Grooming & Spa

12 Harmful Dog Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

Harmful dog shampoo ingredients | Vanillapup

Do you know what’s in your dog’s shampoo? Read the ingredients list. Some common shampoo ingredients may cause allergy, endocrine disruption, or even cancer.

Do you know what’s in your dog’s shampoo?

Buying shampoo is a low-involvement process for most people. So, it doesn’t need a lot of their effort or consideration before purchase. One can choose a shampoo by its packaging, its smell, or its price. All done within five minutes.

But, many people do not know that most shampoos contain ingredients that may harm your hair and body with prolonged use. The same applies to dogs.

Not to mention dogs are much smaller in size and pet products are less regulated. Shampoo ingredients could be one of the reasons countless dogs suffer from health problems.

It’s frightening to know that harmful shampoo ingredients are so common and can cause irritation, allergy, endocrine disruption, and so on with prolonged use.

Hence, try your best to make sure your dog’s shampoo and yours are free from potentially harmful ingredients. The order of the ingredients presented in any list is according to quantity. So, the ingredient with the most amount used comes first. If you don’t have time to examine the whole list, at least look at the first few ingredients.

Here’s a list of harmful dog shampoo ingredients to steer clear of:


Surfactants help to remove dirt and produce foam and lather to make shampooing easier. The most common surfactants seen in shampoos are sulfates. That’s the reason why shampoos without sulfates do not lather well.

1. Sodium Laureth Sulfate or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – May cause irritation, dryness of skin and coat, or hair loss depending on concentration. It is also a penetration enhancer – avoid especially if your dog’s skin is in poor condition

2. Ammonium laureth sulfate or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate – May cause irritation, dryness of skin and coat, or hair loss depending on the concentration

3. Cocamide DEA or Coco Amides – May cause irritation or allergy in high concentrations

4. Cocamidopropyl Betaine – May cause irritation or allergy due to by-products present

Thickening agent

5. Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) – May cause irritation or organ toxicity. There may be contamination with ethylene oxide and dioxane, which are carcinogenic. It is also a penetration enhancer – avoid especially if your dog’s skin is in poor condition


6. Parabens – Risk of endocrine disruption

7. Diazolidinyl urea – Breaks down and releases formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. May cause irritation or allergy

8. Methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and benzisothiazolinone – May cause irritation or allergy

9. Phenoxyethanol – It is an alternative to parabens but may cause mild irritation. Hence, it’s not recommended for sensitive dogs

Antibacterial agent

10. Triclosan – May cause irritation and endocrine disruption. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned this ingredient in human hand and body washes. Canada and Japan did the same in human cosmetics

Artificial fragrances

11. “Fragrance” in an ingredient list means a vague mix of chemicals. They may cause irritation, allergy, and respiratory distress. Try to go for shampoos and soaps that use natural scents, such as dog safe essential oils

12. Artifical colours

12. Artificial colours are only for aesthetic purposes. Sadly, it can cause skin irritation and allergy


You can check whether an ingredient is safe at the Cosmetic Ingredient Review. For a more layman resource albeit not fully backed by science, you can go to the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.

Do note that some ingredients are controversial but may not actually be proven harmful. At the end of the day, you decide how safe you want to be. But if a shampoo bottle doesn’t state the full ingredient list, put it back!


Some shampoos advertise themselves as “natural” and/or free of certain harmful ingredients. Sadly, that may not be the case.

Here’s the ingredient list of a shampoo brand that promotes themselves as free from paraben and SLS. While that is true, see whether you can spot other potentially harmful dog shampoo ingredients:

Aqua/Water/Eau, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Alkyl Polyglucoside, Dead Sea Salt, Glycerine, Natural Conditioners, Panthenol, Polyquaternium 7, Dead Sea Mineral Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Coco Nucifera (Coconut Oil), Dimethicone, Fragrance, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Tetrasodium EDTA

To ensure shampoo doesn’t cause any harm to your dog,

  • spend some time to read ingredients lists
  • don’t let the shampoo get near or into your dog’s eyes and mouth
  • rinse the shampoo off thoroughly

Fortunately, there are now more and more shampoos out there that don’t contain these “nasties”. Choose those!

Also read: Here are 8 common but bad dog treats to avoid

Photo credit: shoehorn99 via / CC BY-NC

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Latte is the happy Westie behind Vanillapup, a website for dog lovers. Discover latest products and services, dog-friendly hangouts, helpful tips and advice, and exclusive perks.
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