What Is in Shampoo?
Most shampoos have a base consisting of one or two detergent surfactants, foaming agents, a foam stabilizer, emulsifiers to keep the ingredients mixed, thickeners, moisturizers, fragrance, preservatives, and colorants. To this base, featured ingredients or additives are added to give each product its unique character or image. Botanical additives yield a product that can be marketed as natural or can create a spa image; extra humectants, or moisturizers, comprise a moisturizing shampoo; and if the shampoo is medicated, different ingredients will be added to help relieve itching, seborrhea, and a host of other problems.
Determining the actual ingredients in a pet shampoo by reading the label can be hit and miss. Although there are a few pet shampoo manufacturers who are beginning to disclose ingredients, most pet products contain no ingredient list or only a partial list that emphasizes the additives or special ingredients and tells little or nothing about the shampoo base. Manufacturers consider what goes into their products trade secrets. Withholding ingredients doesn't make them bad or their products suspicious; in fact, some of these manufacturers put as much research into their product formulations as any of the top human product manufacturers. You cannot make any assumptions about the quality of the products that withhold ingredient information.
This situation leaves the consumer to choose products on the basis of marketing information. Focus the decision by choosing a product that suits the skin and coat of the individual pet or offers the desired results.
In Beyond Suds and Scent, groomer Barbara Bird got down to the ingredients — what they are, how they work, and what they do. In the pet industry, manufacturers do not have to disclose ingredients, nor do they have to include what they say is in the product. A lemon shampoo does not have to contain any lemon. Also, products for use on pets are not required to be tested for safety on pets. You can find Barbara's book at www.bbirdbiz.com and her pearls of wisdom on her blog at groomblog.blogspot.com.
What to Do
Choosing which shampoo to use depends on how often you plan to bathe your dog. If you are bathing the dog often — once a week or more — then a mild shampoo would be best, followed by a light conditioner if the skin and coat are in good shape.
If your dog is bathed only when needed, a stronger shampoo will help. The longer dogs go between baths, the oilier the skin is. Stronger shampoos will help dissolve the oils and your dog will get cleaner faster. You can use ultramild shampoos on a dirty dog, but it will take more shampoo and you will have to shampoo the dog more than once to get him clean.
Think of yourself — what do you choose when you shop for shampoo? If you have normal hair and scalp, then you can use anything. If you have dandruff, you need a medicated shampoo. If you have extra oily hair, you will need something that will remove more oil and you may need a very light conditioner or none at all. If you have really dry or damaged hair, you need something to add more moisture. If your hair is thin and wispy, you may want something to add body and volume. Choose dog products the same way — based on the look you want and the needs of the skin and hair.