Can Dog Shampoo Hurt Dogs’ Eyes? (Vet Explains)

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can dog shampoo hurt dogs' eyes

You choose a dog-safe shampoo to protect your pooch. But what happens if you accidentally get some of the soap in your pal’s eyes when you’re bathing her? Is shampoo also safe for your dog’s eyes?

Sometimes in practice, I’d get a call from pet parents who were concerned because shampoo got in their pups’ eyes. I would address immediate care and explain that shampoo undergoes thorough product testing to ensure it’s safe, but there are still risks. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how dog shampoo can affect the eyes and what you can do if you accidentally get some suds in your dog’s orbs. We’ll go over what to do if your dog has swollen eyes after a bath. Then we’ll touch on what you should use to wash your dog’s face and eyes.

So let’s get started.

Is Dog Shampoo Safe for Dogs’ eyes?

When you bathe your dog, there’s a risk that some of the shampoo or lather will get into the eyes. You may wonder if it’s harmful to Fido. Fortunately, dog grooming products undergo testing to ensure their safety, so they should not cause serious damage. 

However, if you’ve ever gotten soap in your eyes, you know it can still be very irritating. The same thing can happen to our four-footed friends. This irritation may cause swelling and discomfort and prompt your pooch to rub his eyes. Rubbing or pawing at the face can cause secondary damage, so you should take immediate action to remove the irritating substance and reduce your pal’s discomfort. Once you deal with the immediate issue, contact your veterinarian.

Dog shampoos go through testing to help ensure they are not harmful to canines, so getting the product in the eyes should not cause serious damage. However, it can be irritating and increase the risk of secondary damage if your pup tries to rub her eyes.

Can a dog get an eye infection from Shampoo?

white terrier dog is having a bath with a dog shampoo

Like humans, dogs can get an eye infection from shampoo. 

While dog shampoo should not contain viruses or bacteria, the solution can disrupt the normal eye chemistry that helps the body prevent infections. So, when your pup’s body wash seeps into his eyes, it leaves Fido more prone to invasion from bacteria or viruses. Additionally, if your pup rubs or paws at his face because his eyes are irritated from the soap, he could introduce dirt and bacteria to the area. Because the eye is already more susceptible to infection, it’s the perfect storm. 

So, how do you know if your pup has an eye infection? Common signs are swelling or redness around the eyes and a discharge that can be watery, cloudy, or yellowish. Your pooch may also paw at or rub her face on the furniture or bedding because it’s bothering her. If you see any signs of irritation that could point to an infection, call your veterinarian immediately.

While dog shampoo shouldn’t contain contaminants, the solution can affect canine eye chemistry and increase the risk of infections. When your dog tries to rub or paw at an irritated eye, it can introduce materials that cause infections. If you notice redness, swelling, or a discharge of the eyes call your vet.

Can Shampoo Blind a Dog?

Most dog shampoo formulas are not likely to be a direct cause of blindness in dogs. Two possible exceptions are flea shampoos and whitening shampoos. While many of these products contain natural ingredients, some include harsh chemicals that could irritate or burn the eyes. Always read the label and use extreme caution when using either type of product.

While regular dog products shouldn’t directly cause blindness, it’s possible that exposure to the detergents and other ingredients in shampoo could contribute to blindness in time. Some people claim that if your pup’s formula includes the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), it could be harmful to the eyes. Studies demonstrate that SLS can penetrate the eyes and may affect the proteins in the eye. These changes could possibly contribute to the development of cataracts over time, but more research is needed. 

Another way that dog shampoo could contribute to eventual blindness is by causing irritation that makes your pooch susceptible to infections. Left untreated, inflammation and infection in some parts of the eye can lead to ulcers and blindness. 

With the exception of some flea shampoos and whitening formulas, most dog shampoos should not directly cause blindness if some of the lather gets in your pup’s eyes. However, some ingredients in shampoo may contribute to blindness over time due to their effects.

What Should I Do If My Dog Gets Shampoo in His Eyes?

black lab dog is having a bath

Now that you know how shampoo can irritate the eyes, you’re probably wondering what to do if some of the soap gets into your furbaby’s orbs. Below are the steps to follow.

  1. Briefly rinse away the soap: The first thing you need to do is remove any soap residue from the area. You can start with a brief rinse with clean tap water. Place your pal’s head under the faucet or gently pour fresh water over the area to remove all signs of soap or suds. Don’t prolong this step because tapwater may include chemicals like chlorine that could irritate your pup’s eyes. 
  2. Check the label: You’ve done what you can to remove the soap residue and chemicals from Fido’s eyes. Now you should read the label to see if the manufacturer gives any warnings or instructions. If the bottle tells you to call poison control, do so.
  3. Observe your pup: Watch your pooch and check his eyes for the next several days. If there are prolonged signs of irritation, schedule an appointment with your vet to be safe.

When you get shampoo in your dog’s eyes, the first step is to rinse away any visible soap with fresh water. After taking immediate action, check the label for any additional instructions or warnings and contact your vet.

What Should I Do If My Dog Gets Flea Shampoo in His Eyes?

The procedure you follow if your dog gets flea shampoo in his eyes is similar to the steps you would take with a normal dog shampoo, but there are a few additional actions:

  1. Briefly rinse away the soap: As with a regular shampoo, you can start by briefly rinsing the area with fresh water to remove any signs of soap.
  2. Flush with a saline solution: Once you rinse the area, use saline or a contact solution to thoroughly flush the eye. These solutions are properly pH balanced for canines and can help to prevent infections. You may need a helper to hold your pooch while flushing the eye.
  3. Check the label: This step is particularly important with flea or other medicated shampoo because the special ingredients can be irritating or harmful.
  1. Contact your veterinarian: You should call your vet and let them know what happened. Have the shampoo bottle handy so that you can read the ingredients from the label and any cautionary statements. Depending on the situation, Fido’s doctor may want to examine your pooch. 
  2. Observe your pup: Observe your pup’s eyes for the next few days after the incident. Look for signs of redness or any discharges. If the problem persists, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

If you get flea shampoo in your dog’s eye, you should immediately rinse the area with tap water to remove soap residue then follow with a saline or contact solution flush. After that, check the label for any warnings or extra instructions and contact your veterinarian.

What to do if a human shampoo got into my dog’s eye?

cute puppy is looking at his owner while taking a bath

I’ll preface this section by saying you shouldn’t use human shampoo on your dog. Many human formulas aren’t pH balanced for dog skin and can be irritating. Our hair products may also include ingredients that could aggravate your pal’s skin or eyes and cause inflammation.

That being said, if you accidentally grab human shampoo to bathe your pooch, and soap gets in his eyes, treat it like flea shampoo. Rinsing and flushing the area helps to remove harmful chemical residue and may prevent infections. Check the product label for any warnings or instructions, then call your vet and explain what happened. 

You shouldn’t use human shampoo on dogs, but if you accidentally grab the wrong product and get soap in your pup’s eyes, follow the same steps for flea shampoo. Rinse away any soap then flush the eye. Check the label for any warnings and instructions then contact your vet.

What Should I Do If My Dog’s Eyes Are Swollen After a Bath?

Red, swollen eyes can be a sign of infection or allergic reaction, and they require immediate attention. If your furbaby’s eyes become swollen after a bath, flush the area with saline or contact solution to remove any soap residue then immediately contact your veterinarian or visit a pet emergency center. Provide an account of when you bathed your dog, how soon the swelling occurred, and any other symptoms you observe. Your pup’s doctor will be able to examine the eye for any signs of damage and provide a treatment plan. 

If your dog’s eyes are swollen after a bath, immediately flush the area to remove soap residue and contact your veterinarian. Fido’s doctor should examine your pooch for signs of ulcers or other eye damage and provide a treatment plan.

What Should I Use to Wash My Dog’s Face?

To wash your dog’s face, start by wetting the head with water. Use a soft, damp cloth to gently clean the around eye areas and remove any eye matter. To wash the rest of the face, you can apply some shampoo to the head or snout and gently massage it into the coat. Rinse the soap thoroughly to remove all soap residue. While rinsing, direct the water away from the eyes to reduce the risk of getting soap in your pal’s eyes.

You can use soap and mild shampoo to wash your dog’s face. Wet the head and wipe the eyes with a damp cloth then apply shampoo. Rinse all soap from the face and head being careful to direct the water away from the eyes.

 Can I Wash My Dog’s Eye With Just Water?

When you bathe your pooch, you should also take time to clean around the face and eyes. Can you just use water to wash Fido’s eyes? 

While you can use gauze or a soft cloth that’s dampened with warm water to wipe the area around the eyes, we don’t recommend water for flushing the ocular area. Instead, you should select a solution that’s suitable for your furbaby’s eye chemistry. 

So, what’s suitable to flush or clean your pal’s peepers? For general cosmetic cleaning or to flush soap from the eyes, you can use saline or contact solution. If you’re dealing with an eye infection or other serious eye condition, you may need a specially formulated eye wash. Consult with your veterinarian to find the right product.

The Final Woof

chihuahua dog with a dog shampoo on her fur

While quality dog shampoo is formulated and tested to be safe for dogs, it’s not meant to get in the eyes. In most cases, shampoo ingredients won’t directly cause infection or blindness, but some formulations can be a contributing factor to these outcomes. Rather than using shampoo or water to wash your dog’s eyes, use a solution that’s properly formulated for canine eye chemistry.

If you get shampoo in your pup’s eyes, immediately wash away any signs of soap residue using water and check the product label for any other warnings or instructions. For some shampoo types, you should also flush the ocular area with saline or a contact solution and contact your veterinarian. If your pup’s eyes are swollen after a bath, you may have unknowingly gotten some shampoo in her eyes. Immediately flush the area with a saline or contact solution and call your vet for an appointment. 

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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