Can You Use Head and Shoulders on Dogs?

So, you’re standing in the shower, lathering up with Head and Shoulders to treat that dry, flaky scalp that’s been driving you out of your mind, and you think of your poor dog. He’s been scratching a bit, too. His skin is certainly just as dry and itchy as yours is.

Maybe he even has fleas, although, hopefully, you don’t! The solution to his problem is at your fingertips.

Head and Shoulders on Dogs header

Related Read: How To Make Your DIY Dog Shampoo At Home

Is Head and Shoulders safe For Dogs?

The thought occurs to you, “Is Head and Shoulders safe to use on my dog?” Instinct tells you that if it’s safe and effective for you to use, it should be the same for your pet. But this is not always the case.

Lots of products that are safe for humans can have ill effects on your canine companion. Ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, and even aspirin are definite no-nos, so don’t try to treat your pet’s pain with something out of your medicine cabinet. And you can’t smear the baby’s diaper cream on your pup’s rash, either.

So, is Head and Shoulders safe to use? The answer is yes, with certain caveats. You may be hesitant because a brief examination of the label indicates that this shampoo contains the active ingredient zinc pyrithione, and zinc certainly can’t be healthy, can it?

But zinc pyrithione, or ZPT, is an extremely effective anti-dandruff agent. It works not only on the flakes themselves, loosening them and carrying them away, but on the underlying causes of the condition. This is true for your canine companion as well as yourself. Care must be taken, however, that your dog’s eyes are not exposed to the shampoo. Protect them just as you would your child’s eyes from the same kind of irritant.

Reasons to use Head & Shoulders on your pet

So, now that you know it’s safe to use, why would you want to use Head and Shoulders on your four-legged friend?

Well, there may be a couple of reasons. Your dog can experience dandruff just as you do, and the pyrithione zinc in this shampoo is the most effective treatment for the condition. But ZPT can treat other conditions as well as simple dandruff and dry skin.

Skin conditions in dogs are caused by either bacteria or yeast. Yeast is, of course, a fungus, and the ZPT found in Head and Shoulders is an effective antifungal agent.

Furthermore, according to groomers, this shampoo can even be used to treat that dreadful condition all pet owners fear, an infestation of fleas. Simply remember to leave the shampoo on for at least five minutes. Flea treatment often paralyzes the little buggers immediately, but you must be careful not to assume they are dead, and rinse off immediately. It will take the full five minutes to finish them off.

As mentioned before, care must be taken to protect your pet’s eyes during the process. Several products are available at the pet store, but be sure you buy one specifically for protection, and not simply to ease irritation after exposure.

bath time

Application of Head & Shoulders

Now that you’ve decided to bathe your dog, just how should you go about it?

  • Well. the first step should be to brush him thoroughly. Start with a slicker brush, then move on to one with bristle to remove any mats.
  • Next, prepare the tub, sink, or whatever you’re using by making sure it has a non-slippery surface. Just as you wouldn’t feel secure sliding around in your shower, your canine companion won’t feel comfortable if he’s losing his footing all the time.
  • Now spray him down with warm water. A majority of dogs do not like to have their head wet down, so avoid spraying above the neck.
  • After the animal is thoroughly wet, start lathering him up with about a quarter sized glob of Head and Shoulders, working in into a nice froth, avoiding the face.
  • Dampen a piece of cloth and gently wipe his face to remove dirt and grime. Leave the lather on for about ten to fifteen minutes before rinsing thoroughly. And I do mean thoroughly. Any shampoo left in the fur will cause irritation to the skin and attract dirt and grime.
  • Now, towel dry the excess water. If your four-legged friend will tolerate the noise of a blow dryer, give him a nice blowout. If not, let him run free to air dry, then brush with a stiff bristle brush for a shiny, mat-free coat.

You can repeat the treatment once a week for treatment of dandruff or dry skin, or two or three times a week for treatment of conditions such as seborrhea.

Every effort should be made to keep the animal comfortable in the bath, or they will not want to repeat the experience. Make sure your pet’s footing is secure by using a rubber mat or a towel. If they are particularly skittish, you may need a helper to hold and comfort them. You may even want to put cotton balls in his ears to protect against the incursion of unwanted water. Remember, the more comfortable your pet is with the experience, the less trouble you will have in repeating it.

Warning About the Use of Human Products!

But do you want to use human shampoo on a canine? Is this actually an intelligent idea?

Maybe, but maybe not. Human skin and dog skin are very different. For one thing, canine skin is much more sensitive, having only 3 to 5 layers of cells versus our own 10 to 15. And the pH balance is very different, too.
Human skin is more acidic, and human shampoos are pH balanced for our particular requirements.

Therefore, using human shampoos on your canine companion on a regular basis may cause damage to the protective layer, called the acid mantle, which covers all of us, human and dogs alike. If this layer is damaged, the skin is left vulnerable to infection and subsequent damage. You may actually cause more itching and flaking on your pooch by trying to treat the condition.


While it’s perfectly safe to use Head and Shoulders on your dog on occasion, and it should, indeed, help to treat certain skin conditions, for regular treatment it is advisable to use a product specially formulated for canines. This will ensure your pooch’s skin is protected as well as treated.

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