What’s In a Dog Shampoo?

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Just like with human shampoo, there are many – many options when it comes to dog shampoo. I feel like all my posts begin in the same fashion but it’s true. We are not only spoiled for choice (in a good way), we’re also bombarded with information that can be hard to sift through sometimes.

So what’s in a shampoo?
More and more people are beginning to turn to natural, organic and ‘XYZ’ free shampoos. 
1. Because we assume they are better and 2. Because we’re trying to give our pups the best.
What is actually in the bottle can be all the difference to your dog and unfortunately, there is nothing stopping manufacturers from describing a product as natural as long as it has natural bases. 
In shampoo, there is generally a foaming agent or some sort which helps to manoeuver the product, a cleansing agent and of course a scent or fragrance of some sort. The trick is to know which ingredients are a chemical or unnatural and which ingredients are in fact good and safe to use. Now, some may argue that just because it’s a chemical or not 100% natural that it’s still safe. That is true, however, I find dogs that get itchy and have allergies are best suited to a truly natural shampoo (with none of their known allergens of course) and even dogs with what would be considered normal fur and skin are perfectly comfortable using natural shampoo. So, my biased opinion is that it’s unnecessary to use anything unnatural on an animal unless via a Vets recommendation. Strangely enough, I’m not a doctor so would never recommend against a vet 😛

Ladies & Gents, there’s no easy way to say this… You must read the bottles!!!

When setting up my grooming business, I spent a good 5 or so months (among other things of course) researching shampoos. I had decided very early on that I wasn’t going to use anything with lots of chemicals or ingredients I couldn’t explain to clients. I looked for Australian made, So I could actually contact the manufacturer if need be and, of course, natural and organic where possible.

Organic Vs Natural
Natural: The product and ingredients should be derived directly from plants or minerals and have minimal or no processing. The use of the word ‘natural’ is very much unregulated so the term is frequently used by manufacturers as they don’t need to adhere to any strict standards. 
Organic: An organic product is produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals. However, the term ‘organic’ is not currently regulated in Australia, meaning that a business is not required to follow any specific regulations to claim their product as organic unless they are Certified Organic. To be certified, the ingredients/product must be produced cruelty free, be pasture fed, socially responsible, free range, biodiversity friendly, non GM and grown free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics. Be sure sure to question any products that claim to be organic but do not have any certification.
Source: http://healthylife.com.au/health-library/food-related/natural-vs-organic/

When reading the label look for anything that says natural or organic but don’t impulse buy it, continue reading it and always check the ingredients. By the way, this goes for any sort of spray that goes on or near your dogs, like a conditioning spray, cologne or a bedding deodoriser.

Let’s do a case study!

Below are ingredients from the shampoo that I use, Essential Dog. It’s natural, certified organic and designed to be safe for all dogs and in some cases alleviate dogs with skin conditions.

Ingredients: Distilled water, certified organic chamomile, comfrey, calendula, burdock root, horsetail, kakadu plum & nettle extracts, pro vitamin B5, certified organic vegetable glycerine, mixed tocopherols (pure vitamin d), bisabolol natural (concentrated chamomile derivative), soya oil, decyl glucoside (Eco Cert Approved), 100% pure and unadulterated anthemis nobilis (roman chamomile), citrus sinensis (sweet orange) and aniba rosaeodora (rosewood) essential oil. Safe to use on all pets (except cats) with essential oil content at <1%.

Most of the weird names are followed by their common name and are actually a flower or essential oil of some sort but there are a few things that I’m immediately left thinking “what the hell is that?”. So let’s find out!

  1. Certified Organic Vegetable Glycerine
    Glycerine, Glycerin or Glycerol, is an invaluable vegetable derived natural ingredient which helps soften, soothe and retain moisture in the skin. It is also commonly used to treat oily skin conditions (such as acne), skin infections, wrinkles, redness and fine lines and for its ability to stimulate skin cells, rejuvenating them, making it an excellent skin healer. Glycerine can help ease skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis, and can even help to heal bruises quicker by helping the tissue and cells to repair themselves.
    More info: AWO.com
  1. Decyl Glucoside (Eco Cert Approved)
    Used as a surfactant (foaming agent) and derived from sugar it’s readily biodegradable, low toxic and extremely mild. Several clinical skin irritancy tests show decyl glucoside to be non irritating even at high concentrations with an extended contact period of 24 hours, there was no observable reaction. 
    Learn more: Surfactant

Ok, so that all sounds ok to me! – Which is why I use them in my Organic Grooming Salon 😉
But this is just another reason why you should research the long ingredient titles because some may sound bad but aren’t and some may sound pretty good but aren’t.


PAW Sensitive Skin Shampoo
After reading the title and description on the bottle, it’s for dogs who are considered to have sensitive, fragile skin. It contains gentle cleansing agents, sulphate free cleaners and uses essential oils for fragrance.

Ingredients: Purified water, surfactants, thickener, glycerin (vegetable), euperlan green, preservatives, salt (dairy), panthenol, jojoba oil, sodium hydroxide, tetrasodium EDTA, vitamin E, Australian sandalwood oil, rosemary oil.

Let’s jump straight into the chemical sounding ingredients.

    1. Vegetable Glycerin
      We’ve learnt from the above shampoo, it’s not such a bad ingredient, but, just notice on this packaging it is not certified organic.
    2. Euperlan Green (Laural Glucoside and Stearyl Citrate)
      This one was hard to find concrete answers about. It is a Trade Marked ingredient/formulation of BASF. It’s a natural pearlizer derived from 100% natural, renewable raw materials, Euperlan® Green is the first purely vegetable-based, pearlizing wax dispersion free of ethylene-oxide and amine. I was able to find out that it basically means it will give the product a nice pearl looking colour that’s safe. Although I also found out they use Palm Oil in making Euperlan Green, but I couldn’t find out if it was sustainably sourced, so just on that for me, that’s a no, no.
      More Info: Euperlan Green, Pearlizing Agent
    3. Preservatives
      Obviously it doesn’t tell us what kind so I was unable to check what they’re using as a preservative.
    4. Panthenol
      Panthenol is derived from vitamin B-5 and is mostly used to help retain moisture in skin and hair care products. The molecular structure allows it to attract moisture from the atmosphere and bind to water molecules. It forms a smooth film over hair cuticles that enhances light reflection and makes the hair appear shinnier and prevents knots. 
      More info: Panthenol
    5. Sodium Hydroxide
      Sodium Hydroxide is an inorganic compound used to control the pH levels or serve as a buffering agent in cosmetics and personal care products.
      It’s quite commonly used in soaps, oven cleaners and drain cleaners because of its ability to dissolve grease, oils and fats. Studies have shown Sodium Hydroxide to irritate the eyes, skin and mucous membranes as well.
      I would imagine the amount used in this product is safe but it’s certainly not something I would want to willingly expose my dog to.
      More Info: Sodium Hydroxide
    6. Tetrasodium EDTA
      Although it’s made from formaldehyde and sodium cyanide, the end result is not carcinogenic. It acts as a water softener and preservative. It’s also an environmental pollutant, so not one I’d be happy to use.
      More Info: Tetrasodium

PAW Sensitive doesn’t sound too bad really but there are a few ingredients that aren’t very transparent and make it hard to give this a high rating for a natural shampoo product. There are a couple of common and technically safe chemicals in there but if they’re not necessary to use to get your dog clean and smelling fresh – why use it? The list also included “Surfactants”, but which ones have they used? We don’t know because it isn’t listed.


I’m finding out through my research that many chemicals that are deemed safe, are only deemed safe to use at low or specified doses. Does that make it truly safe though?


I wanted to include Epi-Soothe and Aloveen, as they’re typically recommended by vets, I actually find they work really well on dogs with itchy skin too, but I couldn’t find an ingredients list so I wasn’t able to include them or explain their ingredient choices.


Next up,
Fido’s Herbal Shampoo
Title makes me think it has some natural properties so let’s take a look at the ingredients list. 

Ingredients: Monoethanolamine lauryl sulphate, glycerol, alkyl betaine, coconut diethanolamide, Aloe Vera extract, Tea Tree Oil, extracts of camomile, coltsfoot, horsetail, lemon balm, marshmallow, rest harrow, rosemary, sage, wild thyme, and yarrow, colour, fragrance, water and preservatives.

We’ll just take a look at anything we haven’t already addressed.

    1. Monoethanolamine Lauryl Sulphate
      A cleansing or foaming agent (Surfactant), there are some use and concentration restrictions. One being it cannot be used in products left on the skin, it must be washed off.
      Check out the links below as there is some seriously scary info in there regarding this type of surfactant in regards to animals testing and it’s side effects of skin irritation and eye damage. Again, I’m sure it will be included in this and any other shampoos in a safe dose, but if it’s not needed, why risk it. 
      More Info: Morrocco Method & Lureth Sulfate
    2. Alkyl Betaine
      A chemical used for moisturising and conditioning the hair and skin. It may also function as a cleansing/foaming agent and as an anti-static. Couldn’t find much else I’m afraid.
      More info: CIR Safety
    3. Coconut Diethanolamide (Cocomide DEA)
      Made from the reaction of coconut oil and Diethanolamine. Another foaming agent. Deemed a carcinogenic chemical by The Center for Environmental Health in 2013 and yet still appears in almost everything. Although, it is considered natural, you can’t easily crack open a coconut and scoop some out. It can cause allergic reactions (then again so can everything) and it has shown to build up in peoples systems over time.
      More Info: Cocomide DEA


Apparently the more foam that’s generated, the better a product is assumed ot be working. There are plenty of great products that work and contain to foam or bubbles. Maybe their not fun at bath time (Sorry Pup!) but their certainly safe and effective.


I wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole. I have no doubt it may make your dogs coat shine and feel beautiful but after reading what’s contained in each bottle, even at safe doses, I wouldn’t want to use it on my dog or myself. DEA is a very worrying ingredient and I may be being over protective here but I have no reason to risk my dog or anyone elses, health.


Tips to Take Away
1. If you can’t find the ingredients list, they’re probably trying to protect their formulation. As it’s not a requirement to list all ingredients, they don’t have to but I certainly won’t be using anything that I can’t confirm is good.

2. Don’t trust pretty packaging! I always look for nice packaging, a bit of a marketing enthusiast I guess, but I always read the label. Too many times have I bought something thinking it was a natural product only to find out it wasn’t.
3. Whitening Shampoos will most likely contain a bleaching chemical. They are often blue in colour.

4. Long Technical/Chemical sounding names are not always a bad ingredient but if you’re unsure, always research what it is. Don’t trust one website, look at a few. (I’d suggest a book but I feel like that would be a hard book to come by 😛 )

Always use a safe shampoo, consult a Vet if need be but unless it’s life threatening, it’s always worth trying a truly natural product.


More Info/Interesting Articles I Found Along the Way:
Essential Oil Safety
12 Toxic Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid
Best Natural Shampoo Ingredients

 As always…

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