From time to time, dogs end up needing a bath. Unlike cats, which are fine with just their own natural self-grooming instincts, dogs benefit immensely from a bath with shampoo. Unfortunately, not all dog shampoos are equally effective. Some could even be harmful.
Many ingredients can irritate your dog’s skin, including artificial fragrances, preservatives, and even surfactants (active ingredients that give soaps their cleansing properties). While you really shouldn’t go super-cheap with dog shampoos, you don’t have to break the bank, either.
There are quite a few companies out there that offer high quality, all natural, environmentally responsible pet shampoos. At our recent trip to the Global Pet Expo, we found the best dog shampoo companies that are making safe, natural shampoos that really get your dogs clean!
Can’t I Just Use People Shampoo?
While using human shampoo on your dog isn’t necessarily the absolute worst thing you could possibly do, it’s not your best choice.
One of the biggest reasons for this is that human shampoos are carefully designed for human scalps. Similarly, dog shampoos are carefully designed for a dog’s coat and the skin underneath it.
These two things are not identical in nature. Dog fur isn’t exactly the same as human hair, and dog skin is not the same as the skin on a person’s scalp.
One of the biggest differences is skin pH.
A typical human has a skin pH of around 5.5 to 5.6. This is slightly acidic — you may remember from college chemistry classes that the neutral pH of water is around 7.
A dog’s skin has a typical pH higher than that of human skin. It can be anywhere from 6.2 to as high as 7.4.
For this reason, human shampoo is actually quite a bit more acidic than shampoos for dogs. Human shampoos could actually upset your dog’s skin pH balance and cause irritation. Because they have skin that consists of few layers of cells, they’re also more prone to irritation.
Along with causing irritation, human shampoos — as well as soaps designed for human skin — can make your dog’s skin more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.
If you must use human shampoo for whatever reason, opt for something natural and organic, based on ingredients like oatmeal. But really, the only situation where this would make sense would be if your dog desperately needs to be bathed immediately for some reason, and there’s no time or ability to go buy dog shampoo.
For the most part, you really should just invest in dog shampoo. Your dog’s skin will thank you for it.
How Often Do I Need to Shampoo My Dog?
So, you’ve got dog shampoo. How often do you actually need to use it?
Humans generally need to bathe every day, for the most part. And most of us use shampoo at least three or four times a week, at minimum, depending on the length and texture of our hair.
But what about dogs?
For the most part, you actually don’t need to bathe your dog — let alone shampoo their coat — nearly as often as you bathe yourself.
For the most part, doggie baths usually come down to a matter of odor control.
Most groomers and veterinarians will recommend that you bathe your dog around once a month or so. For most dogs, this should suffice.
It’s generally not advisable to bathe them more often than once a week, at most
You may need to bathe your dog more often than usual if they have a skin condition, and if your dog picks up some fleas, you’ll probably want to bathe them ASAP with flea shampoo. (We’ll talk a little more about specialized and medical dog shampoos in a minute here.)
When you bathe them, use dog shampoo. Preferably, a good brand that comes recommended by professionals.
But there are quite a few dog shampoos on the market. Which ones really are the best?
Read Related Article: Complete Guide to Permethrin for Dogs
What to Look For in a Good Dog Shampoo
What should you look for in a good dog shampoo?
In some cases, you may need something specialized. The most common situation for this is when your dog has fleas.
This generally calls for a specialized flea shampoo, designed to kill adult fleas, their eggs, and their pupae. Flea shampoos generally contain either permethrin or pyrethrin, both of which are potent insecticides that are safe for your dog’s skin and fur.
You may also need specially formulated dog shampoo if your dog has a skin condition, including:
- Dry, flaky skin
- Skin allergies (allergic dermatitis)
- Parasitic infections, such as ringworm or mange
- Cutaneous yeast infections
- Folliculitis, a bacteria skin infection
These are just a handful of common skin conditions found in dogs. If your dog has any of these afflictions, your veterinarian can recommend a good medicated shampoo, as well as topical creams, oral medications, and other treatment options.
But what about dogs with normal skin? What do typical pet owners need to look for in a good dog shampoo?
There are plenty of good options out there, many of which contain only natural ingredients.
There are a few things you want to avoid in a pet shampoo. It’s fairly rare to find a shampoo for dogs that could harm or irritate your dog’s skin, unless you go very, very cheap.
The biggest things to avoid are artificial colors or fragrances, which can cause allergic reactions or irritation. (Many natural fragrances, such as lavender, are perfectly fine for most dogs.)
Here are a few more questionable ingredients and ingredient types to keep in mind when you shop for pet shampoos.
- Proprietary conditioner or moisturizer blends with undisclosed ingredients. In some cases, labeling on products does not disclose all of the ingredients, because some of them are components of a proprietary blend that the company does not disclose.
- Phthalates are a class of chemical compounds present in many artificial fragrances. There is some evidence that phthalates may act as endocrine disrupters in mammals, meaning they could potentially cause or contribute to hormonal imbalances. They may also disrupt the endocannabinoid system in humans and other mammals, many of the effects of which are not yet clear. Overally, they’re best to avoid. Not only are they unhealthy, but they also don’t biodegrade well and tend to cause problems for wildlife..
- Formaldehyde, isothiazalone, or paraben based preservatives. Some chemical compounds used as preservatives in health and beauty products — including those for pets — may be harmful either to the environment, or to your dog’s health.
- Mineral oil. While mineral oil does help skin retain moisture, that effect comes at a hefty cost. Pet shampoos containing mineral oils can interfere with your dog’s natural skin secretions, as well as potentially causing irritation or an allergic reaction.
- Sodium benzoate. This common preservative can often be perfectly safe, but it can interact chemically with other common compounds — including Vitamin C — to create new chemicals that may be dangerous or unhealthy.
- Sodium laureth sulfate. This surfectant is in a very wide range of soaps. It’s fine on its own, but the compound has a high risk for contamination with other compounds, many of which are unsafe or unhealthy.
For the most part, truly high quality dog shampoos do not include these ingredients. In fact, many are made from only natural ingredients, and some dog shampoos are even fully certified organic.
The dog shampoos we’re recommending are free from any questionable compounds.
4 Great Dog Shampoos to Try
If you’re not sure what dog shampoo to go with, these five brands are tried and true. They’re some of the best on the market, but despite their quality, they’re actually quite affordable.
Kibble Pet was founded by Samantha Kent, the owner of two lively golden doodles, a breed that results from a cross between standard poodles and golden retrievers. Like poodles,their curly hair is relatively high maintenance, as far as dog breeds go.
Like golden retrievers, golden doodles love to swim. But every time Samantha took them out to the water, they’d come back with terrible wet dog smell and tangled, matted fur.
Samantha happened to work in the human haircare manufacturing industry, giving her a lot of valuable experience and insight. She used her professional experience to launch Kibble Pets in 2016, a company offering high quality shampoos for dogs.
Kibble Pet products are carefully formulated by expert teams of synthetic chemists, and designed to be salon quality, while still maintaining a reasonable price point.
Kibble Pet offers a variety of products, including shampoos, conditioners, leave-in conditioners to help prevent or fix matting, wipes, and travel kits.
Their Silky Coat Grooming Shampoo comes in two all natural aroma blends: aloe vera and honey, and warm vanilla and amber.
They also offer a Brush-In Shine Waterless Shampoo, available in both scents. These spray-on shampoos make a cinch to keep your dog’s coat clean and smelling fresh, without needing to give them a full-fledged bath. This can come in handy for breeds that don’t like getting wet.
Skout’s Honor is a California company run by a small, highly dedicated team of pet lovers. They offer a variety of great products for cats and dogs, all of which are safe and all-natural.
Their “green” approach to product design centers around safe, environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic cleaning and deodorizing compounds, all of which are not only good for your dog, but are also chosen for their biodegradability and low potential for causing harm to ecosystems.
Their pet shampoos and other pet grooming products use safe, natural fragrances like lavender and honeysuckle. They’re also available in unscented formulations.
The company isn’t limited to shampoos and conditioners, either. They also offer home cleaning products designed for pet owners.
Their product lines include:
- Biokore Deodorizing Cleaners. These are actually cleaning products for your home, not for your dog or cat. But they’re great! They offer specialized products for targeting things like cat or dog urine, pet odor in fabrics and upholstery, and other side effects of being a pet parent.
- Toy and bowl cleaners, for keeping your dog’s food and water bowls, as well as their favorite chew toys, free of harmful bacteria.
Earthwhile Endeavors Inc. was founded back in 1995 by Paul Amstrong, a San Francisco cat owner who had developed his own pet shampoo.
Earthbath offers pet grooming products made from safe, natural ingredients, all of which are manufactured in the USA. Their shampoos are free from compounds like phthalates, paraben, and sulfate.
The company also avoids animal testing — in fact, many of their products were actually tested on people instead.
They offer a range of different pet shampoos, including hypoallergenic, fragrance free, and puppy-friendly options.
Ecos offers a wide range of cleaning and hygiene products, including those for pets. They’re the oldest company on this list, established in 1967 and still family owned and operated to this very day.
They focus on offering “green” product and cleaning solutions at reasonable price points, with a “Zero-Waste” product philosophy. Their production facilities are powered by renewable energy, creating great shampoos and pet products with a low environmental footprint.
The company was designated as the EPA’s Safer Choice Partner of the Year in both 2015 and 2017.
Their pet shampoos are a great choice, available in natural fragrances as well as unscented versions.
There’s Never Been a Better Time For Finding Quality Pet Shampoos and Grooming Products
These are just a few of the many great brands out there for safe, effective, “green” dog shampoos.
There are other companies that also offer environmentally responsible, hypoallergenic, and toxin-free grooming products for dogs, cats, and other fluffy pets.
If you’re looking for a great dog shampoo that won’t break the bank, you can’t go wrong with these five great brands.