Last Updated: April 10, 2021

Best Shampoo for Dogs

Best Shampoo for Dogs

Whether it’s because they love to roll in mud or want to come cuddle up with you, cleaning our dogs’ fur and skin is part of taking good care of them. Unfortunately, many of the top-selling dog shampoos can also cause the most irritation to your pup’s sensitive skin. Our top choice conditions fur without leaving build-up or stripping moisture is Hyponic’s Unscented Hypoallergenic Dog Shampoo.

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Best Quality
Hyponic Unscented Hypoallergenic Dog Shampoo
Hyponic Unscented Hypoallergenic Dog Shampoo Best Quality
$0
Review manufacturer chewy
on chewy
$0
Review manufacturer amazon
on amazon
8/10
  • What we Like
  • No harmful chemicals
  • EWG approved ingredients
  • Mild formula
  • What we Dislike
  • Higher price point
  • Not readily available in all stores
  • Some dogs may not react well to natural ingredients
Product Details
Size 16.9 oz
50.7 oz
Scent Unscented
Notable Ingredients Aloe vera
olive oil
jojoba seed oil
Features Hypoallergenic
deoderizing
cruelty free
Our Review

Initially, we were on the fence about this one because of the higher price but it truly is a premium quality product that’s milder than baby shampoo but really gets the job done. We didn’t like some of the other Hyponic products due to the fragrance but the performance of other products we were given to test made us want to try the unscented version. It cleans dogs fast, rinses clean, and leaves them feeling soft and fluffy without build-up, without surfactants that just end up attracting more dirt. Our dogs didn’t have itchy dry skin after use, and there was no lingering smell. The best part is that we didn’t need to use an additional conditioning product to achieve results.

Doing the math, you could easily spend this much on several grooming products, or just get a product that achieves results in one bath.

We were also initially concerned about many of the extracts that are contained in this shampoo as deodorizers. They are included in such low percentages that it’s highly unlikely to irritate your dog. However, we do not recommend using on cats as they are much more sensitive.


Ingredients: Water, Babassuamidopropyl Betaine, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Sodium Cocoyl Alaninate, Sodium Lauroyl Methylaminopropionate, Polyquaternium-10, Polyquaternium-67, Arginine, Pentasodium Pentetate, Sodium PCA, Betaine, Citric Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Laurylpyridinium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract, Monarda Didyma Leaf Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Freesia Refracta Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Water, Rehmannia Chinensis Root Extract, Mentha Arvensis Extract, Chrysanthemum Zawadskii Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Lycium Chinense Fruit Extract, Biota Orientalis Leaf Extract, Acorus Calamus Root Extract, Morus Alba Bark Extract, Xanthium Strumarium Fruit Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Chamaecyparis Obtusa Water

Best Budget
Burt's Bees Natural Shampoo for Dogs with Honey & Oatmeal
Burt's Bees Natural Shampoo for Dogs with Honey & Oatmeal Best Budget
$0
Review manufacturer chewy
on chewy
$8
Review manufacturer amazon
on amazon
9/10
  • What we Like
  • pH balanced and mild
  • Mild formula
  • Unscented
  • What we Dislike
  • May not lather as much
  • Thin formula
Product Details
Size 16 oz
32 oz
1 gallon
Scent Unscented
Notable Ingredients Colloidal oatmeal
honey
and beeswax
Features Soothing
conditioning
Our Review

Burt’s Bees is well-known for making natural, moisturizing beeswax products for you and your pets. This oatmeal shampoo is formulated to be 99.7% natural, with honey, oatmeal, and of course natural beeswax. Though this shampoo has no noticeable scent, it can leave your dog smelling fresh. Their coat will be silky smooth and moisturized.

This shampoo is also formulated specifically for sensitive skin. It’s a mild shampoo that still leaves your dog looking and feeling great. Worried about getting soap in your dog’s eyes? No worries with this shampoo, as it’s pH balanced to stop tears and pain during baths. Your dogs and puppies will love this natural, sulfate-free shampoo (with matching conditioner).


Ingredients: Water, Coco Betaine, Coco-Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Extract, Colloidal Oatmeal, Honey, Beeswax, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate.

4-Legger All-Natural Organic Dog Shampoo and Conditioner
4-Legger All-Natural Organic Dog Shampoo and Conditioner
$16
Review manufacturer amazon
on amazon
7/10
  • What we Like
  • Odor-eliminating
  • Repels fleas
  • Soothes skin
  • What we Dislike
  • Lemongrass smell may be too strong
  • Thin formula
Product Details
Size 16 oz
Scent Lemongrass
Notable Ingredients Essential oils
coconut oil
Features Deodorizing
soothing
Our Review

4-Legger’s Dog Shampoo is USDA Certified Organic, which makes it perfect for dog owners who don’t want synthetic ingredients in their dog’s shampoo. It’s also biodegradable and works well on all different types of sensitive skin, as all of the ingredients are hypoallergenic. Holistic pet care is made easy this non-toxic 4-Legger shampoo.

The scent of lemongrass is strong with this shampoo, strong enough that some dogs (and owners) don’t like it. Thankfully, this shampoo is also available in different scents, and even unscented for particular sensitive dogs. This shampoo is free of parabens, sulfates, and detergents, and is made cruelty-free in the USA!

Moosh Natural Dog Shampoo
Moosh Natural Dog Shampoo
$0
Review manufacturer chewy
on chewy
$15
Review manufacturer amazon
on amazon
7/10
  • What we Like
  • Anti-flea properties
  • Soothing ingredients
  • Deodorizing
  • What we Dislike
  • Difficult to dispense from bottle
  • May not be suitable for dogs with allergies
  • Strong smell
Product Details
Size 12 oz
Scent Natural Oils: Vetiver
Rosemary
Neem
Notable Ingredients Aloe Vera
Shea Butter
Argan Oil
Bentonite Clay
Neem Oil
Features Anti-Flea
Deodorizing
Our Review

Fieldworks’ Moosh Dog Shampoo contains natural ingredients, essential oils, and a special bentonite clay mixture. Clay is great for both its purifying and anti-inflammatory properties, including its ability to soothe irritated skin and target hot spots on your dog’s skin. This dog shampoo is formulated to be eco-friendly, and great for use if your dog likes to swim in lakes or streams. It does contain some natural oils have a medicinal fragrance, so if you are sensitive to smells, this one may not be for you. 

Moosh is hypoallergenic and, as you may have guessed, contains no harsh synthetic chemicals. Argan oil is one of the main ingredients, so it works to help keep dry skin flaking down. It can leave your dog’s coat looking and feeling great. For a natural shampoo, it lathers up great!


Ingredients: Aloe Vera Juice, Saponified Oils of Coconut , Olive and Sunflower, Glycerin (Vegetable), Bentonite Clay, Neem Oil, Argan Oil, Guar Gum, Lime Essential Oil, Shea Butter, Nutmeg Essential Oil, Vetiver Essential Oil, Rosemary Extract, Citric Acid.

Honest Paws 5-in-1 Oatmeal Dog Shampoo and Conditioner
Honest Paws 5-in-1 Oatmeal Dog Shampoo and Conditioner
$17
Review manufacturer amazon
on amazon
5/10
  • What we Like
  • Phosphate and paraben-free
  • Conditions and detangles
  • Oatmeal is extremely soothing
  • What we Dislike
  • Lacking label/ingredient transparency
  • Not suitable for puppies under 12 weeks
Product Details
Size 16 oz
Scent

Notable Ingredients Oatmeal
Aloe Extract
Features Deodorizes
detangles
and moisturizes
Our Review

This was a very popular dog shampoo recommended by several groomers we consulted with while researching this article, so we picked up a bottle to try on our own pups. It’s manufactured in the USA with all-natural ingredients that are globally sourced. It isn’t heavily fragranced but is pleasant and the smell does not linger after washing our dogs, even on the longer-haired ones. It got our retriever very bright and clean again and our black-haired dog with dandruff had no flakes or itching after use. We’re a big fan of Honest Paws for their CBD products, but we would have liked to see a little more specifics on the label, even for a proprietary formula. Coconut and palm-sourced surfactants may work like a dream on your dog’s fur and leave it soft and brushable- but the wrong ingredients may leave behind a residue that attracts even MORE dirt and grime shortly after use. That being said,  we like the shampoo, and it performed well.


Ingredients: Water, Plant-based surfactants derived from coconut and palm, Oatmeal & aloe extract, Fragrance, Preservative

Wahl 4-In-1 Calming Pet Shampoo
Wahl 4-In-1 Calming Pet Shampoo
$7
Review manufacturer amazon
on amazon
4/10
  • What we Like
  • Alcohol and paraben-free
  • Lavender scent
  • What we Dislike
  • Not hypoallergenic
  • May irritate skin
Product Details
Size 24 oz
64 oz
Scent Lavender Chamomile
Notable Ingredients Chamomile
Features Detangling
Conditioning
Our Review

This shampoo from Wahl is a calming formula, and the label seems to indicate that it contains lavender, chamomile, and other ingredients meant to soothe your dog’s skin. However, lavender is only a fragrance ingredient and chamomile is one of the last ingredients next to fragrance. It has some strong conditioners and lathering agents so it suds up thick even with just a little bit of product and works to moisturize and detangle your dog’s fur.

Despite this shampoo being pH balanced, alcohol-free, and paraben-free, it may still irritate a dog’s skin, so be sure to spot test or find a more mild shampoo if your dog’s skin gets irritated easily. On the other hand, a little of this shampoo goes a long way.


Ingredients: Purified Water,Sodium Laurenth Sulfate, EGMS, Cocoamidpropyl, Betaine, Glycerin, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Chamomile extract, Fragance, Freshness Assurer, FDA approved colors

CHI for Dogs Oatmeal Shampoo for Dry and Irritated Skin
CHI for Dogs Oatmeal Shampoo for Dry and Irritated Skin
$29
Review manufacturer amazon
on amazon
6/10
  • What we Like
  • Same high-quality ingredients as human shampoo
  • Ionic technology
  • pH balanced
  • What we Dislike
  • Ingredient transparency
  • Not for fragrance-sensitive users or dogs
Product Details
Size 16 oz
Scent Signature CHI fragrance
Notable Ingredients Oatmeal
Silk Protein
Vitamin E
Panthenol
Features Soothing
Moisturizing
Detangling
Our Review

CHI brings their hair expertise to dog care and we knew had to get our hands on a bottle because we love their human products. There are several products in this range, but we chose to sample and review the oatmeal one because of it soothing properties, and at the time of this writing, our dogs are blowing their winter coats and need a little extra TLC.

As with other shampoos, we respect the proprietary nature of formulas, but when it comes to our pets would like to see a little more information about what the natural cleansing and moisturizing agents are in this formula. CHI is a trusted brand, so we dove right in anyway to see how it did with our dogs. For our long-haired retriever, it did an outstanding job and his fur was brighter, fluffier and he smelled better for much longer. Our shorter-haired dogs fared well too after using this for a few baths. One of them was sneezing a little after use and it’s because he is a little sensitive to fragrance, so we went back to his hypoallergenic wash. This shampoo does have a strong fragrance, which may not work well for all users. If you like designer products and fragrances, you will probably love this one!


Water, Natural Cleansing Agents, Moisturizing Ingredients, Silk Protein, Oatmeal, Sweet Almond Oil, Vitamin E, Panthenol, Minerals, Fragrance.

Pet Head Life's An Itch Soothing Shampoo
Pet Head Life's An Itch Soothing Shampoo
$0
Review manufacturer chewy
on chewy
$10
Review manufacturer amazon
on amazon
7/10
  • What we Like
  • pH balanced
  • Paraben/sulphate/DEA free
  • Soothing formula
  • What we Dislike
  • Artificial coloring
  • Tea tree oil toxic to cats
Product Details
Size 16 oz
Scent Watermelon
Notable Ingredients Tea Tree Oil
Keratin
Oatmeal
Features Soothing
Detangling
Conditioning
Our Review

Pethead is one of those cult-status shampoos, and we can admit we’ve been part of its following for some years and have used it frequently on our pups. It’s a pleasant-smelling formula that does not hang around too long but after use, our dogs stay fresh-smelling for some time. Tea tree oil is toxic to cats so you must never use it on them, but as an ingredient in this formula, it’s contained at a very low ratio. It also helps to repel fleas. Other soothing ingredients like aloe vera and oatmeal should, in our opinion be included in much higher ratios, somewhere long before fragrance on the ingredient list instead of after it.

 

 


Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Plant Derived), Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Cocamidopropylamine Oxide (Plant Derived), PEG-150 Distearate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E Acetate), Soyamidopropylamine Oxide, Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate), Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Lauryl Glucose (Plant Derived), Hydrolyzed Vegetable Keratin Protein PG-Propyl Silantric, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Cocodimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Chamomilla Recutita Flower/Leaf (Chamomile) Extract, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Fragrance (Parfum), Glycol Stearate (Plant Derived), Cocamide Dipa (Sugar Derived), Glycol Distearate (Plant Derived), Glycerin (Plant Derived), Steareth-4, Disodium EDTA, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Decyl Glucoside (Plant Derived), Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Yellow 6 (CI 15985), Red 40 (CI 16035), Citric Acid (Naturally Derived)

TropiClean Deep Cleansing Dog Shampoo
TropiClean Deep Cleansing Dog Shampoo
$11
Review manufacturer amazon
on amazon
6/10
  • What we Like
  • pH balanced
  • Soap/paraben/dye free
  • Soothing
  • Can also be used on cats
  • Readily available online and in stores
  • What we Dislike
  • Fragrance may irritate some dogs and owners
Product Details
Size 20 oz
1 gallon
2.5 gallon
Scent Berry Coconut
Notable Ingredients Oatmeal
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Aloe Extract
Vitamin E
Features Deodorizing
Soothing
Deep Clean
Our Review

Tropiclean products are wildly popular due to their fruity, pleasant (to most) odors and wide range of products. We’ve tried several and the Deep Clean formula stood out for how well it lathers up, rinses clean, and gets rid of the stinky dog odor. The sudsy lather from this product does not disappoint! The smell does not linger forever, but our dogs smelled fresh for quite some time after use and we did not notice any irritation on their skin. However- because these products fragranced, they could potentially irritate your pet’s skin. Dogs with really dry coats may need an additional conditioner after use. Tropiclean’s range of products is quite impressive and they do also offer a 2-in-1 formula with a conditioner built in.


Ingredients: Purified Water, Mild Coconut Cleanser, Avena Sativa Oatmeal, Organic Blend of (Raspberry Extract, Pomegranate Extract, Strawberry Extract, Blueberry Extract, Mango extract), Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, Fragrance, Vitamin E.

Best Oatmeal
Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Soothe Dog Shampoo
Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Soothe Dog Shampoo Best Oatmeal
$0
Review manufacturer chewy
on chewy
$17
Review manufacturer amazon
on amazon
8/10
  • What we Like
  • Soothing ingredients
  • Dye/paraben/pthalate free
  • Pleasant smell
  • What we Dislike
  • Thick formula
  • Fragrance may irritate some dogs
Product Details
Size 16 oz
32 oz
Scent Mango
Notable Ingredients Shea Butter
Oat Extract
Aloe Vera
Almond Butter
Features Soothing
Conditioning
Deep Clean
Our Review

We love a lot of the other Rocco & Roxie products on the market, so this was an obvious choice for the line-up. The ingredients in this shampoo such as shea butter, oat extract, almond butter, and olive oil are all great choices for moisturizing and hydrating your dog’s irritated skin and fur. It’s a thick product and doesn’t dispense as easily as more thin or runny shampoos, so if you need to hang onto your pup with one hand, dispense a little out ahead of time. This shampoo generates a nice amount of lather and it rinses clean and quickly. The Rocco & Roxie formulas are great-smelling products, and the fragrance in this product is not overwhelming. Both long-haired and short-haired dogs were soft and smelled fresh for quite some time after use, but the fragrance did not linger.

For puppies, we recommend trying the Rocco & Roxie Calm formula.


Ingredients: Purified Water, Gentle Surfactant Blend (with Coconut-Based Cleanser), Opacifier, Glycerin, Shea Butter, Chamomile, Rosemary, Oat Extract, Aloe Vera Extract, Almond Butter, Olive Oil, Stabilizer, Mango Fragrance

Best Products Best Shampoo for Dogs
Product Name Best for Rate
Hyponic Unscented Hypoallergenic Dog Shampoo Best Quality 8
Burt's Bees Natural Shampoo for Dogs with Honey & Oatmeal Best Budget 9
Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Soothe Dog Shampoo Best Oatmeal 8

How to Choose:

Dog shampoos come in all types of sizes, formulas, and scents. Just like humans, dogs have varying needs when it comes to their grooming, and just like human shampoos, there’s a dizzying wall of options to choose from. We’ve tried dozens of them over the years, chatted with our groomers and vets, and given our pups many, many baths to determine works well and what doesn’t.

The wrong ingredients can do more than just smell bad. Some shampoos will irritate your dog’s skin and do more harm than good. In this guide, we’ll take a look at factors you should consider, what you can look for, and the special skin conditions that shampoos may treat.


Influencing Factors: Every Dog is Different

Before considering what attributes to look for in your shampoo, let’s take a look at your dog’s traits and factors that might influence your shampoo decision. 

Age:

The age of your dog plays a major part in your shampoo decision. Different types of shampoo work for different ages, so always check the label to make sure if it will work for your pup or older dog. 

  • Under 6 Weeks: Dogs under 6 weeks shouldn’t use most shampoos or conditioners. At this stage, puppies are groomed by their mother. Their skin is very sensitive and using shampoos may harm them. 
  • Puppies (6 Weeks – 15 months) – Puppies often have special shampoos formulated specifically for their growing coat and special skin conditions. There are puppy shampoos that can help get your dog used to baths and make them smell better after they get curious outside. 
  • Adult Dogs (15 months – 8 years) – While the age of adulthood may vary for differently-sized dog breeds, most breeds will be adults from 15 months to 8-12 years. During this time, they can use most of the shampoos that don’t specify an age limit. 
  • Senior Dogs (8-12 years and above) – Senior dogs may develop hot spots, itchy skin, and other skin conditions later in life. If that’s the case, you’ll want to use shampoos that are specially formulated for seniors or dogs with sensitive skin.

Fleas and Ticks:

If your dog has a flea or tick outbreak, you will want to immediately get a shampoo to address the problem. If you’re looking for a new shampoo anyway, getting one that helps with these pests can be extremely beneficial for you and your dogs. 

Some shampoos have flea and tick repellent properties, so check for chemicals and ingredients that help kill fleas or keep them away. Don’t expect your dog’s fleas to be completely gone after the first use, but using a flea shampoo every week can help drastically reduce the number of fleas that are making your dog itch.

Past Reactions and Allergies:

If you’ve been trying different shampoos for a while, you’ve probably noticed that some work better for you than others. Consider your dog’s past reactions and choose a shampoo accordingly. If you’re able to narrow down exactly what your dog is allergic to, avoid purchasing a shampoo that has that ingredient on its ingredient list. 

This can go for every part of the shampoo. Some dogs can’t tolerate certain fragrances, some have trouble with synthetic ingredients, and some might not be okay with flea and tick shampoos specifically. Whatever the case, make sure that you’re keeping your dog’s history with shampoo in mind as you shop.

Type of Coat:

Your dog’s coat can make a huge difference when it comes to choosing a shampoo. Dogs with thinner coats, for example, don’t need to be bathed as often. You might want to avoid using shampoos that advertise deep cleaning or frequent use, as they won’t apply to your dog. 

Dogs with medium-length coats are usually okay with most shampoos, barring those used specifically for dogs with thinner coats. You’ll want a thick lather and a good rinse for these dogs. Look for shampoos that will condition and leave your dog’s coat feeling silky smooth.

Dogs with thicker-length coats may require frequent washing, grooming, and a special type of shampoo. Choose a shampoo formulated to later up and penetrate down into the deepest layers of your dog’s coat. You’ll need a great shampoo and an excellent conditioner. Make sure to completely rinse your thick-coated dog for the best results.

Skin Conditions:

Your dog may also have a specific type of skin condition that can lead to problems and require a special type of shampoo. Here are some of the skin conditions that commonly require specific types of shampoos and treatments.

 

  • Dry Skin: Dry skin may seem like a small problem, but sometimes it’s a symptom of a larger concern for your dog. There are a host of reasons why your dog may have dry skin: allergies, parasites, skin infections (including bacterial infections), certain disorders, or just because of your dog’s breed.

    Whatever the reason, dry skin is uncomfortable for both you and your pup. It can lead to painful itching, hair loss, dandruff, inflammation, and more. To reduce itching, try a shampoo specifically for dry skin. 
  • Antifungal Conditions:  Yeast dermatitis is a common skin problem for dogs that can result in itching, redness, and more. It’s an extremely unpleasant skin infection for your dog and usually results from an overgrowth of yeast in certain areas.

    Symptoms of an antifungal condition like yeast dermatitis include itching, redness, a musty odor, flaky skin or scales, chronic ear infections, and more. It’s extremely uncomfortable for your pup and requires veterinary attention. However, there are antifungal shampoos that can help keep your pup comfortable and help them heal.

  • Itchy Skin: Your dog might develop “hot spots” or other areas of extremely itchy skin for a few different reasons. Allergies can be a major trigger for this itching, and you may find that your dog is allergic to pollen, certain foods, or even certain soaps. Dogs may also itch a lot if they have parasites, pain, dry skin, or they are bored or anxious due to new situations.

    “Hots pots” are moist, red areas that are irritated from extreme itching. These areas can be extremely uncomfortable for your dog, and they can’t seem to leave them alone once they get them. Some shampoos are hypoallergenic and help to reduce hotspots and itchy skin. Check out our picks for the best dog shampoos for itchy skin. 

What to Look For:

After considering your dog’s personal needs, you’ll have to consider the traits of the different shampoos you’re looking to purchase. Here are some of the things to keep an eye out for while shopping for a dog shampoo. 

Size:

How big is the bottle? Most shampoos come in at least a 12-ounce bottle, but some may contain more (or less). There are a few reasons you may want to purchase the largest size. It will last longer, for one – you won’t have to repurchase the shampoo too soon. If you have a larger dog, you’ll need more shampoo to get them clean. Lastly, natural shampoos tend to lather less, so you’ll be tempted to use more of the shampoo to get the job done. Factor this into your choice.

On the flip side, choosing the smaller bottle size can be great for owners with smaller dogs. Dogs that don’t go outside or get dirty often can also benefit from smaller shampoo sizes. Also, if you want to try out a shampoo and aren’t sure if you or your dog will like it, err on the side of caution and buy a smaller size before committing to a larger purpose. 

Ingredients:

There are an infinite number of ingredients that can be found in dog shampoos, and we would be here all day if I tried to list and describe them. Still, you need to keep an eye on the ingredient list on the back of your shampoo bottle for multiple reasons.

Your dog may have certain allergies to chemicals and soaps that are used in dog shampoos. Further, most dog owners agree that they prefer shampoos with more natural ingredients and less of the chemicals that may strip your dog’s coat of its natural moisture. Ingredients like phthalates, sulfates, parabens, and alcohol can damage your dog’s skin and cause it to become irritated, particularly if your dog is sensitive. Keep an eye out for these ingredients. When possible, choose a mostly organic or all-natural dog shampoo to avoid irritants. 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at sulfates, parabens, and other ingredients you probably don’t want on your dog.

Natural or Synthetic? 

Whether you want an entirely natural dog shampoo comes down mostly to personal preference. Some pet owners want more natural ingredients or have dogs that react poorly to synthetic soaps and ingredients. For these owners, it’s important to consider whether the shampoo they’re purchasing is natural, organic, or synthetic. But what’s the difference?

  • Natural. A natural shampoo contains some natural ingredients, but the ingredients usually are not organic. Natural ingredients might include essential oils, extracts, aloe, and other ingredients that don’t qualify as ‘organic’ but are still natural. Essential oils and extracts are often extremely poisonous to cats, so keep that in mind if you think you’ll use a shampoo on the felines as well. Some essential oils can be very irritating to dogs with allergies. 
  • Organic. Organic ingredients are grown, harvested, and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals or methods. Organic ingredients are usually rarer and more expensive due to how much more difficult they are to harvest and process.
  • Synthetic. Most dog shampoos that aren’t labeled as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ are synthetic. These are made with soaps, chemicals, and other ingredients that can’t qualify as either of the previous categories. Some dogs may have reactions to certain soaps or chemicals, so keep an eye on that ingredient list.

Scent:

Most dog shampoos have some sort of scent, and among ingredients in dog shampoos, fragrances are some of the most likely to irritate your dog’s skin. Strong smells don’t always mean clean. Some owners love the overpowering smells of dog shampoos, sprays, and other products that are designed to make their pups smell less like… dogs. Dogs can get stinky, but attempting to completely deodorize and eradicate their natural smell can also destroy the delicate balance on their skin and dry out their fur. 

While most manufacturers do have an ‘unscented’ version of their dog shampoos, there are far more options with a variety of scents. For the most part, most dog shampoos are going to smell better than your dirty or wet dog, but if the shampoo itself doesn’t work and all you’re doing is masking the problem with a strong smell, it’s not an effective solution. 

Still, there will be some fragrances that you or your dog just don’t like. And again, some of the fragrances used to create these smells can cause reactions on your dog’s skin. Choose a scent that you aren’t going to mind smelling on your dog if it lingers. Understand that the more potent/long-lasting a fragrance is, the more of it is included in the dog shampoo. 

Hypoallergenic:

Hypoallergenic shampoos contain ingredients that aren’t prone to causing allergic reactions. This means gentle ingredients, no harsh chemicals or substances known to cause skin irritations. 

If your dog has sensitive skin,  allergies to certain shampoos or has had itchy/hot spot issues in the past, look for a shampoo that claims to be hypoallergenic. At the same time, don’t rely on that label alone – check the ingredient list for anything your dog might have had a bad reaction to in the past.

Special Use

If your dog has a skin condition (like one of the ones we discussed earlier), looking for a shampoo specifically for that skin condition is ideal. Shampoos that are formulated for a specific use may include ingredients known to heal or help while avoiding ingredients that irritate those particular skin conditions.

This extends even to flea and tick shampoos, which should only be used if your dog has fleas or ticks. Always be aware of special use shampoos and how they can help, but avoid using them if your dog doesn’t have the condition that they are treating.


The Rundown on Sulfates, Parabens, and Phthalates:

Many of the shampoos on this list and in your daily life report that they are sulfate-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, and more. While most people can agree that this is a good thing, few know exactly what these chemicals do and how they are harmful. Let’s take a quick look at these three main undesirable ingredients and why you want to steer clear of them in your dog’s shampoo. 

Sulfates:

Sulfates help clean your hair and your dog’s fur, stripping oil out of the strands and leaving them feeling cleaner. These ingredients are in a host of soaps. The lather you can achieve with just about any standard shampoo is the work of sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). 

While this may sound like a good thing (more lather means the soap is working, right?), it can be incredibly harmful. That’s because sulfates are extremely irritating to your skin. Not only are they bad for your hair and your dog’s coat, but they can strip natural oils out of your skin – oils that it needs to maintain your skin’s healthy barrier. 

Parabens:

Parabens are preservative chemicals that are often used in makeup, food, and medicine. Since the other ingredients in these products may cause the growth of bacteria over time, parabens are added to prevent bacteria and keep things fresh for use later on. Unfortunately, parabens can penetrate the  barrier of your dog’s skin and wreak havoc. This can lead to reproductive and developmental issues, and may even cause cancer.

Phthalates:

The last entry in our triad of undesirable ingredients, phthalates are used to soften plastic. This is the chemical that makes certain plastics more flexible and easier to use in our personal care products. But phthalates aren’t just used in skincare. These chemicals are also routinely used in wood finishes, pipes, and even some foods. 

Phthalates act in the same way as parabens. They get under your skin (or your dog’s skin) and can disrupt the function of the endocrine system. This can lead to cancer, but can also cause widespread issues with development and reproduction. 

Now that you know what to look for, keep an eye out on all of your dog’s shampoo bottles (and even your own)! Avoiding these chemicals is, of course, a personal preference. However, using soaps without these chemicals can help protect your dog’s health.