Pet Shampoos: What You Need To know

Have you ever thought about what is actually in your dog’s shampoo? If you haven’t it’s time to start. Unfortunately, many shampoos on the market today, even those that call themselves “All-Natural” contain harmful ingredients that aren’t safe for you or your pet. The scalp and skin is our bodies largest and most absorbent organ, it’s the gateway to the bloodstream. This is also true for our four legged friends. And, their entire body is essentially one large scalp. That is why it is so important to read labels and know what is good for your pet and what to avoid.

Let’s Start With What To Avoid:

Artificial Colors3-a-toxins

Just like we need to watch out for this in the products we use, you need to watch out for it in your pets products as well. Many dog shampoos that claim to be herbal have a lovely green tint. Unfortunately, it’s not puree or leaf it’s artificial colors. Artificial colors have been associated with many forms of cancer and avoiding them should be at the top of your priority list. FD&C refers to food, drugs and cosmetics. D&C refers to drugs and cosmetics. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 6 / D&C Green No. 6. 


More than 95 percent of the chemicals found in artificial fragrances are known toxins which can lead to a compromised immune function, allergic reactions and neurotoxicity - some of which are cited on the EPA’s hazardous waste list. Unfortunately, manufacturers can legally hide hundreds of synthetic chemicals in the one word— fragrance” without revealing what those ingredients truly are. This is referred to as a “trade secret” in the industry, a major loophole in the law. That is pretty scary. If you see the word “Fragrance” listed as an ingredient we suggest you put that product back on the shelf.


Parabens are used as preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast in products. Common parabens that you should stay away from include: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. They’re endocrine disruptors and can damage the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Because they mimic estrogen, they have even been linked to breast cancer. 

Cocomide DEA or MEA:

Cocomide DEA isa viscous liquid, made by reacting coconut oils with diethanolamine. That reaction turns into a cancer-causing chemical that’s used in many shampoos, for pets and humans. It is used as a foaming and emulsifying agent to help thicken shampoo, which offers no benefits to the skin and has been linked to liver and kidney cancers in laboratory tests.  

Cocomide MEA  is a compound synthesized from coconut oils and ethanolamine. This chemical compound is used in many personal care products claiming to be “natural” just like Cocomide DEA due to their use of coconut oil, but it’s not. Cocamide DEA is a known carcinogen in the state of California, while Coco MEA isn’t a known carcinogen there is still not enough information out there to say exactly what the risks might be. Better to be safe than sorry and avoid this ingredient.

Cocamidopropyl Betamine

Here is another ingredient that is derived from coconut oil but the end product is anything but, in fact it is an environmental toxin that affects the immune system. Products containing cocamidopropyl betaine can also cause serious skin reactions, including burning and itching and it is linked to blistering skin, especially in products with a lot of impurities.


You won’t see “formaldehyde” on a label. Instead, you will see derivatives of formaldehyde that release small amounts of preservative over time. Preservatives that release formaldehyde even at low levels (250 parts per million) may cause health concerns. Formaldehyde is considered a known carcinogen. Studies have demonstrated that formaldehyde can be absorbed through the skin. Formaldehyde may also cause skin reactions and rashes. Look for it in your grooming products as doazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, quarternjum-7,-15, -31, -61 or, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol).

Isopropyl Alcohol

Despite the warnings and the research, isopropyl alcohol has been sneaking its way into the cosmetic industry for years and now it has found a nice cozy bed in the pet care industry. DO NOT USE THEM. Known as rubbing alcohol, this chemical turns into acetone when it enters the body. It is a known depressant, nerve toxin and lung and heart irritant. Other names: Dimethyl carbinol, IPA, Isopropanol, 2-Propanol, or sec-Propyl alcohol. 

Isopropyl (SD-40)

Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40) is made from the petroleum derived substance propylene that destroys your skin’s moisture balance and causes irritation. This nasty chemical can make you and your pet more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections.


This hard to pronounce chemical, also called MIT, is added to shampoos as a preservative and an anti-fungal. The Environmentally Working Group (EWG) states that MIT is a known skin toxicant or allergen. What makes it a little more scary is that it has already been banned in Europe and Germany, and use is restricted in Japan and Canada.

Mineral Oil

Also known as paraffin liquid, this coats the skin and stops it from breathing. Skin is the largest body organ and needs to release toxins freely, but mineral oil blocks the process. Mineral oil also acts as a solvent breaking down the skin’s natural oils. With every application it will dry out your pet’s skin even more. 


Many shampoos are chosen for their scent. Phthalates help with the scenting of many soaps in that they bond the scent to the soap base. In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues. Unfortunately, it is not disclosed on every product as it can be added to “Fragrance”. So once again, if you see “Fragrance” listed as an ingredient just put it back on the shelf.

Polyethylene glycol

Usually listed as PEG, polyethylene glycol is a known cancer causing chemicalused as a solvent in pet shampoos and conditioners. Here are a few of the side effects caused by PEG; malabsorption of nutrients in the intestine, stomach disorders, iron deficiency, loss of memory, and immune dysfunction. Does this sound pet friendly?


Look for it as Polysorbate-20 and Polysorbate-80. Both Polysorbate-20 and Polysorbate-80 are used to emulsify an all oil ingredient in our bath, polysorbate 20 is to emulsify small amounts of lighter oils and polysorbate 80 is use to emulsify slightly larger amounts of heavier oils. Both mess with the pH of the skin and fur. Polysorbate 20 is treated with ethylene oxide, giving it it’s name polysorabate 20, because it’s treated with 20 parts of ethylene oxide. The problem with any ingredient that is treated with ethylene oxide (or “ethoxylated”) is that it can then become contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a potentially dangerous by-product. In fact, 1,4-dioxane is a known animal carcinogen that penetrates readily into the skin. This ingredient has also been linked with skin allergies.

Propylene Glycol

Highly debated upon whether it is safe or not. Propylene Glycol (PG) is an organic alcohol that is GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) by the FDA, and is approved for use as a food additive. Propylene Glycol is one of the most widely used cosmetic ingredients. It is used as a humectant, moisturizer and skin conditioner, as well as keeping products from drying out. It is a type of anti-freeze and some argue it is a strong skin irritant as well as a liver and kidney toxin. We believe if you have a natural and safe alternative, why risk it? 

Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate

These chemicals capture oil and dirt so that they can be washed out of the hair shaft. This sounds good in theory, but sulfates also strip the hair of its natural oils and can cause skin irritations. With dogs, these irritations are not always noticed right away, because of their furry bodies. What makes sulfates worse, they are often put through a softening process that produces a toxic by-product; 1,4-dioxane, which the FDA does not require to be listed on the label.

Here are some quick tips for spotting harmful shampoos without reading labels:


Check the Color: If the color is a bright pink, orange, red, blue etc. most likely it has an artificial coloring added to it. A true natural dog shampoo is more the color of olive oil - sometimes darker or lighter. If it has hemp, it will tend to be more on the green side.

Smell It: If you open a can and it smells like a tanning salon or a florist, chances are the product has added “Fragrance”. Dog shampoo naturally doesn’t smell like a bouquet of roses.

Check The Thickness: If the substance is thick it likely has a synthetic thickening agent in it and should be avoided. Thickening agents can cause skin irritation, allergies, and if contaminated with byproducts can be linked to cancer and other health problems. Guar gum is a vegetable based thickener that organic manufacturers use to make a product more viscous; but, when you use it the product doesn’t lather. 

Does it Have A “Sheen” to it:Open the cap and take a peek inside, if you see a sort of milky shine to the shampoo this is a sure sign that there are sulfates in the product. Another way to know if there are sulfates is if you see bubbles in the shampoo. 

The Product Boosts About How Much it Lathers: Whether or not it is mentioned on the product, or you read reviews about it, remember that the big lather comes at a high health cost. Natural dog shampoo will lather, so long as it doesn't contain guar gum; but, there is a big difference between the lathering action of a natural shampoo and one that has sulfates or ethanolamines.

Safe Alternatives

Thankfully there are safe alternatives out there, so that you can avoid toxic ingredients. Organic options are the safest choice. They do not use synthetics and have a much simpler ingredient lists. Remember, some products claim to be natural but aren’t, so know your labels

Ultimately, you want a shampoo that gently cleans without stripping your pet’s coat of it’s natural sedum. Our dog shampoos are pH balanced for the coat, made with natural and organic ingredients, have low lather and still smell good. We use essential oils that nourish your dog’s coat, leaving it clean and shiny. And come unscented or naturally scented with lavender or peppermint.

Choosing The Right Shampoo:


Just like babies, puppies have special needs too! Our all-natural  Calming Lavender Shampoo is perfect for their sensitive skin. FREE of soap and dye our gentle formula blended with Chamomile and Lavender will soothe and nourish your pups skin leaving them cuddly soft and smelling great.

Calm Sensitive Skin & Allergies

Our all-natural Hypo-Allergenic Unscented Shampoo is perfect for the dog with sensitive, dry skin and seasonal allergies. Made with natural ingredients, no chemicals or other harsh toxins that could irritate your pet's skin. Blended with organic calendula extract and jojoba oils this gentle shampoo will moisturize and soothe your pup's skin, while keeping their coats soft and fluffy!Cb_5h_UWoAAJv69

Relieve Dry Itchy Skin

For dry itchy skin, you want a natural shampoo containing oatmeal and aloe vera. Our Nourishing Oatmeal & Aloe Shampoo helps to soothe itchy skin and moisturize dry skin naturally. This shampoo also includes Rosemary Extract which helps prevent dandruff.

Treat Skin Allergies

Choose a natural shampoo that contains Tea Tree Oil. Tea Tree Oil is a natural anti-bacterial and it also works as a flea repellent.Tea Tree Oil products have been used by veterinarian’s over the years to treat skin diseases in dogs and cats, predominantly hot spots and skin allergies. Our Moisturizing Tea Tree Oil & Peppermint Shampoo is perfect for the job and also includes Oatmeal and Aloe to help soothe the skin as well. Help Anxiety

Do you have a dog that suffers from anxiety? Well just like humans Lavender Oil may be used to calm anxious dogs and reduce stress. Treat your dog to our Soothing Chamomile and Lavender Shampoo, which also includes Coconut Olive Extract that acts as an effective moisturizer on all types of skin.


Don't skip conditioning, especially if you have a dog with lots of fur, fur can get easily tangled and that leads to matting, which leads to hot spots! We have a whole line of USDA Certified Organic Rinse Out Conditioners to match our shampoos and they are the perfect solution for detangling your furry friend's coat. Our organic blended conditioners untangle hair and soothe your pet's skin leaving their coat smooth and shiny, smelling great and easy to brush through.

When buying a shampoo and conditioner for your four legged friend, remember to read the ingredients first. Rule of thumb, if it’s not good for you it’s not good for your pet. Learn more about Pura Naturals Pet™ and our promise here.