What you use to bathe your dog in just as important as what you feed it or the water you give it to drink. Canines are especially sensitive to certain chemicals and oils. The dog’s skin will absorb whatever is contained in the shampoos that are used to bathe them. A shampoo that contains harmful ingredients can cause something as minor as redness and skin irritation or as major as blood poisoning and lung damage. Remember that everything absorbed by the skin travels directly to the bloodstream to wreak havoc on the dog’s insides. It isn’t just a skin deep problem, and it can result in lethal poisoning.
All Dogs Are Different
Just like humans, all dogs have different levels of sensitivity and tolerance. Many of these sensitivities are often determined by the breed and size of the dog. A shampoo that works perfectly well for a number of breeds many consistently harm another. Since smaller dogs have a lower weight, they also have a lower tolerance for toxins. This is very similar to drug or alcohol tolerance in humans based on body weight. What may simply irritate a large breed may be harmful or even fatal to a small dog. That said, dogs also have individual variation, and the whole story is not told by their breed or size. Anytime that a new product is used on dog, a small test spot should be done first to ensure that the dog does not have any adverse reactions.
Substances to Avoid
There is a long list of substances to avoid in dog shampoos, and some of them are surprising. The old adage of “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t use it” applies especially to animal products. There are a number of common chemicals that should not be used on your dog, including propylene glycol, phthalates, sodium hydroxide, BHA, BHT, DEA, sodium lauryl sulphate, and a host of others. Many of these chemicals are common in shampoos and conditioners used by humans, but they are not appropriate for dogs. A commercial shampoo meant for a human should never be used on a dog.
There are also other additives that should never be used in animal products. These include any type of artificial dye and any type of artificial fragrance. Many shampoos simply reference “fragrance” and do not specify their source. These should be avoided. Most products that use a truly natural fragrance aren’t afraid to list it.
While the avoid list is long, there are many types of dog shampoo that are perfectly safe. While it is always best to be careful and do a spot test not matter what you are using for the first time, try oatmeal dog shampoo for a natural alternative that has a very low risk of adverse effects.
Remember that “Natural” Does Not Mean “Safe”
A number of other otherwise “natural” ingredients are also not good for dogs. Various essential oils, such as tea tree oil, have been found to cause severe reactions in pets. It is always a good idea to run a list of ingredients past your veterinarian before using it on your pet.
Keep in mind also that the words “all natural” or “safe” are generally meaningless for pet products. There is basically no regulation on such products, so just about anything can be legally labeled all natural or safe, even if there is no proof to back it up. Remember to always read the ingredients list and never fall for the advertising.