This post contains affiliated links. Please read my disclosure page.
Dog shampoo can contain harmful chemicals that can cause negative health effects for your dog. Some ingredients include endocrine disruptors or carcinogens. Dogs have thinner skin than humans and their skin is more sensitive. Their skin can be affected by harsh chemicals and result in dry, itchy spots, irritation or allergies. I have a dog too and he often suffers from dry, itchy spots on his skin. I wanted to make sure what we are applying isn’t harmful so I decided to research non toxic, organic dog shampoos. In this post, I share with you what ingredients to avoid in dog shampoos and what non toxic, organic dog shampoo options are available.
How Dogs Are different
First, let’s take a look at how dogs are different from us and why using non toxic, natural, organic shampoo is may be a good idea.
Epidermis is the very outer or upper layer of the skin. A dog’s skin is thinner than ours. The epidermis of a dog is 3-5 cells thick whereas in humans, it is at least 10-15 cells thick. Although dogs have fur which protects their skin to a certain extent, their skin is more sensitive and their skin is more vulnerable in certain situations. Many chemicals can be absorbed by the skin and toxic chemicals can penetrate through their skin easier. Researchers have found that chemicals can get into an animal’s blood stream and affect organs the blood touches. Inhaling chemicals, having direct skin contact with chemicals or ingesting toxins can cause allergy, sneezing, liver toxicity, cancer or organ failure to the dogs.
Dog shampoos have direct contact with dog’s skin and they can also leave chemical residue on the dog if they are not rinsed throughly. Dogs can also be easily exposed to harmful chemicals due to their natural animal behavior such as licking. According to a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, dogs have higher levels of common chemicals found in household products in their body.
Different pH Level
Dogs also have different pH levels than humans. Therefore, we shouldn’t use the same human shampoos that we use for ourselves. The pH Level of dog skin is 7.0 to 7.5 and human skin is around 5.2 to 5.5. Soaps and shampoos have different pH levels. For example, Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo is pH 5.5 and Ivory dish soap is pH 9.5. pH levels of human shampoos or soaps will not have the pH levels the dog’s skin needs. When using a human shampoo that is too acidic or too alkaline, it will disrupt preserving healthy oils on dog’s coat and skin and also possibly damage the skin.
Synthetic Chemicals To Avoid In Your Dog Shampoo
So many dog products including dog shampoos have toxic ingredients or materials. You don’t really realize until you read all the ingredients that make up a product. Some ingredients not only cause irritation or allergies for your dog but also can disrupt hormones or cause cancer. Let’s take a look what ingredients in dog shampoos can be harmful to your dogs.
Fragrances makes products smell good but they are highly toxic. It’s tempting to have your dog smell good but you don’t want to harm your dog at the same time. Fragrance is listed as an ingredient on many products. However, fragrance is not a single ingredient. It is actually made of a mixture of dozens of chemicals. Fragrance ingredients are regarded as a trade secret or proprietary information so the actual chemicals do not have to be listed. They can just be listed as ‘fragrance’ so we don’t really know what chemicals are actually used. Up to 95% of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum and coal tar. According to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), there are 4,000 chemicals that are used in fragrance. The Women’s Voices For The Earth about one-third of all fragrance chemicals are chemicals of concern and are linked to human, environmental harm. These harmful chemicals can cause allergies, sensitivities, cancer, endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity. One of the harmful chemicals that fragrances often contain are phthalates which can cause endocrine disruption and cancer. It should be avoided in your pet products as well as in your house hold products.
Preservatives keep products lasting longer and stop products from developing fungal growth. Here are some examples of toxic preservatives in dog shampoo.
Paraben – Toxic Preservative In Dog Shampoo
Parabens are preservatives commonly found in dog shampoos and dog food. They are listed as methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzyl and butyl parabens. They can cause allergic reactions and contact dermatitis to your dogs. They have been also known to be endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDC) and they can interfere with hormones. Endocrine disruption can lead to reproductive, developmental and neurological system harms.
Formaldehyde – Toxic Preservative In Dog Shampoo
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. Formaldehyde has also been shown to cause cancer in animals according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Dog shampoos often have formaldehyde releasing preservatives. Formaldehyde releasing preservatives are not listed as formaldehyde but listed as ingredients such as quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal. They slowly release formaldehyde into the products. Dogs and humans can be exposed to formaldehyde by inhaling or absorbing formaldehyde through the skin.
Isothiazolinone (Methylisothiazolinone (MIT or MI) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) – Toxic Preservative In Dog Shampoo
Methylisothiazolinone (MIT or MI) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) are synthetic preservatives. They are within the chemical group called isothiazolinones and they are often used to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi and algae. However, they are both known skin sensitizers and irritants which can cause allergies. They can also damage the nervous system. They are banned in leave-on products such as lotions in Europe but not yet in rinse-off products.
Surfactants reduce the surface tension between the liquids. They may be used as wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, detergents and dispersants. Let’s take a look at some toxic surfactants.
Ethanolamines (DEA, MEA, TEA) – Toxic Surfactant In Dog Shampoo
Ethanolamines are often used as a foaming agent in shampoos. Ethanolamines include MEA, TEA, DEA. They break down into nitrogen and can form what is called nitrosamines. The nitrosamines are carcinogens. They can damage reproductive, developmental and organ systems. Ethanolamine compounds can be found in the ingredient list as monoethanolamine (MEA) , diethanolamine (DEA), and triethanolamine (TEA), cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, lauramide DEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, linoleamide MEA, stearamide MEA, or TEA-lauryl sulfate. One of the ingredients, cocamide DEA (or cocamide diethanolamine) is a mixture of fatty acids from coconut oils and diethanolamine. Since it is made with coconut, it may sound healthy but actually it is classified as a carcinogen to animals and possible carcinogen to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – Toxic Surfactant In Dog Shampoo
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is also a very widely used surfactant (used as a cleansing and foaming agent). It is often second-largest ingredient after water in many shampoos. However, it is an irritant and it can cause redness, dryness, and itching. It can also be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane which is a carcinogen.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine – Toxic Surfactant In Dog Shampoo
Cocamidopropyl betaine is derived from coconut oil and sometimes it is labeled as ‘coconut based cleanser‘. It is used in some natural shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, or body wash including dog shampoo as a surfactant or detergent. Since it is derived from coconut, it sounds natural and healthy. However, it can cause skin, eye irritation and allergic reactions. It can also be contaminated with nitrosamines, a chemical known to be a carcinogen to humans.
Other surfactant compounds include Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Coco Sulfate, Polysorbates, ethylene oxide. They can all be harmful and toxic. Both ammonium lauryl sulfate and ethlene oxide, for example, are carcinogens. The sulfates can cause skin irritations.
A solvent dissolves other substances present in a mixture resulting in a solution. Let’s take a look at what toxic solvents are used in some dog shampoos.
Polyethlyne Glyocol (PEG) – Toxic Solvent In Dog Shampoo
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) or PEG compounds are often used as solvents in shampoos. However, PEGS have contamination concerns of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxide is a known human and animal carcinogen. 1,4-dioxane is also an animal carcinogen and a possible human carcinogen.
Isopropyl Alcohol – Toxic Surfactant In Dog Shampoo
Alcohol is also used as a solvent in shampoos. According to an article in Healthline, Isopropyl alcohol also known as rubbing alcohol and is easily absorbed through the skin, and in large enough amounts it’s poisonous to pets. When it is absorbed through skin, it can cause skin irritation and excessive dryness. Also, it can also cause respiratory tract irritation from inhalation of its vapors. It can also negatively affect the nervous system. Symptoms of poisoning begin within 30 minutes if ingested. Isopropyl alcohol can be listed as 2-hydroxypropane; 2-propyl alcohol and dimethyl carbinol, propyl alcohol, propanol, isopropyl alcohol or isopropanol.
Isopropyl (SD-40) – Toxic Surfactant In Dog Shampoo
SD-40 (specially denatured alcohol) is often used as a solvent in dog shampoos. It is also used in many personal care products or cosmetics as a solvent, an antimicrobial and an anti-foaming agent. Specially denatured (SD) alcohol is made with ethanol and a denaturing agent. Ethanol is harmful for dogs. According to PetMD, dogs can get ethanol poisoning when exposed to ethanol orally or through the skin. Ethanol can cause a depression of the central nervous system with symptoms of lack of coordination, drowsiness or unconsciousness, slowed heart rate and heart attacks. Denatured alcohol can cause drying and irritation of the skin. It also enhances skin absorption which can help harmful chemicals to penetrate skin more easily.
5. Artificial Colors
We love colorful stuff and colors can make products look better. However, artificial colors used in dog products can be harmful for dogs. Color additives are used in many pet products such as dog food, dog treats and dog shampoos. However, these colorants are synthetic chemicals derived from petroleum. Often, these chemicals are also contaminated with by products. Some harmful artificial colors can cause negative health effects such as cancer and birth defects. For example, an artificial color, Red 40, which is often found in dog foods contains cancer-causing contaminants. Also, Blue 2 often contains cancer-causing contaminants and it is linked to brain tumors. Yellow 6 can cause adrenal gland and kidney tumors in animals.
How About Essential Oils
Essential Oils To Avoid
Essential oil is natural. However, some essential oils are poisonous to dogs. Essential oils to avoid for dogs include oil of tea tree (melaleuca), pennyroyal, wintergreen, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, and ylang ylang. They can be harmful when ingested or put on the skin. Dogs have thinner skin and they are more sensitive to essential oils than humans. They also have very sensitive noses and the smell of concentrated essential oil can be intense. Peppermint oil, for example, can cause skin and mucous membrane irritation to your dog. Too much peppermint oil can result in peppermint toxicity and cause vomiting, weakness, difficulty breathing, lack of coordination, tremors and lethargy. Pennyroyal is used as an insect repellent so some dog owners use it to treat flea infestations. However, essential oil often doesn’t work well to treat flea infestations. Instead, if pennyroyal oil used too much, it can cause pennyroyal toxicity. Pennyroyal toxicity can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, hepatic necrosis, or liver failure. Essential oils are often concentrated and when wrong amount is used on dogs (with wrong kind), they can be very harmful.
Organic Dog Shampoos
4Legger USDA Certified Organic Dog Shampoo – Organic Dog Shampoo
4Legger Organic Dog Shampoo is made with USDA certified organic oils and essential oils. It is made of plant based vegan ingredients and is 100% non toxic and hypoallergenic. There is no detergent, parabens, sulfates, synthetic or artificial chemicals. This hypo-allergenic shampoo is good for normal, dry, itchy, allergy and sensitive skin. It is eco-friendly, vegan and also Leaping-Bunny (cruelty free) certified. They use aloe that is free of the toxic constituents found in aloe latex.
Ingredients: Saponified organic oils of coconut, olive, and jojoba, our natural essential oil blend of rosemary and lemongrass, rosemary extract, and organic aloe vera
Made In : USA
Fluppets Certified Organic Pet Shampoo – Organic Dog Shampoo
Fluppets Organic Pet Shampoo is made of all natural ingredients and certified to USDA organic food standards. There are no parabens, phthalates, phosphates, sulfates, petrochemicals, synthetic or semi synthetic fragrances, PEG’s, petroleum or animal by prodcuts. Natural rosemary extract is the only preservative. It is also good for itchy, sensitive skin. For each bottle sold, the company donates to BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY. All donations go directly toward saving the lives of furry, four-legged friends.
Ingredients: saponified organic oils of coconut, olive, and jojoba, natural essential oil blend of lemongrass & rosemary, rosemary extract, organic aloe vera
Organic Dog Shampoo Bars
SIT. STAY. FOREVER. SAFETY FIRST PET PRODUCTS Vegan Organic Dog (and Cat!) Soap – Organic Dog Shampoo Bar
Sit. Stay. Forever. Organic Dog Soap is made of 100% Vegan, organic ingredients. Certified organic ingredients include unrefined shea butter, certified organic extra virgin olive oil, certified organic coconut oil. All ingredients are grown without pesticides. The soap contains no palm oils, formaldehyde, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, proplyene glycol, parabens, polysorbates, parabens, isopropyl alcohol or artificial colors, preservatives. It is also good for sensitive skin for pets with sensitive and dry skin, hives, eczema, rosacea, & psoriasis. It is vegan and no animal testing.
Ingredients:Saponified organic olive and coconut oils, organic unrefined shea butter, organic oatmeal, organic neroli essential oils, organic kosher food grade glycerin and vitamin E.
DERMagic Organic Shampoo Bar – Organic Dog Shampoo Bar
DERMagic Organic Shampoo Bar is made with certified organic ingredients. It contains no preservatives, sulfates, harsh chemicals, irritants and toxins.
Ingredients: Saponified Coconut*, Olive*, Castor*, Sunflower*, Jojoba*, and Rice Bran Oils*, Neem Oil*, Organic Aloe Vera Juice, Lemongrass Essential Oil, Spearmint Essential Oil, Sulfur, Stearic Acid & Vitamin E. (*Organic).
A dog’s skin is more sensitive than human skin. Some shampoos can contain harmful chemicals that can cause dryness, itchiness, irritation, allergies on your dog’s skin. Some toxic chemicals can also contribute to serious health effects. Therefore, more careful consideration should be given when choosing a dog shampoo. I don’t know if any dog owners will be happy to find out their dog shampoo contains an ingredient that is known to be a carcinogen. After all, your dog trusts you and also depends on you to take care of him or her. Furthermore, the natural, organic ingredients in dog shampoos won’t contribute to damaging our environment. I really like 4Legger USDA Certified Organic Dog Shampoo and I’ll be getting it for my dog. Hopefully, he doesn’t get any more dry, itchy spots on his skin.
If you are interested in safe flea & tick treatments for dogs, please read my post, ‘Safe Flea Treatment For Dogs – Is Revolution Toxic To Dogs?‘
If you are interested in organic, non toxic gifts for dogs, please read my post, ‘Organic Dog Gifts, Non Toxic Dog Gifts – Best Christmas Gifts For Dogs‘
If you are interested organic comforters that is also cruelty free, please read my post, ‘Organic Comforter – What Organic Comforter Is Cruelty Free?‘
If you are interested in cruelty free make up brands, please read my post, ‘Cruelty Free Cosmetics – Organic, Natural, Cruelty Free Make Up Brands‘
PLEASE SHARE THIS POST WITH YOUR FRIENDS OR LEAVE ME A COMMENT! 🙂