Is Dog Shampoo Bad For Dogs? (The Truth…)


You may have seen on the news or online that a brand of dog shampoo has caused a dog some harm. Now you’re wondering if dog shampoo is safe for your precious pup. Is dog shampoo bad for dogs? Is it really necessary to use?

In general, dog shampoo is safe for dogs. There are certain chemicals you should stay away from, but for the most part, dog shampoo is safe. Dog’s skin is more sensitive than human skin which is why they need to use dog shampoo as it’s formulated to be less acidic.

While dog shampoo in and of itself is not bad and is oftentimes very beneficial, there are ingredients in some shampoos that can do more harm than good to your dog’s coat and skin over time. 

We also take a look at how often dog shampoo should be used before it becomes harmful to your pup, whether dog shampoo can make your dog sick, if using expired dog shampoo is okay, and much much more.

Let’s jump right in.

What Dog Shampoos Should You Stay Away From?

While there are countless options for different dog shampoos on the market, the sad truth is that a large number of them may include ingredients that are unregulated or unsafe. It may take a bit of time on your part, but checking the ingredients label of the shampoo before you purchase it can go a long way in making the bathing experience much more enjoyable for your dog.

Parabens

These ingredients should be avoided in any dog shampoo. While their main purpose is to reduce fungal growth within the bottle and extend the shelf life of the shampoo, they have also been linked to endocrine disruptions in dogs of various breeds.

Check the label and avoid these parabens:

  • Butylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben
  • Propylparaben

Artificial Fragrances

We all want our dogs to smell great after a bath, but artificial fragrances are made from potentially harmful chemicals and should be avoided. This may include phthalates that have been directly shown to cause hormonal imbalance in many dogs.

All natural botanical fragrances can be used, however. These are commonly seen in certified organic shampoos and are usually made from ingredients such as tea tree oil, lavender, almond oil and natural vanilla.

Formaldehyde

While you will probably not see the word “formaldehyde” on most shampoo ingredient lists, it’s essence may be hidden in the form of a preservative. These chemical ingredients can cause severe allergic reactions in some dogs which include blistering, burning, swelling and more.

Always avoid shampoos that include one or more of these ingredients:

  • Bronopol
  • DMDM or DHDH
  • Quaternium
  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

Sulfates

There are numerous sulfate ingredients that a majority of shampoos will use. Depending on the dog, some sulfates can cause rapid allergic reactions as well as immediate skin responses such as redness, dryness, and itching.

Sulfates to watch out for include:

  • Ammonium Lauryl or Laureth
  • Sodium Coco or SCS
  • Sodium Lauryl or  Laureth
  • MEA Lauryl or TEA Lauryl

Extremely Long Words

If you can’t easily pronounce the ingredient, it might be best to avoid it. In this case, an ingredient used as a preservative and antifungal has been directly shown to cause organ damage and cancer in some dogs. 

If you see this extremely long word in the ingredients list, please avoid it entirely:

  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone

Is Dog Shampoo Really Necessary?

The short answer to this question is a resounding yes. 

Dog specific shampoo is extremely important when it comes to bathing your four-legged friend. Hairless breeds can benefit incredibly from regular bathing, but they need a shampoo that helps remove oils from their skin without leaving any different oils behind. 

Long coated or thick coated breeds, as another example, can benefit from detangling shampoos that help prevent matting and other skin ailments. 

While it might be easier and sometimes cheaper to use your own human shampoo on your canine friend, doing so can cause damage to their skin. 

Both dog skin and human skin have a very thin but necessary biological layer of acid called the acid mantle. This protects the skin from bacteria, viruses, parasites and more.

For a human, this protective layer has a pH of around 5.5, while a dog’s has a pH closer to 7. Depending on what ingredients they include, both human and dog shampoos will have a different balance of alkaline and acidic ingredients formulated for that pH level.

When using shampoo that is not specifically made for that pH level, the pH is thrown out of balance for a day or two afterwards. 

This in turn removes the protective layer of the acid mantle and as a direct result, your dog’s skin becomes much more susceptible to dryness, flaking, and itchiness. As your dog scratches, it can cause abrasions on the skin which let bacteria, viruses and other problems in.

How Often Should a Dog Be Bathed With Dog Shampoo?

How often your dog needs a bath depends on a number of factors including your dog’s breed and age, coat type, activity level, and more. Most bathing is done for the benefit of the human rather than the dog, but an occasional bath every two or three months can benefit your dog’s skin and coat too.

Other factors that may change how often you bathe your dog include:

  • Breed

Long haired breeds will benefit from more regular bathing to prevent matting in their coat. You can expect to bathe a long haired breed every month or so. The same may apply to curly or corded breeds as well.

  • Hairless Breeds

Chinese Crested dogs and others that are hairless or very minimally haired should receive baths on a weekly or twice monthly basis. Always try to find a breed-specific shampoo to ensure their skin is getting the hydrating nutrients it needs to remain healthy.

  • Oily Coats

Basset hounds are known for their oily skin which can lead to skin issues from oil buildup. Regular bathing on a three to four week basis can benefit these breeds greatly. Always find a shampoo that targets the oils without stripping the skin of everything beneficial.

  • Activity Level

If your dog loves running to the wettest part of the yard after a rainshower and covering his legs and belly in mud, you may find yourself bathing this little trouble maker more often than not. In this case, a very gentle shampoo or simply a water-only bath will be the best option.

  • Allergies

Dogs that require medicated shampoos to help alleviate allergies or other skin conditions will have entirely different schedules. Refer to the instructions on the shampoo bottle to find the best frequency to bathe your pooch.

**It’s important to note that in general you don’t want to bath your dog too often with dog shampoo. This can cause their skin to dry out as their natural oils don’t have enough time to replenish if bathed too often.**

Can Dog Shampoo Make Your Dog Sick?

If you’ve done your research on the potentially harmful ingredients some shampoos can contain, in general dog shampoos are not going to make your dog sick. However, some allergic reactions or skin irritations can show up over time if you switch to a new shampoo brand or type.

These allergic reactions may show up as:

  • Bald patches
  • Red patches
  • Skin rashes
  • Ulcers or blisters

Dogs may try to show you something is amiss by:

  • Face rubbing
  • Obsessive head shaking
  • Obsessive body licking
  • Biting at their paws

If you notice these issues or actions with your dog after switching shampoos, stop using that shampoo and see if the symptoms relieve themselves. You can also look for organic oatmeal shampoos to help soothe dry and red skin while it heals over time.

Is Using Expired Dog Shampoo Bad?

Like most products, dog shampoo has an expiration date. Many of the ingredients in shampoo are there to act as a preservative, but as the shampoo ages these preservatives lose their effectiveness. 

After the shampoo passes its expiration date, bacteria and fungus can start to grow inside the bottle. If you use an expired shampoo on your dog, it can potentially cause skin infections, allergic reactions, severe itching, fungus growth, or bacterial infections.

Is Dog Shampoo Bad For Dogs Eyes?

While there are some dog shampoos labeled as tearless, they can still cause irritation to your dog’s delicate eyes. When washing their face, it’s always best to avoid using shampoo entirely and instead just use clear water. If you must use a shampoo on their face, try to use a gentle formula and target the spots it touches by using a cotton ball or soft rag.

Is Dry Dog Shampoo Safe?

Dry or waterless shampoos can be quick and convenient, but they can also contain preservatives and artificial fragrances that can cause problems in some dogs. Additionally, some ingredients used such as DMDM have been linked to cancer in dogs.

If you plan on purchasing a dry or waterless shampoo, be extremely stringent when it comes to checking the label. Sticking with all-natural or certified organic dry shampoos will be your safest option as they will have the smallest chance of including a dangerous ingredient.

What Dog Shampoos Are Safest?

All-natural ingredient shampoos are going to be the safest on the market. You can ensure a shampoo includes all-natural and safe ingredients by looking for a USDA Certified Organic label on the bottle.

Most certified organic shampoos will be free of synthetic fragrances and instead be given their scent by vanilla and almond oils, lavender, tea tree, citrus and oatmeal essential oils and natural ingredients. Oatmeal also has the added benefit of being a moisturizer that can help relieve itchiness in dogs with sensitive skin.

If searching for a flea and tick shampoo, always try to avoid pyrethrin-based shampoos. Instead, look for permethrin which is much safer and just as effective at ridding your dog of annoying fleas and ticks. 

Final Thoughts

After reading this post, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed at finding the right shampoo for your furry friend. While there are some very dangerous and toxic ingredients out there, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a filthy dog forever. When in doubt, look for certified organic shampoos or those that proudly list off all-natural ingredients.

If all else fails, contact a groomer and ask for their opinions on safe shampoos. Chances are they have had experience with a wide range of products and can let you know what works best for certain breeds or coat types.

Other posts you might find interesting:

15 Best Dog Shampoos for Odor: Top Picks for Your Smelly Pup

Top 11 Best Dog Shampoos For Shedding | Anti Shed Shampoos

Citations

20 Dog Shampoo Ingredients To Avoid

How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog? Groomers Weigh In

Can You Use Human Shampoo on Dogs?

Alec Littlejohn

Founder and Reviewer at Pawscessories. He is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! He grew up in a family of vets and to this day he helps out around the family clinic and shares his learnings on Pawscessories. Learn more about Alec's story here

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