Can you Use Head and Shoulders or Selsun Blue on Dogs?

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Two of my dogs suffer from allergies, but Sophie’s skin issues have always been worse than Calvin’s.

One of the issues she tends to get is flaky skin due to a combination of allergies and dry skin.

In Minnesota, the winters cause everyone’s skin to dry out. And, in our home, we use a wood-burning stove for heat, which unfortunately makes this condition worse.

Sophie usually only has issues in the winter with dandruff, but she usually has two or three episodes.

This year wasn’t too bad, and thankfully Sophie only had a minor case of dandruff that popped up just before spring.

Though Sophie’s dandruff is barely noticeable with her white hair, I always treat it since it is an early warning sign that her allergies are flaring up.

If I don’t address it right away, it can result in a yeast infection.

Finding an Alternative to Traditional Dog Shampoo

Are human dandruff shampoos safe for dog bathsTraditionally, I use a medicated dog dandruff shampoo, but of course, we were all out, and it was a Saturday, so my vet was closed.

And since it was early evening, our local pet supply store was closed.

Because Sophie isn’t the only one in the house prone to dandruff in the winter, I happened to have Head & Shoulders in the linen closet

Initially, I was a bit leery of using human shampoo on Sophie.

I know that not all human shampoos are suitable for dogs. Additionally, with her ongoing skin issues, I didn’t want to make things worse.

After looking into it and comparing ingredients with dog shampoos I found online, I figured it would be fine to use it just this one time.

Can You Use Human Dandruff Shampoos on Dogs?

Technically, yes, you can use human dandruff shampoos to bathe your dog, as long as it is done in moderation.

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Can you use head and shoulders or selsun blue for dog dandruffOf the different shampoos on the market pH, balanced dandruff shampoos are safer than most other human shampoos.

Though keep in mind, humans and dogs have very different pH levels[1].

Our pH level tends to be more acidic, ranging between 5.2-6.2, whereas dogs are usually more alkaline, falling between 5.5-7.5, meaning we are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Also, the other ingredients in shampoos made for humans are not necessarily safe for dog’s skin or ingestion.

Both humans and dogs have what is referred to as an acid mantle[2]. This mantle protects our skin from outside contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Biogroom protein lanolin moisturizing ph balanced shampoo
You can find large bottles of pH balanced dog shampoo, too

Additionally, the acid mantle assists in keeping the skin hydrated, so when it is damaged, the outer-most layer of skin begins to dry out.

Most human shampoos will damage or destroy the acid mantle, and for some humans, that’s okay; however, it has a more significant adverse effect on dogs.

What this all means is that though not my first choice, pH balanced shampoos are a better choice than general OTC shampoos, and they will aid in reducing dandruff.

Is Head & Shoulders Shampoo Safe for Dogs?

Yes, Head & Shoulders shampoo is safe for dogs.

The main active ingredient found in this shampoo is zinc pyrithione, which is also found in anti-dandruff shampoos for dogs.

Zinc pyrithione has many uses beyond aiding dandruff, such as[3]:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Ringworm
  • Fungal infections
  • Dry skin

Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo safe for dogs precautions dangersHowever, Head & Shoulders is not made with dogs in mind, so it doesn’t take into account ingestion.

I know when my dogs are in the bathtub they have from time to time tried licking the shampoo off themselves in the hope to end bathtime early, especially when I have to leave the shampoo on for any length of time.

Plus, after my dogs have gotten out of the tub and towel-dried, they tend to lick their coats, though I thoroughly rinse them off, there is always the chance of trace amounts being ingested.

Short term, these things are not a big deal; however, over a more extended period of repeated use, it can eventually cause issues for your pup.

Is Selsun Blue Shampoo Safe for Dogs?

Selsun Blue is much like Head & Shoulders, but instead of using zinc pyrithione, it uses selenium sulfide, which is also a component in dog safe shampoos.

Dog shampoos with selenium sulfide aid in reducing and breaking down excess oil buildup[4] on a dog’s skin and coat. Dr. Fox,DVM[5], recommends Selsun Blue to treat seborrhea, a common skin issue that causes dandruff in dogs.

However, he does warn against using it in excess, more than once every ten days, due to having adverse effects if overused.

However, just like Head & Shoulders, it also contains other chemicals that are not beneficial for dogs and may cause issues if used long-term.

Better Dog Shampoos for Dandruff

Veterinary Formula Clinical Care anti dandruff shampoo coal tar salicylic acidThere are several dog shampoos made specifically for dogs with dandruff, many containing active ingredients such as zinc pyrithione or selenium sulfide.

In addition to choosing a shampoo containing one of these elements, you should also look for natural ingredients like:

The above-listed ingredients are all known to aid in reducing inflammation, discomfort, and moisturize your dog’s skin and coat.

Plus, you will want to avoid shampoos containing, artificial colors and fragrances.

Instead, look for ones containing essential oils or natural scents like lavender or chamomile.

Some great over the counter shampoos to try to eliminate dandruff are:

Best Chemical-Free Formula

Mighty Petz

Mighty Petz Oatmeal Shampoo Conditioner good for dogs with dandruffThis is the best choice for those looking to avoid chemicals like zinc pyrithione and selenium sulfide, plus it only uses seven ingredients.

In place of chemicals, Mighty Petz (check price on Amazon) contains baking soda to aid in balancing pH levels, organic oats, and aloe to soothe skin, coconut to help reduce fungus and help moisturize, and lavender to help your dog smell great.

Best Medicated Formula

Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Antiparasitic & Antiseborrheic

This formula contains coal tar, salicylic acid, and colloidal sulfur.

All of these ingredients in Veterinary Formula Clinical Care (check price on Chewy) have beneficial properties to aid in various skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, ringworm, fungus, and clogged pores.

Best Waterless Option

John Paul Pets Oatmeal Conditioning Spray

In between baths, using a conditioning spray can help keep your dog’s skin and coat moisturized, aiding to reduce dandruff.

John Paul Pets Oatmeal Conditioning Spray (check price on Chewy) contains oats and aloe, which assist in moisturizing.


John Paul Pets oatmeal conditioner to cut down on dog dandruffThe bottom line is that human shampoos for dandruff control can be safely used on your dog, but it should be done in moderation to avoid causing additional skin issues.

It worked well for Sophie, but I would likely stick to the medicated shampoo when it is available since she is prone to yeast infections due to her allergies.

Also, Sophie requires more frequent bathing during significant allergy flareups and occasionally requires weekly baths.

Additionally, I like to use coconut oil in Sophie’s shampoo as an added moisturizer. I don’t use a ton since it can clog pores and leave her hair feeling like it has a layer of film.

After trying it just once, I liked the look of her coat so much that I had added this routine to my other dogs’ baths.

However, it is always an excellent idea to consult your vet if dandruff is a new condition since it can be a symptom of a more severe health issue that may require medical attention.



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