Are Dog Shampoos All The Same? April 12 2022

The answer is NO! Dog Shampoos vary greatly in their ingredients, effectiveness, irritation, fragrances, and colors! You might think the dog shampoo you are currently using is a good quality product, but is it? In this post we explore various ingredients found in commercial dog shampoos (cheap end up to higher end natural brands) and help you decipher what's good and what's bad.


15 Common Ingredients found in Chemical Based & "Natural" Dog Shampoos:  

1) Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate/Sodium Laurel Sulfates - These are sometimes coded on labels as "coconut based cleanser." Sulfates are added to shampoo because they act as surfactants to bind to grease & dirt to help wash them away. These are what causes "bubbles" when bathing. Sulfates can be extremely irritating to a dog's skin (people's too) and will strip out the natural oils found in a the skin & coat. Many dogs become extra itchy afterward, causing dander and flakes to appear on the fur. Prolonged exposure to sulfates can produce target organ damage and ingestion can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. Allergic reactions can also appear on dogs.

2) Cocamide DEA/Cocamidopropyl Betaine - These are sometimes coded on labels as "coconut based cleanser." Cocamides are also detergents added into shampoos to "add more bubbles," but also to thicken a shampoo so it comes out in a glob. Like sulfates, these ingredients cause skin and eye irritation. In lab experiments, exposure to high doses of these chemicals have been shown to cause liver cancers and precancerous changes in skin and thyroid.

3) Glycol Distearate/Stearate - these are waxes added in to make the shampoo shiny. I don't think your dog cares if their shampoo is shiny or not! This is an unnecessary ingredient, and although they only cause acute oral toxicity, and skin and eye irritation, they are still toxic!

4) Dimethicone/Cyclomethicone - methicone's are silicone oils used to smooth down the fur, while adding thickness and shine. These attributes aren't so bad unless you are using a dry shampoo on your pet. Methicone's that can be inhaled cause the most harm. And when this chemical decomposes, it can form toxic gases!

5) Paraben -  these are added to act as a preservative to prevent bacterial growth. The side effects of having parabens absorbed through the skin or ingested can contribute to the development of cancerous tumours in people, so why risk cancer in our dogs?

6) Phenoxyethanol - many "natural" products contain this ingredient as a preservative instead of using a paraben. It can also be used in the fragrance of a shampoo. Its chemical structure is similar to parabens and have similar side effects like allergic dermatitis.

7) Propylene Glycol - Propylene Glycol is a cosmetic form of mineral oil and works as a humescent, which creates retention of moisture. This chemical is also a skin irritant and "repeated exposure may cause flaking of the skin," states DOW Chemical's MSDS.  In shampoo, it is supposed to work at holding moisture in the skin, but using the shampoo regularly causes skin dryness.... talk about a Catch 22!

8) Diazolidinyl Urea - this is used as a preservative. To use this chemical, people have to make sure their skin is covered and seek medical attention if their skin comes in contact with it. One is also supposed to induce vomiting if ingested according to Spectrum Chemical. Dog shampoos do not need to contain this preservative! There are many natural preservatives like Vitamin C and Rosemary amongst others.

9) Polysorbate 20/80Although it's derived from a natural ingredient, it is not natural--it is an ethoxylated compound which means the un-hazardous polysorbate is treated with 20 "parts" of ethylene oxide causing a carcinogenic compound. Polysorbates are usually added as emulsifiers to shampoo to hold in fragrance and increase surfactant properties.

10) Glyceryl Oleate - this chemical is used in the fragrance and to help as a surfactant. There are high concerns for irritation to the skin, eyes, and lungs which can wreak havoc on your pups skin - especially if they are extra sensitive. Your pooch doesn't need to stay smelling like cucumber melon or blueberry swirl after their bath, just a clean dog is the best way to go.

11) Sodium Benzoate - this is used used as a preservative and for fragrance in shampoos. It can cause serious eye irritation. Other studies state it is hazardous to the skin and can be toxic to the blood, reproductive system, liver, and central nervous system. Again this is an unnecessary ingredient!

12) DEA (diethanolamine) - DEA is used as a wetting agent to help with lather in a shampoo. Cancer Prevention Coalition states DEA can react with other ingredients in the formula to form an extremely potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA). NDEA is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers. 

 13) Phthalates - these are used when making artificial fragrances for shampoo because they make the scent last longer by acting as a plasticizer. They are known endocrine disruptors which means they can disrupt the hormone levels in the body. Pregnant dogs should definitely avoid having shampoos with pthalates put on them to avoid any developmental birth defects.

14) Fragrance - the term Fragrance is what many companies use to keep their scent a secret. You have no idea what chemicals or natural ingredients they are using to add a scent. It is generally safe to assume the word fragrance = chemical, otherwise the scent would be promoted as a natural or organic ingredient like lavender essential oil or a blend of natural plant derived scents. 

15) Color/FD&C's - Color? Why do dogs need to have a color in their shampoo? The only reason colors are added is for human aesthetic purposes. The actual chemical makeup of colors and dyes only leads to increased dryness or irritation on your dog.


So now that your head is spinning, take a deep breath and ask yourself: Do I care what I'm bathing my favorite pooch with?


With PETfection Puppy Suds Shampoos you absolutely don't have to worry about any chemicals! Every single scent of shampoo we offer is made from saponified oils like coconut, jojoba, and olive. The fragrances are all essential oil based and are non-toxic by themselves when diluted. In fact, many of our oils are considered food-grade which means they are safe for ingestion. You won't have to worry about your pooch licking themselves and ingesting any toxic chemicals after their bath! All of our shampoos work great on sensitive dogs and puppies too because they are gentle without sacrificing good cleaning quality.  :)

Happy Bathing!