Learn About Ingredients to Find a Safe and Non-Toxic Organic Dog Shampoo

July 07, 2017 13 min read

4-Legger dog shampoo ingredient database will help you quickly identify if an ingredient is safe, non-toxic, organic, synthetic, or all natural

Unless your dog has allergies or itchy skin, you may not see a dramatic change in the health of your dog's skin and coat from one bath to the next. If you consider your dog's exposure to toxic ingredients over the long term it DOES add up - directly impacting the long term health of your dog.

Important Facts About Dog Grooming Products: 

  • Dog grooming products are manufactured with a lot of different ingredients, some of which are known or suspected carcinogens, toxic, known to disrupt the endocrine system, or cause skin irritation.
  • The pet grooming industry is not regulated by the FDA.
  • There are no regulations in the pet grooming industry for purity of ingredients.
  • Ingredients are not tested to determine if they are safe and free from contaminants that have known links to health issues.
  • Your dog's skin has less layers than your skin.
  • There are no standards for integrity in the marketing of dog grooming products.
  • It is common to see products marketed as "all natural and organic" to find the manufacturer has mixed a few "good" ingredients with "bad" ingredients and marketed only the good ingredients.
  • Ranking individual ingredients is hard. An ingredient may not be "bad" but may have contaminants from the manufacturing process. We've given it our best shot erring on the side of caution. It goes without saying manufacturers who use these ingredients will not agree with our opinions. Our primary logic when ranking an ingredient is: "How good do I feel using that ingredient on my dog?" and "How friendly is it to our planet?"

When you know the potential risks of ingredients and how they can affect the health of your dog, you can make informed buying decisions to avoid products that aren't safe for you or your fur family!

We've made it easy by giving you a safety symbol, a natural or synthetic symbol and a description.

 

Ingredient Rating

Safety Natural or Synthetic? Ingredient & Description
Aloe vera is a safe ingredient in organic dog shampoo
Aloe vera in 4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic Aloe Vera
Packed with polysaccharides and flavonoids with high antioxidant activities and antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Aloe helps to improve the flow of blood to damaged areas, improving collagen formation while keeping the dry skin moist and protected. We use aloe in all of our organic dog shampoo formulations! Learn more
You do not want artificial colors in your dog shampoo
artificial colors in dog shampoo is not natural
Artificial Colors
Artificial colors are synthetic dyes generally produced from petroleum. While the dyes may be FDA-approved for use in cosmetics, they do have linkages to organ system toxicity (non-reproductive) and are known to bioaccumulate (can build up in the system).

If that doesn't convince you to avoid it, FD&C and D&C colors are bituminous coal derivatives that are continuously tested on animals due to their carcinogenic properties. Learn more
Allatonin ingredient in organic dog shampoo that is ok but may have contaminants

Allantoin is a synthetic ingredient

Allantoin

A nitrogen rich compound that promotes the healing of skin. It is synthetic or derived from the urine of animals or plants (like Comfrey). You'll need to verify the source of this ingredient given the high number of synthetics. 

Note: Allantoin is considered a drug and should be regulated by the FDA.

You do not want artificial colors in your dog shampoo
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is a synthetic ingredient

ALES or ALS

See Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (below) 

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is an ingredient in organic dog shampoo may cause health issues
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is synthetic
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
A synthetic foaming agent that has links to organ system toxicity.

You do not want artificial colors in your dog shampoo
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is a synthetic ingredient
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES or ALS) 
A synthetic surfactant (cleaning and foaming agent) that contains PEG (polyethylene glycol). May be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. 
Organic beeswax is an ingredient in 4-Legger paw wax
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is a synthetic ingredient

Babassuamidopropyl betaine
A salt used to boost foam and help condition.

 

Aloe vera is a safe ingredient in organic dog shampoo
Aloe vera in 4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic

Balsam Fir Essential Oil (Abies balsamea)
Balsam is a natural stimulant, antiseptic and analgesic. It is great for muscle and joint conditions, respiratory conditions, inflammation and will help to naturally reduce cortisol levels. It is generally non-toxic, non-irritant, and non-sensitizing. 

As with all essential oils, using a high grade essential oil that has been naturally extracted is imperative for the health and safety of your pet! 

Benzyl benzoate is an ingredient in organic dog shampoo may cause health issues
Benzyl benzoate is a synthetic ingredient

Benzyl benzoate 
A synthetic chemical used as a fragrance ingredient and preservative. It is also considered an over the counter drug used as a scabies or lice treatment.

It is linked to allergies, skin irritation, and hormone disruption.

Organic beeswax is an ingredient in 4-Legger paw wax
Organic beeswax in 4-Legger healing balm for your dog's dry skin and paw pads
Beeswax - Organic
Organic beeswax is superior to non-organic beeswax as the bees that produce the wax have a forage zone free of synthetic chemicals and GMO crops. It is truly exceptional! Safe and non-toxic. Learn more
Botanical extracts are ingredients in organic dog shampoo that is ok but may have contaminants
Botanical extracts may be natural or synthetic

Botanical Extracts
While botanical extracts sounds like they are single ingredient extracts, that may not be the case. 

Take for example a cherry botanical extract - it may be extracted into parabens or it may be extracted into glycerine and water. Since there is no way to know, we've added it as a caution but noted they are likely natural.

Note: If it is mixed with a synthetic, the safety of the ingredient can dramatically change. 

Calendula is a beneficial oil in organic dog shampoo
Calendula is naturally extracted for use in organic dog shampoo
Calendula
Calendula is excellent for cuts, scrapes, insect bites, and dry itchy skin! It increases the flow of blood and oxygen to that area to accelerate the healing process. It is good stuff! Learn more
Castile soap is the safest dog shampoo you can buy
Castile soap is all natural
Castile Soap
Castile soap is the most gentle all natural cleaning solution available on the market. It is made with saponified oils! 

Carbomer is ingredient in dog shampoo that may be contaminated
Carbomer is a synthetic ingredient
Carbomer
This ingredient is used to create a gel like consistency  - increase viscosity. Generally thought of as safe but may cause minor skin irritation.
Cedarwood Essential Oil in organic dog shampoo
Cedarwood Essential Oil natural pet repellent in organic dog shampoo
Cedarwood Essential Oil
Cedarwood is a natural pest repellent with natural properties to improve the appearance of your dog's skin. Learn more
Carbomer is ingredient in dog shampoo that may be contaminated
Cetyl Alcohol is a synthetic ingredient
Cetearyl Isononanoate
An ester of Cetearyl Alcohol and a branched chain nonanoicacid used as a skin and hair conditioner. Used at less than 12% in a formulation it is less likely to cause skin irritation. We gave it a neutral rating as we don't know the concentration and more research is needed on this ingredient for long term impacts. 
Cetyl Alcohol is ingredient in organic dog shampoo that may cause health issues
Cetyl Alcohol is a synthetic ingredient
Cetyl Alcohol
May be used in a number of applications - from fragrance to boosting foam or a thickener. It has links to organ system toxicity and is not friendly to the environment (ecotoxicology). Can have a plant or animal origin.
Chlorhexidine gluconate ingredient in organic dog shampoo may cause health issues
Chlorhexidine gluconate is a synthetic ingredient
Chlorhexidine gluconate
An antimicrobial preservative known to cause skin and eye irritation and allergen.
Citric acid is a safe pH adjuster in dog shampoo
Citric acid is naturally extracted

Citric acid
Typically used in dog grooming products to adjust the pH of the product closer to the pH of your dog's eyes (pH 7 - neutral) to reduct eye irritation so the manufacturer can claim "tear free". Unfortunately, these same shampoos use ingredients that you would not want on your dog's eyes. So, yes they may be tear free, but the product is not safe and non-toxic!

As a note, your dog's skin is better served by a more alkaline pH and you being careful around their eyes.

Also, some dogs may have skin sensitivity to citric acid although rare. 

Cocamide DEA is not an ingredient you want in your dog's shampoo
Cocamide DEA is synthetic
Cocamide DEA
A foaming agent that has links to organ system toxicity and contamination concerns. 
Cocamide MEA is not a safe ingredient in dog shampoo
Cocamide MEA is synthetic
Cocamide MEA
A foam producer that started as a coconut and has been chemically altered into a moderate cancer causer, hormone and thyroid disruptor and an organ toxin.
Cocamidopropyl betaine is not a safe ingredient in dog shampoo
Cocamidopropyl betaine is synthetic
Cocamidopropyl betaine
A synthetic surfactant associated with irritation & allergic contact dermatitis. Reactions could be due to the ingredient itself or impurities. Nitrosamines (a common contaminant) are known to cause cancer.
Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine may have links to allergies in dog shampoo
Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine is a synthetic ingredient
Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine
A a plant derived synthetic hair conditioning agent and foam booster. It is a relatively new ingredient that may have links to skin allergies but appears with the limited data available to be relatively safe. 
Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine is a synthetic ingredient
Coco-glucoside
Is a synthetic used as a foaming, cleansing, conditioning, and thickening agent. It made from reaction of coconut oil fatty alcohols and fruit sugar (glucose). While synthetic is it considered safe with minimal links to allergies. Learn more
Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine is a synthetic ingredient
Coconut Glucose
See coco-glucoside (above)
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Coconut Oil
Not all coconut oil is the same.  4-Legger uses USDA certified organic coconut oil - a natural cleaner to improve your dog's skin.
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Decyl Glucoside
A newer ingredient that is a glucose based surfactant. While there isn't a lot of data yet about this ingredient general indications are that it appears to be safe and non-toxic but that it can cause allergic contact dermatitis.

This ingredient in organic dog shampoo may cause health issues
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Dimethicone
A silicon based ingredient that helps to provide skin conditioning. It is linked to organ system toxicity and is not planet friendly (ecotoxicology).
An ingredient in organic dog shampoo that is ok but may have contaminants
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Disodium EDTA
Used to help control viscosity. It is not a bad ingredient but it does enhance skin absorption.
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DMDM Hydantoin
Used as a preservative that slowly releases small amounts of antimicrobial formaldehyde over time. Many dogs have or can develop formaldehyde allergies/sensitivities. It also may cause skin or eye irritation. Formaldehyde is linked to cancer. 
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Doazolidinyl urea
An antimicrobial preservative that works by forming formaldehyde. Many dogs have or can develop formaldehyde allergies/sensitivities. Formaldehyde is linked to cancer. 
This ingredient in organic dog shampoo may cause health issues
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Tetrasodium EDTA
Used to help control viscosity, tetrasodium EDTA has links to organ system toxicity and enhances enhance skin absorption.
This ingredient in organic dog shampoo may cause health issues
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Ethylhexylgl Glycerin
A weak preservative and skin conditioner. While no shampoo should be used around the eyes, this ingredient does have links to eye toxicity making it very important it does not come into contact with eyes. 

4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Naturally helps increase the flow of blood to the skin with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic, antiviral and deodorizing properties. Learn more
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Formaldehyde
A known cancer causing preservative that is also linked with allergies and skin sensitivities. Slow releasing formaldehyde preservatives include
Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, and Quaternium-15. 
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Fragrance
A "catch all" for added scent that generally means it has a lot of ingredients linked to allergies and immune issues.

Most have links to organ system toxicity and are not friendly to the planet (ecotoxicology). 

4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Vegetable Glycerine
A by-product of the process of saponification, it is a natural humectant.
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Glyceryl sterate
Used as a skin conditioner and thickener to retain moisture and hydration.
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Guar Gum
Made from guar beans it acts as a natural conditioner and humectant (holds on to moisture)! Learn more
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Hemp Oil
A powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that works to improve your dog's skin.
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Imidazolindinyl urea
Used as a preservative that slowly releases small amounts of antimicrobial formaldehyde over time. Many dogs have or can develop formaldehyde allergies/sensitivities. It also may cause skin or eye irritation. Formaldehyde is linked to cancer. 
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Isopropyl alcohol
mild antiseptic, cleaner and disinfectant that is VERY drying to your dog's skin causing irritation to your dog's skin. It can affect your dog's nervous system and cause organ system toxicity. Many "dry" dog shampoos may use alcohol to quickly "dry" your dog. Yikes! 
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Jojoba Oil
Has natural antibacterials and helps to rejuvenate and restore dry skin while the anti-inflammatories reduce swelling and redness associated with skin conditions.
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Lavender Essential Oil
A true gift from nature, lavender is an 
analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, insecticide, rubefacient, stimulant, tonic, deodorant, and more!
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Lemongrass Essential Oil
Not only does it smell amazing and "clean" it works to improve your dog's skin, is a natural antibacterial, anti-fungal, and mosquito repellent!  
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Lauramide DEA
A foam booster with links to organ system toxicity and contamination concerns by nitrosamines - with links to cancer. 
An ingredient in organic dog shampoo that is ok but may have contaminants
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Laurel Glucoside
A sugar and lipid based surfactant (cleaner) and conditioner and emulsifier. This ingredient has few dermatological issues and is safer than other synthetics. It has also been subject to recent animal safety testing.
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Methylchloroisothiazolinone
A preservative linked to allergies and skin irritation. It is not planet friendly (ecotoxicology). There is some evidence that may link it to cancer.  Learn more
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Methylisothiazolinone
A preservative with links to neurotoxicity, skin irritation, and allergies. Learn more
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Methylparaben
A preservative linked to endocrine disruption (think thyroid issues). 
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MEA - Monoethanolamine
A pH adjuster that has links to organ system toxicity and skin irritation.
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MEA Lauryl Sulfate (Monoethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate)
A cleaning agent (surfactant) with strong possibilities of contamination by ethylene oxide or 1,4-dioxane with links to cancer.
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Mineral Oil
Mineral oil is derived from petroleum used in fragrances and for conditioning of skin products. It blocks pores and does not let the skin breathe.  It has links to organ system toxicity.
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Oatmeal (Oat Milk)
A natural anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, and moisturizing characteristics that can soothe, smooth, and nourish your dog's skin and coat.
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Olive Oil
Rich in vitamins, minerals, natural fatty acids, and antioxidants to nourish, rejuvenate, and guard your dog's skin.
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Panthenol
A form of Vitamin B5 it is used for skin conditioning and to control static. It has no links to toxicities.

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Paraben
Parabens are a class of preservatives or fragrances that are not planet friendly (ecotoxic) with strong ties to hormone (endocrine system) disruption.  Learn more
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Peppermint Essential Oil
Works to balance the sebum on your dog's skin and coat while increasing the blood flow to the skin to heal and provide protection against bacteria and viruses.
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Petroleum Jelly
Derived from petroleum (not planet friendly - ecotoxic) with links to organ system toxicity with contamination concerns by PAHS - with links to endocrine disruption, cancer, bioaccumulation, and organ system toxicity.

Note: There are many different brands of petroleum jelly with a vast spectrum of ingredient purity. While we'd not use it on ourselves or our dogs, if you are going to use it, make sure you buy a reputable name brand.

This ingredient in organic dog shampoo may cause health issues
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Phenoxyethanol
A relatively new preservative. Let's first note that it is safer than some other preservatives like formaldehyde, paraben, and methylisothiazolinone preservatives. There is some evidence that it may cause skin irritation or allergies in some dogs and that it may have links to organ system toxicity. 

It is also is a sensitizer meaning your dog can develop an allergic reaction to it after using it for some time with no problems.

Note:  This is a synthetic ingredient that is not allowed by Ecocert for use in natural or organic products.  If the bottle says "natural" or "organic" and it also says "phenoxyethanol" you would be wise to avoid any products manufactured by this company. 

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Polyglyceryl-4 Oleate
We gave this ingredient a green rating but want to point out a caution. There are animal and petroleum sources so you will need to ask for the ingredient source wen you see this ingredient listed.

A synthetic combination of 4 glycerine molecules into 1 large molecule that makes it more moisturizing, added to a fatty acid under alkaline conditions - that joins the 2 chemicals into one new molecule. 

It is generally regarded as a safe and effective moisturizer - certainly safer than the alternatives like polyethylene glycol (PEG) and triethanolamine (TEA). It is also approved to be used in ECOCERT certified organic products. 

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Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
Works to hold on to moisture but has some links to organ system toxicity. Concerns with contamination by ethylene dioxide and 1,4-dioxane (both linked to cancer) from the manufacturing process. 
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Polysorbate
A surfactant and emulsifier that may have contamination concerns by ethylene dioxide and 1,4-dioxane (both linked to cancer) from the manufacturing process. Has possible linkages to organ system toxicity. 
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Potassium cocoate
Saponified coconut oil!
Safe and non-toxic!
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Potassium olivate
Saponified olive oil!
Safe and non-toxic!
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic

Potassium jojobate
Saponified jojoba oil!
Safe and non-toxic!

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Proprietary Blend of Moisturizers or Conditioners
Don't fall for this marketing trick. If they aren't willing to tell you what is actually in the product you can rest assured it is ingredients you don't want on your dog! 
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Propylene Glycol
Used as a skin conditioner that can retain moisture but has links to skin irritation, organ system toxicity and can increase the skin's absorption. 
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Propyl Paraben
A preservative that can mimic estrogen and likely act as a hormone system disruptor (endocrine system). Also, not planet friendly.
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Quaternium-15
Used as a preservative that slowly releases small amounts of antimicrobial formaldehyde over time. Many dogs have or can develop formaldehyde allergies/sensitivities. It also may cause skin or eye irritation. Formaldehyde is linked to cancer. 
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Rosemary
Rich in nutrients, rosemary, a known anti-inflammatory will improve circulation, aid in moisturizing dry skin, boost healing, and increase the natural shine and hydrated appearance of your dog's coat.
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Saint John's Wort
A natural anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antiseptic, astringent, antimicrobial and antioxidant that improves the health of your dog's skin.
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Saponified Organic Oils
Oils that have been converted to soap and glycerine - the highest grade of soap available! It is safe, non-toxic, mild, and gentle!
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Sea Salt
Exactly what it wounds like - salt from the sea, ocean, or salt water lake that has been dehydrated. 
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Shea Butter
A vegetable oil obtained from the tree 
Butyrospermum parkii used for skin conditioning.
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Sodium Bicarbonate
Baking soda is a salt used for deodorizing, pH adjusting, oral care, and more.
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Sodium cocoate
Saponified coconut oil.
Safe and non-toxic! 
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Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate
A relatively new surfactant. Generally regarded as safe but may cause skin irritation. 

4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Sodium olivate
Saponified olive oil.
Safe and non-toxic! 
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Sodium jojobate
Saponified jojoba oil.
Safe and non-toxic! 
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Sodium palmate
Saponified palm oil.
Safe and non-toxic! 
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is an ingredient in organic dog shampoo may cause health issues
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Sodium c-14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
A detergent cleansing agent that produces a lot of foam. 

The name may be misleading, but sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate is not a sulfate. Sulfonate is related to but not the same as sulfates. In a sulfonate the sulfur is linked direct to a carbon atom where as a sulfate is linked directly to the carbon chain via an oxygen atom.

They do however have similar qualities when it comes to propensity of being irritating to the skin. 

It also has links to organ system toxicity.

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Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
A synthetic antimicrobial preservative with strong links to skin and eye irritation as well as allergies. Under certain conditions can release formaldehyde. Learn more

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Surfactant Blend Derived from Natural Ingredients (Coconut Base)
Manufacturers use this statement when they don't want to tell you the actual ingredients making it confusing for the consumer. 
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Sodium benzoate
A preservative (antimicrobial) that has some links to endocrine disruption. It is not planet friendly. 
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is an ingredient in organic dog shampoo may cause health issues
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Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
A synthetic cleaner that is not friendly to our planet (ecotoxic).  It can be derived from petroleum base or plants. It has links to skin irritation. As a household cleaner it would cause little concern; but, when wouldn't want it on my dog's skin!
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Sodium Laureth Sulfate
A synthetic cleaner and known skin irritant that has links to organ system toxicity and contamination concerns by ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane which both have links to cancer. 
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Sodium coco sulfate
Coconut oil is mixed with sulphuric acid and then neutralized with an alkali. Is less irritating that sodium lauryl sulfate because it is a larger sized molecular and less able to penetrate the skin. Considered a detergent.
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Stearic Acid
A naturally occurring fatty acid that is usually derived from rendered fat of farm and domestic animals. 
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TEA-lauryl sulfate (Triethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate)
A cleaning and foaming agent that has contamination concerns by ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane - both linked to cancer. 
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Texapon K 12
Another name for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, a synthetic cleaner and known skin irritant that has links to organ system toxicity and contamination concerns by ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane which both have links to cancer. 
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic
Titanium Dioxide
Naturally occurring mineral that is mined and processed / purified. Absorbs, reflects, or scatters light (including ultraviolet radiation from the sun). Was commonly used in sunscreens but there is a strong movement to ban it as it is toxic to fish etc. It is thought to be safe when 99+% pure. We don't like it because it is ecotoxic.
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Triethanolamine
Used as a cleaner and a pH adjuster. Known to have links to organ system toxicity and a skin allergen. Has the possibility of containing nitrosamines which are linked to cancer. 
4-Legger all natural dog shampoo is safe and non-toxic

Vitamin E (Plant Based High Grade Tocopherol)
This ingredient is where you have to put a lot of trust in the manufacturer to ensure they are purchasing a plant based high grade (expensive) source. If a manufacturer skimps and purchases a lower grade petroleum based less expensive ingredient there could be contamination concerns from hydroquinone.

Natural = d alpha-tocopherol
Synthetic = dl alpha-tocopheryl

 





Did we miss an ingredient you want our opinion on? We're happy to add it! Use the form, below, to let us know! 
[powr-form-builder id=af33eeda_1498400055]

 

Safety Legend:

Ingredients in organic dog shampoo for healthy skin and hair

Natural or Synthetic Legend:
Are your organic dog shampoo ingredients all natural or synthetic?
 



4-Legger Certified Organic Dog Shampoo | Best Organic Dog Shampoo

4-Legger's mission is to develop truly safe and non-toxic pet products and to educate pet parents about ingredients so they can make informed decisions to avoid products with potentially negative health side effects. We are committed to giving every dog a healthy bath in the memory of our beloved Henry Clay who passed away from cancer on the day our founder, Melissa, was diagnosed with breast cancer. 


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