What is Dog Whitening Shampoo? Does it work? (Vet Explains)

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dog whitening shampoo

You come home from a restful vacation and retrieve your precious Maltese pooch from the kennel. When you get home, you notice her coat is dingy and has grass stains. The groomer is booked out for weeks. What do you do?

When owners called me with this type of dilemma, I would point them to dog-safe whitening shampoo. I took the time to explain that by choosing the right type of product, pup parents should be able to remove stains and restore their furbaby’s coat to a sparkling, snowy-white appearance.

Just what is dog whitening shampoo, and does it really work? In this post, we’ll strive to answer these questions and explain how different types of whitening formulas work. We’ll talk about how safe the products are for adult dogs as well as puppies. Once we cover those details, we’ll explain how often you can wash your dog with a whitening shampoo and how long it takes these products to work.

You may be wondering, what if I grab the wrong product and wash my black dog with whitening shampoo? We’ll talk about that question and look at the active ingredients in different whitening formulations. Before we finish, we’ll provide an overview of some popular dog whitening brands.

So, let’s get started.

What Is Dog Whitening Shampoo

Over time, a pooch with a beautiful white coat can start to look dull and dingy. Like human teeth,  hair can acquire stains and buildup that affect its appearance and luster. 

A dog whitening shampoo is specifically made for dogs with white coats. They’re usually formulated to remove stains and brighten your pup’s fur, and they come in different varieties. Depending on which one you choose, the shampoo may brighten the coat, remove stains and build-up on the coat, or bleach the hair. The ingredients in some of these products are more gentle than others on your pal’s skin and coat. 

Whitening dog shampoos are made to restore the striking beauty of dogs with white coats. They come in different formulations which can brighten the fur, remove stains, or bleach the hair. Depending on the variety you choose, the ingredients may be somewhat gentle or quite harsh on your pup’s hair and skin.

Does Dog Whitening Shampoo Work?

Pup parents report that quality whitening shampoos work, but the results can vary. The effectiveness of whitening shampoo depends on your dog’s breed and hair type as well as which product you use. Dogs with a finer coat like a bichon or poodle have more porous hair, so their coat will absorb more product and will respond better than coarse-haired breeds like terriers. 

Another thing that boosts product effectiveness is the frequency of use. If you shampoo your pup every few months, you’ll have less noticeable improvement than if you use a whitening product every other week. Because some of the ingredients can be harsh, not all dogs can tolerate frequent applications. Observe your pooch carefully when you use these products.

Dog whitening shampoos do work, but the results can vary depending on the type you use, your dog’s breed and coat type, and the frequency of application. For best results, you should use the product every few weeks. However, certain ingredients may be too harsh for some dogs, so watch your pooch.

Is Dog Whitening Shampoo Safe?

That depends on the ingredients in the formula. Many of the popular dog whitening shampoos are safe to use on your pooch because they tend to contain wholesome, natural ingredients.

To determine if a shampoo is safe for your pooch, check the label. If the formula is pH balanced and free of parabens, sulfates, and synthetic ingredients, you’re on the right track. You should avoid products with harsh chemicals like bleach because they can damage the hair. Some substances could also harm your pooch if he licks his fur after you apply the solution to the fur. It’s best to choose a product with natural ingredients.

Most dog whitening shampoos are safe to use on your pooch, but you should always check the label first. Avoid products with parabens, sulfates, synthetic ingredients, and harsh chemicals. Fortunately, many of the whitening formulas for dogs contain natural ingredients.

How Does Dog Whitening Shampoo Work?

The way dog whitening shampoo works depends on the type or class of shampoo you choose. 

  • Bleaching Shampoos – These formulas remove the color from the coat to leave behind white hair. Using harsh chemicals, the products can harm your dog and damage the skin. We don’t recommend bleaching shampoos for dogs.
  • Clarifying Shampoos – With clarifying shampoos, the chemicals in the formula open up the skin cuticle allowing the shampoo to strip away dirt and build-up. They’re helpful for removing clay-based soils, urine buildup, and grass stains. These formulas can dry the skin and hair. If you use them, follow up with a conditioner to add moisture.
  • Bluing Shampoos – Formulated with optical brighteners, bluing shampoos work by masking stains and emphasizing the white in the coat. They absorb some light waves and convert UV light waves to reflect blue light. The stain is not actually removed, but the brighteners fool your eye into seeing only white.
  • Enzymatic Shampoos – Enzymatic shampoos contain enzymes that dissolve particles and proteins that cause discoloring stains. These formulas can be harsh and irritating to the skin. They may be best for spot cleaning.

Dog whitening shampoos work differently depending on the type of formula you use. Bleaching shampoos strip color from the hair; clarifying shampoos strip dirt and build-up from the cuticle; bluing shampoos emphasize white and mask stains; enzymatic shampoos break down stain-causing proteins to clean the hair.

How Often Should I Use a Whitening Shampoo On My Dog?

In general, dogs need to be bathed at least once every 2 to 3 months. However, if a pooch frequently gets dirty or picks up stains, you can wash him more frequently. In order to prevent damaging the acid barrier or drying out the skin, avoid washing your furbaby more than every few weeks. 

When it comes to whitening shampoos, you can use formulas with natural ingredients as often as you shampoo, if needed. However, it’s best to follow up with a conditioner to prevent drying the skin and hair. Depending on the stain, some dogs may require whitening baths every few weeks, while others may only need it on an occasional, as-needed basis. 

If you use a formula with natural ingredients, you can bathe your pooch with a whitening shampoo every few weeks as needed. You should use a conditioner whenever you wash with whitening products to help prevent drying the skin and hair.

How Long Does It Take For a Whitening Shampoo to Work?

When it comes to whitening shampoos, the time it takes to get the desired effect can vary depending on the type of formula you use. The best thing to do is carefully read and follow the label instructions for application and contact time.  

Generally, for minor stains, you’ll need to leave the shampoo on the fur for at least a few minutes. More challenging discolorations may require 5 to 10 minutes of contact time. Start with the darkest stained areas and finish with less affected parts of the fur. When you reach the desired contact time, rinse your pup’s coat thoroughly to remove all shampoo.

Contact time varies depending on the formula and the severity of the stain. You may be able to leave the shampoo on the fur for a few minutes, but in some cases, it may take 5 to 10 minutes to get the desired results. Read and follow the instructions on the label.

Is Dog Whitening Shampoo Safe For Puppies?

Puppy skin is far more sensitive than dog skin, so adult versions of dog whitening shampoo are not safe for puppies. The ingredients tend to be harsh and can irritate sensitive skin.

If you have a young pooch with stained fur, you should look for a specially formulated shampoo that’s pH-balanced for puppies. Look for extra-gentle, tear-free solutions. Choose products made with natural ingredients that include soothing materials like aloe, coconut, or oatmeal to support the skin.

Whitening shampoo for adult dogs is usually too harsh for extra sensitive puppy skin. It’s best to find a product that’s pH balanced for puppies and specially formulated to be gentle and tear-free.

What Would Happen If I Wash My Black Dog With Whitening Shampoo?

The results of using whitening shampoo on a black dog will vary depending on the type of shampoo you use. Because clarifying and enzymatic shampoos work to remove dirt, these formulas shouldn’t alter the color, but they may enhance the coat’s appearance. However, products with optical enhancers, bleach, or bluing agents may cause your pup’s coat to turn orange or another undesired color.

Enzymatic shampoos and clarifying formulas should not change coat color, and they may enhance the appearance. Shampoos with bleach, bluing agents, or optical enhancers can potentially turn the coat to orange color when used improperly.

Dog Whitening Shampoo Active Ingredients Overview

The common active ingredients in dog whitening shampoo can vary by the type of formula you choose.

  • Bleaching shampoo – Bleaching shampoos rely on ingredients like bleach or peroxide that strip color from the cuticle. These are harsh chemicals that can dry and damage the skin.
  • Bluing shampoo – These products use optical brighteners such as those used in laundry detergent. They trick the eye by reflecting or absorbing light and are generally safe for your dog’s hair and skin. 
  • Enzymatic shampoo – Using specific enzymes, such as those found in awapuhi extract or surfactants, these types of shampoos digest the proteins that cause stains. They can be harsh on the coat and should be used with a conditioner.
  • Clarifying shampoo – When it comes to clarifying shampoo, the most common ingredients include acetic acid, lauryl sulfate, and possibly other surfactants. These formulas tend to be harsh and have an acidic pH. Use with caution.

The active ingredients in whitening shampoo for dogs can vary depending on the type of formula you use. Bleaching shampoos commonly use bleach or peroxide while bluing shampoos often use materials similar to those used in some laundry detergents. Enzymatic and clarifying formulas often include surfactants to break down dirt and stains.

Is Hartz Whitening Shampoo Safe?

Including moisturizers and conditioners for the coat and skin, the shampoo cleans and softens the coat. However, the formula also has harmful ingredients such as Sodium Laureth sulfate, Cocamidopropyl betaine, and PEGs. These products can dry or irritate the skin, hair loss, and potential organ damage. Many of the other ingredients in the product are synthetic, not natural.

On the positive side, Hartz Whitening Shampoo contains almond extract and is free of alcohol, parabens, and sulfates, which are some of the most dangerous shampoo ingredients. The label states this product is an extra-gentle formula that’s pH balanced for dogs. Unfortunately, the potentially toxic ingredients mentioned in the first paragraph make this a risky product for your pooch.

While Hartz Whitening Shampoo is free of alcohol, parabens, and sulfates, it does include some potentially harmful and irritating substances. While there are positive aspects of the shampoo, the potentially toxic ingredients mean this could be a risky product for Fido.

Overview of Popular Dog Whitening Shampoo Brands

With so many choices on the market, how can you know which one is best for your pooch? Start by understanding the types of whitening shampoos. Once you select between bleaching, clarifying, enzymatic, or bluing, check the label for safe, natural ingredients. Let’s look at 9 popular whitening formulas.

TropiClean Whitening Awapuhi & Coconut Shampoo

Formulated without soap, parabens, or sulfates, this whitening shampoo from Tropiclean relies on natural ingredients to clarify your pet’s coat. With mild coconut cleanser and oatmeal, it’s made to be gentle and soothing for your pooch. Less than 2% of the formula is a proprietary blend that includes vitamin E and FDA approved fragrance. It’s safe for dogs, compatible with flea treatments, and pH balanced. For best results, leave the product in for 3 to 5 minutes then rinse completely.

Veterinary Formula Solutions Snow White Whitening Shampoo for Dogs

This bluing formula contains no peroxide or bleach, and it is also paraben and sulfate-free. Including vitamin E to support the hair and green tea extract to stimulate hair growth, the product softens the coat. It’s compatible with flea treatments and pH-balanced for dog skin. It uses a gentle, coconut-based cleanser to clean the coat and has fragrance and natural pigments. It’s best to apply the formula to the coat and leave it in for several minutes before rinsing your pooch.

Wahl White Pear Brightening Shampoo for Pets – Whitening & Animal Odor Control

Paraben, PEG, and alcohol-free, this product from Wahl uses an optical brightener to enhance the white in your pup’s coat. Gentle plant-derived cleansers include the ingredients Sodium Laureth sulfate and Cocamidopropyl betaine, which are potentially harmful to dogs. A light pear fragrance helps to leave your pup smelling fresh. Be sure to rinse the solution completely after bathing.

Bio-Groom Super White Dog Shampoo

Free of parabens and dyes, this bluing shampoo from Bio-Groom is formulated with pearlescent brighteners. It relies on coconut-derived cleansers to gently clean the coat and leave it soft. The product also has alcohol and PEG-based ingredients, which are considered potentially harmful. A soft floral fragrance helps to keep your pooch smelling fresh.

Healthy Breeds Bright Whitening Dog Shampoo for White & Lighter Fur

Made with the Maltese breed in mind, this product is formulated to whiten your dog’s coat. It’s pH balanced and includes colloidal oatmeal to moisturize and soothe the skin. While the product is free of sulfates and bleach, it does contain parabens, ammonium lauryl sulfate, and other potentially harmful ingredients. 

Bark 2 Basics Brighten White Dog Shampoo

Relying on naturally derived ingredients, this brightening shampoo from Bark 2 Basics uses chamomile extract to bring out the white in your dog’s coat. Natural surfactants and preservatives make the product safe for puppies over 8 weeks as well as dogs. When used as directed, this shampoo will not interfere with flea treatments.

Nature’s Miracle Supreme Whitening Odor Control Shampoo

This enzymatic whitening shampoo from Nature’s Miracle uses natural ingredients to clean your dog’s coat and remove stains. It also provides long-term odor control and is safe to use with flea and tick treatments. Cocoa surfactant cleans and moisturizes the coat. The product is free of parabens, sulfates, alcohol, and other potentially harmful substances.

Lillian Ruff Brightening & Whitening Shampoo for Dogs

As a brightening shampoo, this product from Lillian Ruff is safe for puppies but made to clean and whiten your dog’s coat. It’s paraben, sulfate, and gluten-free, and it’s infused with aloe to nourish and soothe the skin. The product does contain alcohol, fragrance, and some color that could irritate the skin.

Earthbath Coat Brightening Shampoo for Dogs

Earthbath brightening shampoo is formulated to enhance your dog’s natural coat color. With gentle cleansers and optical brighteners, the product relies on coconut-based surfactants to clean your pup’s coat. There are no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, alcohol, or other harsh ingredients in the product. It’s pH balanced and designed to be safe for puppies and dogs over 6 weeks old.

Whitening shampoos vary depending on the type you select, but it’s best to look for products with natural ingredients. Of all the products above, we recommend Tropiclean whitening shampoo. It includes awapuhi to clarify the coat and remove stains, and it contains gentle cleansers and moisturizers for the skin and hair. 

The Final Woof

Pup parents of white-coated dogs can help keep their furbabies looking their best with dog whitening shampoo. These formulas generally work well, but their effectiveness will depend on your canine companion’s coat type, the nature of stains or discoloration, the type of whitening shampoo that you choose, and how often you apply one of these formulas. 

Generally considered safe for pups, whitening solutions made with natural ingredients can be applied as often as you would use a normal shampoo. When you select a product for your pooch, always check the label to ensure there are no potentially harmful ingredients in the formula and follow the application directions. Using these solutions improperly can cause coat discoloration or may be irritating to your pooch.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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