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A couple years ago, I wrote a review about a bath soap bar (reading this, I wonder if I need all 3 words). I loved the bars so much that when the company shut their doors, I bought their entire inventory for about $35.
A dog lover left a comment asking about how my dogs smelled after using the shampoo bars. She wanted her dog to smell like a dog. I thought that was strange. Isn’t the reason we bathe our dogs is so they DON’T smell like dogs?
Today, I get what the comment meant, because I reviewed a shampoo that left our dogs smelling like a 17-year old boy wearing too much Axe Body Spray instead of a dog.
Choosing Shampoo for Our Dogs
The first time J and I went to the pet store to buy shampoo for our dogs, we walked to the entrance of the grooming aisle and stopped. There were too many choices. The store also had groomers on staff and they helped us choose a shampoo. I couldn’t tell you what we bought that day, but I’m sure I wouldn’t bring it home today.
I’m such a flippin’ snob about my dogs that it’s becoming embarrassing.
Today, when someone asks me about what I look for in shampoo for our dogs, I have a short list of criteria…
- Avoid unnatural fragrances, because they can aggravate sensitive skin.
- Avoid artificial colors, because they’re not necessary. Who are they trying to impress?
- Avoid parabens, because they have been linked to breast cancer in women, (OMG, right?) and allergic reactions in dogs (also avoid methyl, ethyl, and propyl).
What are Parabens?
Parabens are chemicals used in shampoo to extend the shelf life and create that lather we all think is necessary to get our dogs’ coat clean.
Are Parabens and Sulfates Bad?
You always know that something isn’t good when people start marketing a product is FILL-IN-THE-BLANK – FRE, i.e. sulfate-free, paraben-free.
Today, we’re seeing a lot of dog shampoos that are sporting the “Paraben Free” labeling, which is a red flag for me. I’ve been using shampoo bars for a couple years and prefer them to bottled shampoo; I didn’t think this occurred to me until a received a warning about parabens in shampoos.
A couple years ago, I wrote a post listing grooming products everyone needs and someone left a comment letting me know that John Paul Pet dog shampoo had parabens (this is currently changing and JPP have paraben-free options). I've since changed that post because I no longer use John Paul Pet products (no reason, just like my shampoo bars).
Back to my question – are parabens and sulfates bad? Brands who add these chemicals to their dog shampoo would say “no.” Not in the amounts used. But it’s a chemical and I’ve learned that chemicals aren’t a good idea for my dogs. Even if a brand says “natural,” you still need to check the ingredients, because “natural” is a marketing buzz word nowadays.
Risks of Using Shampoo with Parabens
I read that for dogs, the side effects of using a shampoo with parabens can include…
- allergic reactions and irritations
- severe neurological trauma
- pulmonary edema
When Shopping for Paraben-Free Dog Shampoo
I recently received several bottles of dog shampoo from Isle of Dogs. They have several shampoo lines, but I tried the following with our dogs…
- Keratin Volume Shampoo
- Deep Cleaning Shampoo
On first look, I loved the shampoos. Each one is gentle, paraben-free, and sulfate-free. But I do have several critiques.
The Way the Shampoo Smells
The smell is really strong for me. I bathed the dogs and they smelled like I had put Axe Body Spray on them. But this was only for me. I was walking with Rodrigo and was blown away by the scent and wondered if it was bothering him. I asked J about the smell and he had to put his nose to Rodrigo’s coat (this is right after a bath) and said that he could sort of smell it.
So maybe it's just me.
I'm so obsessed with the smell that I want to invite friends over to smell one of our dogs after a bath.
What are the Ingredients?
If you go to the Isle of Dogs website, you won't find a complete list of ingredients. I was confused by this when I checked because I'm so used to looking at ingredients online. I did find an ingredients page (as of June 2016, this page was removed from the Isle of Dogs website) that covers evening primrose, royal jelly, and hibiscus sabdariffa. The ingredients aren't listed on Amazon.com either.
Here are the ingredients listed on the bottle:
Purified water, cetostearyl alcohol, stearlkonium alcohol, dimethicone, glyceryl sterate, PEG 40 caster oil, dimethicone copolyol, glycerin, jojoba oil, aloe vera gel, polysorbate 80, panthenol, oatmeal, vitamin E, fragrance, D. & C. Red # 33, F.D. & C Blue #1, DMDH Hydantoin.
I know nothing about making shampoo except for the DIY skunks smell removal shampoo I've made from time to time. I did a quick search on the above ingredients and found that some are the chemical names of many natural ingredients that we'd have no problem using on our dogs (I've added hyperlinks so that you can learn more – keep in mind that the sites I found aren't written by scientists). While others didn't appear to be natural.
Are fragrances and artificial colors necessary for a dog shampoo even if they are FDA approved? Does the fragrance come from a natural source (lavender, rosemary, etc)?
From the Isle of Dog Website:
Which sounds more natural to you? Saponified Oil of Coconut or Sodium Cocoate? (They’re the same thing.) Colza Oil or Behentrimonium methosulfate? (Again, same thing.) You will see these more “natural” sounding names on the backs of our competitors’ products, while Isle of Dogs refuses to mislead you. It is shocking that the FDA does not hold the same ingredient disclosure standards for the pet industry that it does for human beauty. Companies are not mandated to list their ingredients by their cosmetic names, nor do they have to even list all their ingredients. That is why our competitors are allowed to list their ingredients in a way that is seemingly more “natural,” like using the terminology of saponified oil of coconut or simply leaving out ingredients that are not considered natural at all. As a company built to the standards of human beauty, you will find full ingredient disclosure on our NATURALUXURY products in the FDA-approved International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredient format. We are not less natural. We are simply setting a new standard in honesty.
What strikes me about this statement copied from IODogs.com is that Isle of Dogs calls out their competitors for using verbiage that sounds natural and goes on to say that they refuse to mislead us – yet, I couldn't find a complete list of ingredients on their site. I'm not saying that they're being misleading, but this mixed message may raise red flags with discerning dog lovers. I hope they reconsider and add ingredients for each of their products to their site.
One of the shampoo bars I use today come with the following ingredients: organic neem, coconut oil, citronella, geranium, and natural sea salt. When a product is natural, I automatically think that it's something I could make myself; picking up ingredients at a local health food or supplement store. I thought natural products didn't contain artificial colors or fragrance. However, in the pet industry, natural can be processed and contain added, artificial ingredients. “FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives.” Source: FDA.gov
The ingredients in the Ilse of Dogs shampoos don't equate to a bad product, but if you're looking for something more natural, then I recommend a shampoo bar by Wondercide. I've used dog shampoo available at chain pet stores for 3 years that contained similar ingredients to the Isle of Dogs products. There were no adverse effects (that I noticed).
The Plastic Bottle
I’ve decided to stop buying bottled water. For years, I bought bottled water by the case monthly from Costco. But not anymore! I recently learned this little factoid: “The average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade is at least 450 years. 90% of bottles aren’t even recycled.” I don’t have a source for that claim, but I believe it.
I prefer using shampoo bars to shampoo in plastic bottles. But there is a way to reuse the bottles so that we're not increasing our carbon footprint.
When I finish using a bottle, I try to find a new use for it…
- Make your own natural dog shampoo. CLICK HERE for my recipe.
- Make your own natural dry dog shampoo. Kol's Notes has a recipe that I love.
- Make your own natural flea powder. Dogs Naturally Magazine shared a recipe that includes diatomaceous earth.
I couldn't find a “Cruelty-free” blurb on the packaging or on the Ilse of Dogs website. This doesn't mean that their product isn't cruelty-free, it just means that they don't advertise it. This is important for me because if I'm going to add more plastic to landfills, I'd at least like to know that no animals suffered in the creation of said product.
I reached out to Isle of Dogs and asked if they conduct animal testing. These are the responses I received:
- “We do not do any testing that would be cruel to animals for any of our products.”
- “We do not use animal testing in our manufacturing process.”
I was left confused by these responses because the first sounds like they do test on animals, but it wouldn't be considered “cruel.” The second response made me wonder if there is animal testing that happens outside of their manufacturing process.
Ultimately, I'd recommend that Isle of Dogs narrows down a clear response to this question. This is so important to me that I'm transitioning to a vegetarian diet – I can only imagine that it's important to other dog lovers.
I was told that they were certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny, but I wasn't able to find Ilse of Dogs or IOD on the Leaping Bunny website. As I understand it, to be listed on their site as cruelty-free, Leaping Bunny will certify that a brand's entire supply and manufacturing chain is cruelty-free.
Update: I checked the Leaping Bunny website on 10/4/15; Isle of Dog isn't listed yet.
Ilse of Dogs is currently looking into why they aren't listed on Leaping Bunny because they've started adding the logo to their shampoo bottles.
Not All Isle of Dogs Shampoo is Paraben and Sulfate Free
Isle of Dogs also has shampoo that isn't paraben and sulfate free. If you choose to buy their products and you're looking for paraben-free and sulfate-free, be sure to double check the label before adding products to your cart.
When shopping for a paraben and sulfate-free shampoo, it may not be enough to see those words on a shampoo bottle. We should take the time to review the ingredients to gain a better understanding of what we're putting on our dogs.