Can Cats Use Dog Shampoo?

can cats use dog shampoo

If a shampoo is safe for dogs, can cats also use it? Probably not. Although both cats and dogs have similar needs of having their coats maintained for health purposes, their coats are different. Using dog shampoo on cats can compromise the health of your feline friend. Still not convinced?

Can cats use dog shampoo? No. The subtle changes caused on the skin and fur of cats by dog shampoo can be damaging. It makes it harder for cats to groom themselves, dries out their skins and even promotes parasites. Certain ingredients contained in dog shampoo are harmful to cats.

Here’s the deal, dog shampoo has ingredients such as tar, tea tree oils and selenium sulphite. There are many reports of skin and rash problems on cats washed using tea tree oils. Selenium sulphite and tar cause cats to have dandruff and dry skins. That’s not all, dog shampoo contains permethrin which is an insecticide that is dangerously toxic to cats. There are many effects of using dog shampoo on cats that have been discussed in this article. Read on to learn more about why cats cannot use dog shampoo.

Can Cats Use Dog Shampoo?

Harmful Ingredients on Cats Contained in Dog Shampoo

You may probably be wondering why some ingredients contained in dog shampoo are harmful to cats. Here’s why, the coats of cats and dogs differ in terms of structure, thickness and also pH levels. The pH level of cats is 6 and is much more acidic than the 7.5 pH level of dogs.

The pH levels can, however, differ depending on the body part of the cat or dog. These difference matter a lot in the making of species-specific shampoo.

Washing your cat using dog shampoo will get your furry friend clean but will surely come along with numerous complications. Permethrin contained in dog shampoo is poisonous to cats.

Permethrin is a member of the pyrethroid family of chemicals used in controlling insects. While the chemical in dog shampoo may be safe to use on dogs, it’s highly toxic and fatal on cats.

Even mere close contact between a cat and a dog that has just been groomed may cause poisoning to the cat. Which means that not even a small amount of dog shampoo should be used in washing your cat. Signs of permethrin poisoning develop within a few hours after exposure and include muscle tremors, seizures, fever and dilated pupils.

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Urgent treatment should be sought from a veterinarian on the first detection of such symptoms. And it doesn’t stop there. Tea tree oil is another ingredient in dog shampoo that is harsh on cats and causes them multiple problems. Cats washed using tea tree oils develop skin irritation and rash problems. Tea tree oil is made of various chemicals known as terpenes which are toxic agents.

The chemicals are rapidly absorbed into the bodies of cats whether on the skin or taken orally. Symptoms of toxicity are dependent on the amounts of terpenes ingested. Mild amounts of tea tree oil result in symptoms such as vomiting with signs of weakness and difficulty in walking.

Severely ill cats have symptoms that are life-threatening including seizures, tremors, losing consciousness and even going into comas. Such symptoms occur two to twelve hours after exposure. Other harmful ingredients found in dog shampoo that would cause harm to cats are selenium sulphite and tar.

Selenium sulphite is mainly meant for human use on the skin for treating scalp infection. It’s also used in dog shampoo for treating dandruff in dogs. However, its use on cats would result in drying up of their skins. Tar is another poisonous ingredient of dog shampoo on cats.

It causes severe abdominal pains to cats, vomiting and also diarrhoea. In dogs, tar is a therapeutic agent and its inclusion in dog shampoo is advantageous. Not only is tar toxic to cats but it’s also extremely corrosive and should, therefore, be avoided completely.

There are also some essential oils in dog shampoo that are beneficial to dogs but dangerous on cats. The essential oils are plant-derived liquids and the bodies of cats lack the necessary enzymes to metabolize the oils. Even when diluted, the essential oils can build up to toxic levels in cats.

Consequences of Using Dog Shampoo by Cats:

You may have noticed by now that cats are more sensitive pets compared to dogs. Using dog shampoo on cats can lead to fatal consequences due to poisoning. Cats also happen to be very curious and would actually spill dog shampoo on themselves resulting in accidental poisoning.

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It’s important to have a basic understanding of poisoning in cats including the symptoms and the first aid treatment to provide. Whenever there is cat poisoning due to dog shampoo, it’s often too late to rectify the situation.

Identifying the symptoms in time and consulting a veterinarian as soon as possible is the proper remedy. There are however some first aid measures that you can administer to your cat while the veterinarian is on their way.

As earlier mentioned, symptoms of poisoning in cats for using dog shampoo depend on the degree of toxicity. The symptoms include excessive salivation, gastric irritation, vomiting, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, weakness, loss of consciousness and involuntary muscular spasms.

In case you notice any of these signs, you should act according to the situation after having consulted a veterinarian. Appropriate speed is of the essence when administering first aid to your cat with common steps that include:

Bringing your cat into an open or ventilated area that is well-lit. Which is very important if your pet has fainted, lost consciousness or is weak. It also makes it easier for you to notice other symptoms.
Keep a sample of the dog shampoo in its container. If there’s none left, preserve the labelling on the container to provide necessary information to the vet.
If there is no much improvement from your cat, calm down and seek advice from the vet on how to proceed.
Do not force the cat to vomit as that will only weaken it the more. Constantly rinsing the cat also make your cat susceptible to fever.

Suitable Alternatives for Cat Shampoo

Sometimes cat caregivers realize they’ve run out of cat shampoo just when the cats have decided to get themselves all messy. There are some non-pet specific products that can be used in place of cat shampoo.

A thorough prior reading of the ingredients is however required to detect the presence of any harmful ingredient on cats. Usually, ingredients that would be toxic to cats include peppermint, jojoba, glycerin, tea tree and lavender.

Cats will absorb such ingredients into their skins and have some left on their coats even after being rinsed.

Natural soaps are another fine option for washing cats instead of using dog shampoo. The caution has to be taken, however, since most some natural ingredients in the soaps can still be toxic to cats.

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An example of a recommendable natural soap is Pure Castile soap whose bars are made from olive oil bases. The natural soap is not overly-acidic and is dye-free as well as chemical-free. The only problem with natural soaps is the taste they produce on the fur of cats.

It can be quite unsettling for the pets who are in the habit of ceremoniously licking their coats. Specific dish detergents have also been used to wash cats in the absence of cat shampoo. The most popular one being Dawn which has been credited for helping pet parents in getting rid of fleas.

Frequent usage of dish detergents in washing cats is however not advisable. Mainly because they are developed to remove oils from the surfaces they clean. They will dry out the skin of your cat in the long-term if used regularly.

Cat Shampoo As the Best Option

Using shampoo made for cats is always the best option for your cat. Especially because the job has already been done on the cat-branded shampoos of ensuring they are non-toxic. However, reading the ingredients thoroughly before making a purchase is still important.

There are many advantages of using cat shampoo rather than dog shampoo or other harsh chemicals to clean your pet. Your cat not only gets cleaned up but is also comfortable during and after the bath. Sadly, dog shampoo and other alternative products irritate the skins of cats leading to itching and pain.

Cat shampoos are gentle on the sensitive skins of cats since their ingredients are carefully formulated to comfort the pets. In fact, some organically based cat shampoos have ingredients with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects that soothe the skins of cats.

Moreover, using cat shampoo to clean your cat has benefits such as hydration of your cat’s skin, relief and wound healing. Ideally, cat shampoo does more than just boost your cat’s appearance and hygiene. It’s important to read the label of pet shampoo before making a purchase.

Some pet shampoo is actually designed to be used by both cats and dogs. Such shampoo may be safe for cleaning your cat but might not quite meet some other cat-specific requirements.

Consulting your veterinarian in case of any uncertainties concerning the kind of shampoo to use on your cat is absolutely important.

Article by Barbara Read
Barbara read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.