Is Puppy Shampoo Different than Adult Dog Shampoo

Is Puppy Shampoo Different than Adult Dog Shampoo?

As the happy pet parent of a new puppy, you may be pondering over a seemingly simple question: Is there a real difference between puppy shampoo and adult dog shampoo?

The answer may surprise you and hopefully it will make you question some of the products marketed as puppy shampoo. 

By the end of this article you will be able to recognize what to look for in a natural dog shampoo that is safe for puppies.

What Makes Puppy Shampoo Different from Adult Dog Shampoo?

The general idea behind puppy shampoo is that it would use more mild ingredients than shampoo made for adult dogs because a puppy's skin is more delicate, thin, and sensitive compared to an adult dog's skin (the same is true of humans too)!

A puppy's skin is also less resistant to chemicals and harsh ingredients so it should never contain artificial fragrance, artificial colors, or harsh preservatives.

When I researched one of the top selling pet shampoo manufacturers and compared the ingredients in their puppy shampoo to their adult dog shampoo products ... guess what? 

The ingredients are exactly the same (and in the same order): 

Popular Puppy Shampoo Popular Adult Dog Shampoo
Water/eau (Aqua), Coco Betaine, Coco-glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Honey, Beeswax, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Decyl Glucoside,  Citric Acid, Shea Butter Water/eau (Aqua), Coco Betaine, Coco-glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Honey, Beeswax, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Decyl Glucoside, Citric Acid, Shea Butter 

Wondering if it was a fluke, I compared a few more manufactures and their product lines and saw the same trend. 

Marketing Terms Used In Puppy Shampoo

I On the second shampoo I looked up for my research I saw something that made me stop in my tracks. 

A puppy shampoo that was marketed as "extra gentle and tearless shampoo, pH balanced for puppies". 

Claim of Extra Gentle

Let's look at the ingredients in this top selling puppy shampoo: 

Purified Water, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Sodium Alpha Olefin Sulfonate, Acrylates Copolymer, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycereth-2 Cocoate, Fragrance, Preservative, Tetrasodium EDTA, Pearlizer, Color.

There are some huge red flags for this shampoo to be used on a puppy: 

  1. It contains artificial fragrance which has links to organ system toxicity.

  2. The manufacturer doesn't disclose the preservative used in the formulation so we have to assume it is likely one they aren't proud to share.

    Some of the top preservatives that come to mind are DMDM Hydantoin, Methyl Paraben, or  Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT).

    None of these preservatives would I want on my puppy or my adult dog as they have links to hormone disruption, organ toxicity, and even cancer.

  3. It contains artificial color which are traditionally derived from coal tar, petroleum or heavy metals salts. When absorbed on the skin, they can increase the risk of irritation, blocked pores, and more.

Given just these three ingredients, I don't understand how this formulation can be considered to be "extra gentle" for any dog, puppy or adult! 

Next, let's look at the claims made in the marketing of this shampoo:

Claim of Tearless Shampoo

Puppy shampoo that makes a claim of tearless typically means the pH of the shampoo is more neutral to match the pH of the eye so it doesn't sting when it comes in contact with the eye.

Unfortunately, when this claim is made, you have to look at all of the OTHER ingredients to see if they are safe around the eye and not surprisingly, they are not safe at all.

The eyes of both puppies and adult dogs are very sensitive and can bioaccumulate ingredients and their long term harmful effects.

None of these ingredients would you want in a puppy or adult dog's eyes based on concerns about bioaccumulation!

Short term their eye may not sting, but long term they may have damage you won't realize until they are older. In puppies this can mean visual development deficits and in older dogs it can mean the development of cataracts. Not a particularly good tradeoff in our estimation!

We highly recommend washing your dog and then go back to CAREFULLY wash their face with a wash cloth, being cautious to not get any shampoo in their eyes or ears, especially with a squirmy dog.  

The only thing we recommend being near your puppy's eyes is water. 

Claim of pH Balanced for Puppies

This claim is interesting given the previous claim of being tearless, which means the pH of the formulation is likely close to neutral (7.0). 

A scientific study in 2022 looked at the pH of a puppy's skin compared to an adult dog and guess what? 

It is a lot different! 

"The skin pH in dogs less than 12 weeks of age was significantly lower (3.97-5.70) than in older dogs (4.40-8.18)". Another study saw adult dog skin pH between 5.5 - 9.1.

The study even noted differences in skin pH between males and females and light colored dogs and dark colored dogs! 

If the pH is 7 for tearless it can't also be balanced for a puppy's skin at 3.97 - 5.70.

Which leads us to think this whole pH balanced statement is just a marketing term and not based in science.

In fact, the term "pH balanced" started as a marketing term to get pet parents away from soap based products and get them to use less expensive detergent products..

A bath re-balances the sebum in your dog's skin and coat and removes environmental toxins. In a healthy dog, the sebum naturally regenerates within 15 minutes of the bath with any shampoo. It is more important to make sure the skin is healthy by using truly safe and non-toxic ingredients so you don't block the skin pores or cause long term damage to the skin.

An alkaline shampoo, like 4-Legger is less irritating and more mild than acidic or neutral products. It also naturally lifts and loosens the cuticle for deep cleansing! 


What Should You Look For In A Puppy Shampoo?

Aa you can see from this article and the two examples we used, finding a puppy shampoo isn't as easy as looking at the bottle, trusting the marketing claims, and adding it to your shopping cart.

You need to review the ingredients to make sure your new puppy's bathing routine is free from artificial colors, artificial fragrance, harsh preservatives and other potentially toxic ingredients.

We've made the ingredient review easy by creating the pet shampoo ingredient database. Here you can look up each ingredient to determine if it is one you want on your dog or cat. 

Remember to focus on the ingredients and not on the marketing terms! 

Making the Switch to 4-Legger Puppy Safe Shampoo

4-Legger shampoos are meticulously crafted with 100% natural, sustainably sourced plants.

We take pride in our small-batch, handcrafted process, ensuring that each bottle is filled with the finest ingredients mother nature has to offer.

Our shampoos are made with organic oils, essential oils, and aloe vera.

Nothing artificial and nothing synthetic! So, you can get your new puppy started out with a true safe natural puppy shampoo!

We don't have a separate puppy shampoo because ALL of our products are mild, gentle, and safe for dogs across the entire lifespan.

To give you peace of mind, our products have third party validation through the USDA Organic Program.

4-Legger has four formulations that are perfect a a natural puppy shampoo option:

  1. Organic Lemongrass and Aloe Hypoallergenic Dog Shampoo stands out as a safe and effective choice for puppies, thanks to its gentle, natural formulation. Certified to organic food standards, the shampoo underscores its commitment to using only the highest quality, sustainably sourced ingredients. Its key components, such as lemongrass and aloe, not only provide soothing relief to dry and itchy skin but also promote overall skin health. Lemongrass is a natural and gentle cleanser that makes your pup smell so good! 

  2. Organic Oatmeal Dog Shampoo with Lavender and Aloe is an excellent choice for puppies, offering a blend of natural and safe ingredients that cater to sensitive skin. This shampoo features non-GMO, pesticide, insectand herbicide-free organic oat milk, chosen for its anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, and moisturizing properties. The oatmeal is combined with corn-derived vegetable glycerite, enhancing its skin-soothing capabilities. Additionally, the formula includes aloe and sustainably sourced non-GMO organic oils from coconut, olive, and jojoba, which work together to gently cleanse, moisturize, condition, and soften a puppy's coat. Lavender essential oil is added for its calming effect and anti-inflammatory properties, which help to reduce itching and irritation while promoting healthy skin.

  3. Organic Unscented Hypoallergenic Dog Shampoo with Aloe is particularly well-suited for puppies due to its extremely gentle and natural composition. Certified to USDA Organic Food Standards, it guarantees a high level of purity and safety, making it ideal for young dogs with sensitive skin or those prone to allergies. The shampoo is crafted with organic oils and organic aloe vera, known for their soothing and moisturizing properties. Its hypoallergenic nature ensures that it is safe for dogs (and owners) with sensitive skin or fragrance sensitivities. Additionally, the formula is designed to clean effectively while preserving the natural oils in a puppy's coat, maintaining its health and natural balance. The option to add select essential oils offers versatility for specific needs or preferences, further enhancing its suitability for puppies and their unique requirements.

  4. Moisturize Organic Hemp Dog Shampoo with Lemongrass is an excellent choice for puppies, particularly for those with dry and itchy skin while still going through developmental stages or self-detoxing from puppy vaccines. Its organic formulation eliminates synthetic chemicals, ensuring safety and natural care for a puppy's sensitive skin. The shampoo is concentrated, meaning a little goes a long way, making it both effective and economical. Key ingredients like hemp oil, coconut oil, and lemongrass essential oil work together to moisturize dry skin, providing soothing relief for various skin issues such as irritation, dandruff, rashes, and dermatitis. Lemongrass also serves as a natural deodorizer, eliminating the typical "doggy smell," and has properties that make the shampoo useful as a flea deterrent. Its hypoallergenic nature makes it suitable for puppies with sensitive skin. Additionally, the shampoo is designed to be non-comedogenic, meaning it won't block the skin pores, allowing the puppy's skin to breathe and maintain its natural balance. This combination of features makes it a safe and effective option for puppies as well as older pets.

  5. Calm Organic Lavender Dog Shampoo with Calendula and St. John's Wort is an ideal choice for puppies, especially those suffering from dry, itchy skin, atopic dermatitis, or hot spots. This concentrated natural dog shampoo combines organic lavender, calendula, and St. John's Wort, ingredients renowned for their skin-soothing and healing properties. Made with USDA Organic Ingredients, it is particularly gentle on sensitive skin. The natural and organic formulation makes it an excellent option for puppies with itchy skin. The inclusion of natural herbs not only helps heal but also soothes dry skin effectively. As a hypoallergenic dog shampoo, it's suitable for puppies with delicate skin types, providing relief for hot spots and reducing skin inflammation. This blend of calming and healing ingredients makes it a safe and nurturing choice for a puppy's skincare regimen as well as older pets struggling with these same issues.



    We've revealed the difference between puppy shampoo and adult dog shampoo is not as significant as often marketed.

    Many puppy shampoos contain the same ingredients as adult dog shampoos, challenging the notion that they are specially formulated for puppies delicate skin.

    We underscored the importance of avoiding shampoos with artificial fragrances, colors, and harsh preservatives, as these can harm a puppy's sensitive skin.

    We also highlighted the misleading nature of marketing terms like "extra gentle," "tearless," and "pH balanced," which are not always based on scientific facts.

    4-Legger's range of shampoos, which are crafted with 100% natural, sustainably sourced plants, and organic ingredients, free from artificial and synthetic additives are suitable for puppies due to their mild and gentle formulation and have been validated by the USDA Organic Program.

    As you go shopping for puppy shampoo, be sure to focus on the ingredients rather than marketing claims when selecting a shampoo, ensuring a safe and healthy bathing routine for a long life!