog shampoo can be harmful or even toxic to cats. For example, pyrethrin and permethrin are common insecticides in dog shampoo that can kill fleas and ticks, but may also cause seizures, tremors, and even death in cats.
Similarly, tea tree oil and other essential oils are often added to the best antibacterial and antifungal dog shampoo(s) for their antibacterial and antifungal properties, but these can also cause skin burns, liver damage, and respiratory distress in cats.
Therefore, using dog shampoo on cats can expose them to unnecessary risks and side effects that can affect their health and well-being. It is better to avoid using dog shampoo on cats altogether and opt for a cat-specific shampoo instead.
What are the differences between skin and fur for dogs and cats?
Another reason why you should not use dog shampoo on cats is that dogs and cats have different skin and fur structures. Here are some of the main differences:
- Dogs have more layers of skin than cats. Dogs have three layers of skin: the epidermis (the outermost layer), the dermis (the middle layer), and the hypodermis (the innermost layer). Cats have only two layers of skin: the epidermis and the dermis. This means that dogs have thicker and more resilient skin than cats.
- Dogs have more hair follicles than cats. Hair follicles are the structures that produce hair. Dogs have about 15 hair follicles per square millimeter of skin, while cats have only about 3 hair follicles per square millimeter of skin. This means that dogs have denser and coarser hair than cats.
- Dogs have more types of hair than cats. Dogs have three types of hair: guard hairs (the long and coarse hairs that form the outer coat), awn hairs (the medium-length hairs that form the middle coat), and undercoat hairs (the short and fine hairs that form the inner coat). Cats have only one type of hair: guard hairs. This means that dogs have more variation in hair texture and color than cats.
- Dogs have more glands in their skin than cats. Glands are the structures that secrete substances such as sweat, oil, or pheromones. Dogs have sweat glands all over their body, while cats have sweat glands only in their paws. Dogs also have more sebaceous glands (the glands that produce oil) and apocrine glands (the glands that produce pheromones) than cats. This means that dogs have more ways to regulate their body temperature and communicate with other dogs than cats.
How to Choose the Right Shampoo for Your Cat
Choosing the right shampoo for your cat is not as simple as picking the one with the cutest label or the nicest smell. You need to consider several factors, such as your cat’s skin type, coat condition, and health issues.
First of all, you need to determine your cat’s skin type. Some cats have normal skin, which is neither too oily nor too dry, while others have sensitive skin, which is easily irritated by harsh chemicals or fragrances.
If your cat has normal skin, you can use a gentle or hypoallergenic shampoo that will not strip away the natural oils or damage the protective barrier of the skin. If your cat has sensitive skin, you should look for a shampoo that is specially formulated for sensitive skin and contains soothing ingredients such as oatmeal, aloe vera, or chamomile.
Secondly, you need to assess your cat’s coat condition. Some cats have short hair, while others have long hair or even curly hair. Some cats have smooth coats, while others have wiry or fluffy coats. Depending on your cat’s coat type and length, you may need a different kind of shampoo to keep it clean and healthy.
For example, if your cat has long hair or curly hair, you may need a shampoo that has detangling or moisturizing properties to prevent mats and tangles. If your cat has a wiry or fluffy coat, you may need a shampoo that has volumizing or conditioning properties to enhance its texture and appearance.
Thirdly, you need to check your cat’s health issues. Some cats may have specific problems that require special attention or treatment. For example, if your cat has fleas or ticks, you may need a shampoo that has insecticidal ingredients to kill them and prevent re-infestation.
A tried & true favorite
Years ago my veterinarian recommended this flea & tick shampoo for a flea-infested kitten I rescued. It is fantastic! It’s also perfect for sensitive skin so it doesn’t usually cause the irritation many others do. Click the photo if you’d like to learn more.
If your cat has dandruff or dermatitis, you may need a shampoo that has medicated ingredients to treat the underlying cause and relieve the symptoms. If your cat has allergies or infections, you may need a shampoo that has antihistamine or antibacterial ingredients to reduce inflammation and fight bacteria.
To choose the right shampoo for your cat, you should read the labels and ingredients carefully and avoid any products that contain harmful or unnecessary additives such as alcohol, parabens, sulfates, artificial colors, or fragrances.
You should also consult your veterinarian if you are unsure about what kind of shampoo is best for your cat or if your cat has any special needs or conditions.
Risks of Using Dog Shampoo on Cats
As we have seen, using dog shampoo on cats can cause various problems for your cat’s skin and fur. But that’s not all. Using dog shampoo on cats can also pose other risks, such as:
Allergic reactions: Some ingredients in dog shampoos may be allergenic for cats. For example, some dog shampoos contain oatmeal, which can cause allergic dermatitis in some cats. Other common allergens in dog shampoos include fragrances, dyes, preservatives, or essential oils. If your cat is allergic to any of these ingredients, using dog shampoo on them can trigger symptoms such as hives, swelling, redness, itching, or difficulty breathing.
Toxicity: Some ingredients in dog shampoos may be toxic for cats. For example, some dog shampoos contain pyrethrin or permethrin, which are insecticides that kill fleas and ticks. These substances are safe for dogs, but they can be deadly for cats, especially if ingested.
Other toxic ingredients in dog shampoos include tea tree oil, citrus oil, or alcohol. If your cat is exposed to any of these ingredients, using dog shampoo on them can cause symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, or coma.
Eye irritation: Some ingredients in dog shampoos may be irritating to cats’ eyes. For example, some dog shampoos contain sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, which are surfactants that create foam and lather. These substances are harsh and can cause eye irritation, inflammation, or damage in cats.
Other irritating ingredients in dog shampoos include menthol, camphor, or eucalyptus oil. If your cat gets any of these ingredients in their eyes, using dog shampoo on them can cause symptoms such as tearing, redness, pain, or blindness.
How to Bathe Your Cat Safely and Effectively
Bathing your cat may seem like a daunting task, especially if your cat hates water or struggles to escape from your grip. However, with some preparation and patience, you can make the bathing experience more pleasant and less stressful for both of you.
Here are some tips on how to bathe your cat safely and effectively:
- Prepare your cat for a bath. Before you start bathing your cat, you should brush their fur thoroughly to remove any dirt, debris, or loose hair. You should also trim their nails to prevent them from scratching you or themselves. You should also choose a comfortable and quiet location for the bath, such as a sink, a bathtub, or a large plastic container. You should fill the container with warm water (not too hot or too cold) and have a towel, a washcloth, and a cat shampoo ready nearby.
- Wet your cat gently. To wet your cat, you should use a spray nozzle, a cup, or your hand to pour water over their body, starting from the neck and moving down to the tail. You should avoid wetting their head, ears, eyes, nose, or mouth, as this can cause discomfort or panic. You should also talk to your cat softly and calmly to reassure them and keep them calm.
- Lather your cat carefully. To lather your cat, you should apply a small amount of cat shampoo to your hand and massage it into their fur, creating a rich foam. You should avoid rubbing or scrubbing too hard, as this can damage their skin or fur. You should also avoid getting any shampoo into their eyes, ears, nose, or mouth, as this can cause irritation or infection. You should rinse off any excess shampoo with water and repeat the process if necessary.
- Rinse your cat thoroughly. To rinse your cat, you should use a spray nozzle, a cup, or your hand to pour water over their body, starting from the neck and moving down to the tail. You should make sure that all the shampoo is washed off completely and that no residue is left behind. You should also check their ears, eyes, nose, and mouth for any signs of soap or water and wipe them gently with a washcloth if needed.
- Dry your cat gently. To dry your cat, you should wrap them in a towel and pat them dry gently. You should avoid rubbing or squeezing too hard, as this can cause friction or discomfort. You should also avoid using a hair dryer or a heater, as this can cause overheating or burns. You should let your cat air dry in a warm and cozy place until they are completely dry.
- Reward your cat with treats and praise. After bathing your cat, you should give them some treats and praise to reward them for their good behavior and make them associate bathing with something positive. You should also monitor their behavior for any signs of discomfort or distress, such as licking, scratching, shaking, or hiding. If you notice any of these signs, you should contact your veterinarian for advice.
Here’s a video you might find helpful
Most cats do not need to be bathed by humans because they are purrfessionals at keeping themselves tidy! However, there are reasons to bathe your cat so it’s nice to know how to do so safely if that ever occurs.
I think we can all agree that when answering the question, “Can you use dog shampoo on cats?” the answer is no you shouldn’t. There are just too many risks to give it a try.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Have you had to bathe any of your cats? How did it go? Do you have the kind of kitty who loves water? Tell us about it!
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Thank you for reading! Until next time…
Love & Healing Purrs,