Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Dog Products

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       Have you ever scanned product labels, perplexed by unfamiliar ingredients and wondering about their safety? You’re not alone. Many products feature compounds you’ve never encountered before, sparking concern about their impact.

In this explorative series, we analyze the perilous and harmful ingredients commonly present in dog products. As pet caregivers, we prioritize our furry friends’ well-being, necessitating an understanding of potential hazards within the items we utilize.

From grooming products to snacks, everyday commodities harbor substances that can endanger our dogs’ health, with cumulative exposure over time magnifying risks. This discussion series aims to illuminate at least 5 harmful commonly used ingredients, their implications on our cherished companions, and offer insights for making wiser choices to safeguard our dogs.

Propriety Blend

When an ingredient is listed as part of a “Proprietary Blend” on a product label, it means that the specific amounts or proportions of the ingredients within that blend are not disclosed. This can pose several hidden dangers for consumers and their Pets:


·      Lack of Transparency: By not knowing the exact amounts of each ingredient in the blend, consumers are kept in the dark about what they are actually consuming. This can make it difficult to assess the potential risks or benefits of the product.


·      Potential Allergens or Sensitivities: Without knowing the exact ingredients and their quantities, individuals with allergies or sensitivities may unknowingly consume something that could trigger an adverse reaction.


·      Ineffective Dosages: The effectiveness of a product often depends on the specific amounts of key ingredients. With a proprietary blend, there’s no way to know if the quantities of these ingredients are sufficient to deliver the desired results.


·      Safety Concerns: Some products may include ingredients that can have negative interactions with certain medications or medical conditions. Without knowing the exact composition of a proprietary blend, consumers may inadvertently expose themselves to risks.


·      Quality Concerns: In some cases, companies may use proprietary blends to mask the use of cheaper or lower-quality ingredients. This lack of transparency makes it challenging for consumers to assess the overall quality of the product.



This lack of information can pose risks to the dog’s health and may lead to adverse reactions or unwanted side effects.  It can be misleading because it does not provide any meaningful information about the actual ingredients used or their respective benefits. This lack of transparency can make it difficult for pet owners to make informed decisions about the products they are using on their dogs.  It is hard to stay well-informed when the ingredients are listed as a “secret.”

confidential top secret

Artificial Fragrances

Fragrance or perfume are terms that can refer to any one of hundreds of chemicals.  Artificial fragrances often contain chemicals that can be irritating or harmful to dogs’ sensitive respiratory systems. Dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, and the potent synthetic fragrances used in products may overwhelm or even trigger allergic reactions in some dogs. This can lead to respiratory distress, sneezing, coughing, or even more severe respiratory issues. 


Additionally, artificial fragrances may contain phthalates, which are chemicals used to enhance the scent and prolong its longevity. Phthalates have been linked to various health concerns, including endocrine disruption and potential carcinogenic effects. Dogs, just like humans, can be exposed to these harmful chemicals through inhalation or skin contact, which can have detrimental effects on their overall health and well-being.


Approximately 90% of fragrances consist of synthetic compounds, totaling over 5,000 different chemicals. These fragrances are present in various items like colognes, cosmetics, medications, foods, personal hygiene products, and cleaning supplies.


It is essential to prioritize the well-being of our furry friends by opting for products that use natural, pet-friendly scents derived from essential oils or other safe alternatives. These products ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience for dogs without compromising their respiratory health or exposing them to potentially harmful chemicals.


Fun Fact – In 2007, the collection of ingredients containing the word “Fragrance” was named “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.

Botanical Blends

The term “Botanical Blends” as an ingredient in products for dogs can be potentially unsafe and misleading for a few reasons.


To start with, the term “Botanical Blends” is quite broad and doesn’t provide specific information about the actual botanical ingredients used or their concentrations. This lack of transparency makes it difficult to assess the safety and potential allergens present in the product. Different botanicals may have varying effects on dogs, and some can be toxic or cause adverse reactions in certain individuals.


Secondly, some botanicals may not be suitable for dogs due to their specific physiology and metabolism. Dogs have different sensitivities and tolerances compared to humans, and what may be safe for humans may not necessarily be safe for dogs. Certain botanicals can be toxic to dogs, causing gastrointestinal upset, liver damage, or other adverse effects. 


To ensure the safety of dogs, it’s crucial to use products with transparent labeling that clearly specify the botanical ingredients, their concentrations, and any potential risks or contraindications. Additionally, consulting with a veterinarian is advisable to determine if specific botanicals are safe and appropriate for your dog’s individual health needs.


The use of extracts as ingredients in products for dogs can be potentially unsafe for a few reasons. It’s important to note that not all extracts are unsafe for dogs, but certain factors should be considered.


The safety of extracts depends on the specific type of extract used. Some plant extracts may contain compounds that are toxic or allergenic to dogs. For example, certain essential oil extracts, like tea tree oil or citrus extracts, can be harmful to dogs if ingested or applied directly to their skin. These extracts can cause skin irritation, gastrointestinal upset, or even more severe reactions.


Secondly, the concentration and purity of the extract can also play a significant role in safety. High concentrations or improper dilution of extracts can increase the risk of adverse effects. Additionally, the quality and sourcing of the extract can vary, potentially leading to variations in potency or the presence of contaminants that could be harmful to dogs.


Furthermore, individual dogs may have different sensitivities or allergies to specific extracts. What may be safe for one dog could cause an adverse reaction in another. It’s important to be aware of any known allergies or sensitivities that your dog may have and avoid using products containing extracts that could trigger such reactions. 


To ensure the safety of extracts in products for dogs, it’s crucial to use them in appropriate concentrations, sourced from reputable suppliers, and follow recommended guidelines for their use. Consulting with a veterinarian is also advisable to determine if specific extracts are safe for your dog and to address any individual health concerns.

Artificial Colors & Dyes

The use of artificial colors as ingredients in products for dogs can be potentially unsafe for several reasons.


1. Allergic Reactions: Artificial colors, such as FD&C dyes, have been associated with allergic reactions in some dogs. These reactions can manifest as skin irritations, itching, redness, or gastrointestinal issues like vomiting or diarrhea. Some dogs may be more sensitive to certain artificial colors than others. Topical skin irritants may contain aluminum. Even low-level exposure has been linked to acne, allergic reactions, nausea, fatigue, and formation of carcinogenic tumors in laboratory rats.


2. Toxicity: Some artificial colors have been linked to potential toxicity in both humans and animals. For example, certain artificial colors, like Red 40 and Yellow 5, have been the subject of concern due to their potential to cause hyperactivity and behavioral issues in sensitive individuals. Dogs may be more susceptible to such reactions since they are generally more sensitive to certain substances.


3. Digestive Disorders: Artificial colors can also pose a risk to dogs’ digestive systems. Some dogs may have difficulty digesting or processing certain artificial colorants, leading to gastrointestinal disturbances. This can result in digestive disorders, including nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

4. Misleading Appearance: The use of artificial colors in dog products can be misleading as they are primarily added for aesthetic purposes. These colors can mask the natural appearance of the product, potentially making it challenging to identify any changes or abnormalities in the dog’s urine, feces, or other bodily fluids. This can hinder the detection of health issues or changes in the dog’s overall well-being.

no food coloring icon

Synthetic Dyes

FD&C Red #40 aka Allura Red AC

FD&C Yellow #5 aka Tartrazine

FD&C Yellow #6 aka Sunset yellow FCF

FD&C Blue #2 aka Indigo carmine

These are synthetic food dye and colorants derived from petroleum, commonly used in various products, including food, beverages, cosmetics, and medications. Linked to learning behaviors and possible cancerous risks.


1. Red 40, Yellow 5, & Yellow 6 contain Benzidine, 4-aminobiphenyl, and 4-aminoazobenzene, which are all known carcinogen for humans and animals. The FDA states that consuming Benzidine, found in these dyes, can elevate the risk of developing Cancer.


2. Blue 2, a petroleum product, is linked to causing hyperactivity and abnormal cancers like Brain cancer.


3. Yellow 5 or Tartrazine is banned in several European countries, due to its genotoxic (DNA damaging) properties.


4. Red #40, contributes to hyperactivity, behavioral changes, allergic reactions, and GI issues like IBS.  


Kobylewski & Jacobson, (2012) reported conclusion, regarding the toxicology of artificial dyes, from their study explains,


All of the nine currently US-approved dyes raise health concerns of varying degrees. Red 3 causes cancer in animals, and there is evidence that several other dyes also are carcinogenic. Three dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) have been found to be contaminated with benzidine or other carcinogens. At least four dyes (Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6) cause hypersensitivity reactions. Numerous microbiological and rodent studies of Yellow 5 were positive for genotoxicity… The inadequacy of much of the testing and the evidence for carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, and hypersensitivity, coupled with the fact that dyes do not improve the safety or nutritional quality of foods, indicates that all of the currently used dyes should be removed from the food supply and replaced, if at all, by safer colorings. It is recommended that regulatory authorities require better and independent toxicity testing, exercise greater caution regarding continued approval of these dyes, and in the future approve only well-tested, safe dyes. 


A Natural Alternative:

PawsnBoots, was created with a core principle in mind, every ingredient included in our products must not only be safe, but also must provide positive nutritional benefits on dogs.

By adhering to this principle, we automatically exclude any and all artificial colors, dyes, and flavors in our products.

At PawsnBoots, we exclusively incorporate top-quality, natural, and organic ingredients in all our grooming products. We are committed to providing our beloved pups with safe, human-grade skincare products that not only enhance their health but also reflect the care they deserve.

So, how do we achieve the colors in our products? With the use of natural colors like Beetroot, Turmeric, or Phycocyanin. Not only do these ingredients provide the necessary coloring to our products, but they are also packed with nutrients and health benefits.

In our quest to safeguard our beloved pets, we’ve unveiled just the tip of the iceberg regarding harmful ingredients lurking in everyday dog products. As we go deeper into this series, we’ll unravel even more hidden dangers, empowering you with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions for your furry friends. Stay tuned for the next installment, where we’ll shed light on additional hazardous ingredients and explore ways to keep our dogs safe and healthy.


Jacobs . (2014b, November). Review ACDS’ Allergen of the Year 2000-2015.

Kobylewski, S., & Jacobson, M. (2012, September 18). Toxicology of food dyes. International journal of occupational and environmental health. 


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