Dog Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

Why use a natural dog shampoo?

If you have seen your dog scratching and irritated after a bath, then it is a fair sign that the shampoo you are using is causing some form of irritation. Switching to an all natural alternative that is delicate on the dog’s skin and coat can have a noticeable positive impact  on your dog’s overall health. 

Try our range of all natural dog coat care products including Calming and Balanced shampoo and conditioner. See first-hand the difference an all natural product can have, with the best outcome of all being a happy, itch and scratch free hound. 

You can explore our range here.

Dog shampoo ingredients to avoid

It is important to arm yourself with the knowledge of which dog shampoo ingredients to look out for an avoid. It is our hope that this blog post will provide some guidance as to what you need to look for when reading the ingredient list of your dog shampoo. It really is good practice to familiarise yourself with the ingredient list as using a dog shampoo with the harsh chemicals detailed in this article can be potentially harmful, causing skin irritation. 

Our small batch, formulations use 100% natural ingredients and have intentionally been developed free from the nasties listed below.Here at The Hound Lab, w are committed to keeping this promise.

Ethanolamines (MEA / DEA / TEA) 

A group of chemicals used in pet products as they create a creamy texture and foaming effect. Ethanolamines react with other common preservatives, they can break down into nitrogen and form what is called nitrosamines. The nitrosamines are a class of chemical that are thought to be carcinogenic

Ethylenediamine Tetraacetic Acid (EDTA) 

Any ingredient with this many letters in its name is probably not good for your dog... If the name didn't scare you enough, EDTA shares similar binding properties to SLS/SLES. However, EDTA is used to bind minerals and metals and is known to be toxic for dogs.

Mineral Oil 

When added to dog shampoo mineral oil helps the coat and skin retain its own moisture by providing a protective barrier over it. This moisturising effect sounds great in theory, however in reality what this does is that it also keeps the skin from releasing its own natural oils which is important to eliminate toxins … and that’s not so great. Nor is it great to be using a liquid by-product of refining crude oil in pet shampoo


A synthetic chemical used widely in the cosmetics industry as a cheap and effective preservative to stabilise and increase the shelf life of products. Parabens can irritate your dog’s sensitive skin, causing allergic reactions. Generally, if your dog does have an allergic reaction to parabens it will appear as some form of contact dermatitis. 

When checking the ingredients of your dog's shampoo or conditioner look for these names to avoid: Butyl, benzyl, propyl, ethyl and methyl.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEGS)  

Feature high levels of dioxin, a carcinogen and by product of the ethoxylation process. Often found in conditioners, PEG is primarily used in products to help create a creamy texture. PEG can cause irritation especially when used on broken skin.

Propylene Glycol 

Is a skin conditioner, solvent and humectant used to help skin retain moisture. Like polyethylene glycol, it’s a penetration enhancer that acts as a carrier for other chemicals, supporting them to transition from the skin, into the bloodstream. It's no wonder Propylene Glycol found in dog shampoo is a known skin irritant in dogs. This combined with the fact that Propylene Glycol is derived from natural gas and primarily used in the automotive industry should tell you that these are ingredients to avoid.


Is a preservative often used in cosmetics and hair care products. The FDA has warned that this chemical is a skin and eye irritant in humans. Your dog is no different.


Are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. In pet care products, phthalates are used as a dissolving agent or solvent to aid in the binding process. Phthalates are generally not stated in dog shampoo ingredients, more often you will simply see the term "fragrance" which is equally as bad (we break artificial fragrances down further below). Phthalates are hormone disruptors and have been linked to endocrine system issues.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)  

Are synthetic ingredients based on sulphur that are derived from petroleum or lauryl alcohol and give products a sudsy, bubbly effect. While the sulfates are great at removing excess oil and dirt, they are also effective at stripping naturally occurring oils from the coat and irritating your dog’s skin. Causing dryness, that horrible itch and odour. 

Sodium Laureth Sulfate acts in much the same way as SLS, however it is derived from coconut oil. Allowing marketers the opportunity to spin this into a positive, positioning these dog shampoos as "Plant based or Vegan" when in reality SLES should not be associated with natural. 

It is not uncommon for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate to be contaminated with residual solvents left over from the manufacturing process that may be toxic. SLS is easily absorbed by the eyes, where it’s been shown to cause eye irritation and even damage proteins of the eye, which is a major issue considering dog shampoo is often used on and around the dogs head. Studies have evidenced that at very low concentrations, SLS has been shown to remain in a person’s system for a period of 4 to 5 days.

If that hasn't deterred you to give SLS/SLES the flick, the manufacturing process to make these chemicals called ethoxylation is horrible for the environment.

Synthetic Fragrances & Artificial Colours 

Can come from thousands of separate ingredients none of which have to be listed on the label and are often derived from petrochemicals. Other than attacking your dog’s incredible sense of smell, products containing synthetic fragrances & artificial colours may cause allergic reactions and lead to dry, flaky and itchy skin. 

When evaluating which dog shampoos may be best for your pup, always read the ingredients and be sure that the scent is derived from essential oils. Generally, if the scent is delicate and not over powering it is a good indication that the fragrance is natural and not produced by some form of artificial scent.

Why are these ingredients in pet shampoo?

These chemicals are very prevalent in the pet industry because they are cheap, reduce the cost of production and make the product behave like humans have come to believe a wash product should. You may be accustomed to that foamy lather, when in reality this effect is created by adding synthetic foaming agents such as SLSSLES and EDTA that can strip the natural oils from your dog’s sensitive skin leaving their coat dry, itchy and overtime more damaged than before.