How to Pick the Right Shampoo for Your Dog: 5 Ingredients to Avoid

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How Often?

The first question most dog owners ask when talking about bathing their dogs is "how often should I do it?" The answer is that it really depends! Of course, you don't want her tracking mud and dirt all over the house after a particularly sporting day at the park, and there's nothing wrong with the occasional quick bath thrown in between more detailed pamper days.

Usually, however, we recommend you wash your dog on average every 4-5 weeks. Regularly bathing more often than this runs the risk of stripping them of their natural oils and can cause skin and temperature-regulation issues.

How to pick the right shampoo & conditioner

Government regulations are not nearly as strict on pet products, and it's easy for manufacturers to label something as "all-natural" when in reality the product can be full of potentially harmful chemicals. Everyone knows that it can be very difficult to make heads or tails of a shampoo ingredient label, so we have done the hard part for you with our selection of organic and safe dog shampoos and conditioners. If you want to evaluate your existing shampoo, though, here are some tips on what to avoid:

5 Ingredients to Avoid:

1. Preservative: Parabens

Parabens are endocrine (hormone) disruptors that may increase your dog's chances of developing cancerous growths later in life. These chemicals can be absorbed through the skin (both your dog's but also yours as you're bathing them!).
Shampoo How to Dog
They also make their way into our drinking water supply when they're rinsed down the drain. With all of this in mind, there is really no safe shampoo that contains parabens, and it's best to look for a paraben-free alternative.

Some of the paraben family of compounds that can show up in a dog shampoo's ingredient list are:
  • Methlyparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben

2. Preservative: Formaldehyde Precursors

Most consumers know that formaldehyde is a dangerous substance (we're not exactly trying to create a mummy here, so we certainly don't want to be using it on our dog!). When used on a dog's skin it has been shown to trigger an immune response that can include burning, itching, blistering, or scaling of skin.

To get around the bad press associated with formaldehyde, manufacturers instead started to include formaldehyde precursors in dog shampoos: chemicals that break apart to release formaldehyde whenever they are mixed with water.

Here is a list of formaldehyde precursors often found in dog shampoos:
  • 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol)
  • Doazolidinyl urea
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Quaternium-7, -15, -31, -61
  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
If you see any of these ingredients in your dog shampoo, avoid it entirely! 

3. Artificial Dyes & Colours

It is very common for dog shampoos in the dog grooming supplies section of the grocery store to contain artificial dyes or colours. These ingredients are typically made from petroleum which can carry through a host of by-products in the manufacturing process which can also be harmful for your dog.

4. Surfactants: Sulfates

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant that is used as a detergent in a lot of dog shampoos. It is readily absorbed into the eyes where it can cause irritation and damage your dog's eye proteins.  Even at very low concentrations, it has been shown to remain in an animal's brain, heart, and liver for up to 4-5 days after the exposure. 

Sulfates most often appear up in your dog's shampoo ingredient list as one of the following:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
  • Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS)
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate
  • Sodium coco sulfate
  • TEA lauryl sulfate
  • MEA lauryl sulfate

5. Surfactants: MEA and other 3 letter ethanolamines

Cocamide-MEA is another surfactant which has actually been restricted in its use in cosmetics because it has high contamination concerns for nitrosamines.

Nitrosamines are thought to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and have been shown to cause reproductive harm, developmental harm, and organ system damage. 

Despite these links and the ban from using them in products designed for humans, chemicals like Cocamide-MEA are still often included in dog shampoos, so be on the lookout for the following abbreviations anywhere in the ingredient list:
  • Monoethanolamine (MEA)
  • Diethanolamine (DEA)
  • Triethanolamine (TEA)

In fact, one of the top-selling “natural” dog shampoos on the market has Cocamide-MEA listed as an ingredient.

Now that you know what to look out for, all that's left to do is to jump in that bathtub and lather that puppy up!

Dog Shampoo Ingredients Avoid

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