An Interview With 4-Legger

4-Legger® Interview by TopDogTips®

1. So many dog grooming products do more harm than good, but most pet owners don't realize that. How are most traditional grooming products harmful to pets? There are two ways that traditional grooming products are more harmful.  The root problem stems from the fact that there are no regulations in the pet grooming  industry for ingredient purity and standards for marketing. The first, ingredient purity, is where it is easy to get confused.  A manufacturer may start with an ingredient that was derived from a coconut; but, that ingredient was the product of many chemical reactions. The ingredients used to initiate the chemical reaction may have links to cancer or other health issues. When they purchase that ingredient to manufacture their dog shampoo, they don’t test it to make sure it is 1,4­dioxane free. There is no regulation that requires the testing and it is expensive. The 1,4­dioxane is considered a “contaminant” and does not have to be listed as an ingredient. All the pet parent sees is something like “naturally derived coconut” on the label. There have been no studies that tested dog shampoo for 1,4­dioxane so as pet parents, we have no idea how many are contaminated. We do know that in 2008, when the Organic Consumers Association tested 100 common brands of human grade products to look for 1,4­dioxane, it was found in a shocking 46% of, I’ll say it again, human rade products, where there are regulations! The second is marketing. If you want to see me get on my soap box, just put some bottles of dog shampoo in front of me. But seriously, look at the labels or read the marketing materials. You’ll see everything from medicated, tear free, all natural, organic, clinical vet formula, vegan, cruelty free, hypoallergenic, odor eliminator, restores essential oils, will make your dog’s coat thicker, formulated by a pharmacist, proprietary ingredients, proprietary moisturizing agents, to seeing the words certified organic on dog shampoo that clearly isn’t! To me, this is worse than the issue of ingredient purity. At least you can learn to recognize ingredients and avoid them. The bottom line is, as a pet parent, you need to learn some basics on identifying safe and non­toxic grooming products.

2. What are some common ingredients that dog owners should stay away from when purchasing dog grooming products? One of the first things we did was develop a list of ingredients that would never be in any 4­Legger pet product. Some of the biggies are ● The “sulfates” like sodium laureth sulfate ­ just look for words ending in “­ate” ● Artificial colors ­ How can a dog shampoo be both natural and hot pink or bright blue in color? ● Artificial fragrance ● Cocamide DEA, MEA, or TEA ● Cocamidopropyl betaine ● EDTA ● The commonly used formaldehyde based preservatives: DMDM Hydantoin, Doazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, and Quaternium­15 ● Preservatives Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone ● Methylparaben & Parabens ● Phthalates ● Propylene glycol ● Polyethylene glycol

3. What should pet owners be looking for when shopping for grooming products? For example, ingredients, how the product is made, etc… Unfortunately, due to the lack of regulations for ingredient purity and standards in marketing, this is a tough question. The simple answer is to look at the ingredients in 4­Legger’s dog shampoo: saponified organic oils with organic aloe vera, essential oils, and rosemary extract. Dog shampoo made with saponified oils are gentle compared to those that are detergent based. Essential oils are used for the aroma and it’s natural properties ­ such as its ability to moisturize skin. The more complex answer is that each pet parent will have to develop their own process of elimination to determine what they are comfortable using on their furry family member. They will also have to read past the marketing materials to focus on the ingredients and the product appearance. While I do think this a personal choice for every pet parent, I want to point out that approximately 50% of our dogs will die from cancer. Only 5% of these cancers are genetic. The remaining 95% are lifestyle and environmentally based. Pet parents can make their own decision on where they want to reduce their dog’s exposure to environmental toxins but grooming product manufacturers haven’t made it easy. You can’t look at a single ingredient that is linked to skin irritation in sensitive pets and think “My dog doesn’t have sensitive skin, so I can use that.”. That ingredient may be contaminated with the toxic ingredients used to derive it and that ingredient won’t be listed on the label. The easy route is to avoid all products with  Cocamide DEA, MEA, or TEA, Cocamidopropyl betaine and the sulfates. If the product says it is sulfate free, look at a picture to see if the product has a lot of bubbles. Where there are bubbles, there are probably sulfates. Next, look for obvious synthetic or petroleum based ingredients like color or fragrance. If you don’t see color or fragrance listed on the ingredients, look at the product. Is it a “natural” color? Do reviewers mention a fragrance? Finally, look at what preservatives are being used. Many dog grooming product manufacturers will tell you that the percent of a formaldehyde based preservative is so low in the product that safety is a non­issue. If you look at all of the combined ingredients in the bottle, a low percentage here, a low percentage there, they start to add up to the majority of the product being developed with ingredients with known links to health issues. We’ve even seen shampoos that use both formaldehyde and the “methyl sisters” as we call them (Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone). This is double your exposure to ingredients that have known links to health issues.

4. Can you tell me a bit about 4-Legger and how/why it was started? That is a very emotional question for me. On the morning of November 22, 2013, my toy poodle, Henry Clay passed away from cancer. Later that same afternoon I got the phone call that my biopsy was positive. I had breast cancer. During chemotherapy my cell counts hit rock bottom or what they called “infection fatal”. Meaning, if I got an infection my body wouldn’t be able to fight it. My oncologist talked to us about keeping my environment as germ free as possible which included taking off shoes and changing clothes when entering the house, frequent hand washing, and, if I wanted the dogs to sit with me, frequent dog washes. Our dogs had a history of having itchy skin. With the increase in baths, they had full blown dandruff. It wasn’t long before we had a dozen bottles of “all natural” dog shampoo in the bathroom ­ trying to find one that would help. Looking at all of those bottles lined up in the bathroom was really an eye opening moment because they were all well­known brands and we had believed the claims on the label were true.   We started reading the ingredients and comparing them to one another. We discovered there wasn’t much difference between the brands and none of the ingredients sounded very natural. Some of the “organic” shampoos only had organic in the title or they had a few organic ingredients mixed with ingredients that were linked to dry and itchy skin. We felt like we had been tricked. When we started researching the ingredients, we found that many of the ingredients in our “all natural” dog shampoo were linked to dry and itchy skin, hormone disruption, and other health issues, including cancer. Seeing the “C” word tied to ingredients that I had used on Henry Clay, while I was literally fighting for my own life left me with one thought:  “I owed it to Henry Clay to do better”.  Even though it was too late to make changes that might’ve saved his life, I had other dogs and was determined to not make the same mistakes with them.  Everybody I know that has pets loves them and would do anything for them to keep them safe, and like me ­ believe the marketing claims at face value.  When I realized that this very traumatic experience in my life could serve a bigger purpose and help pet parents understand the consequences of many products commonly used on their pets, it became my mission going forward.

5. Your products are Certified Organic. Can you explain what that means and why it is such a HUGE benefit? In an industry that lacks regulation and standards, we wanted the additional oversight. This stemmed from our frustration with reading labels and feeling like we were being lied to by manufacturers who cared more about making money than they did about the safety and welfare of our 4­legged family members. In order to be used in an organically certified product, every ingredient must either be certified to NOP (National Organic Program) standards which are governed by the USDA, or must have been grown and harvested in a manner compliant with NOP regulation.  We wanted pet parents to know that our ingredients have been reviewed throughout their lifecycle ­ starting from where and how they are grown, to how they were harvested, processed, transported, manufactured, packaged and shipped.  When a product is certified organic, that means there is a literal paper trail to prove its certification requirements.  This level of scrutiny prevents manufacturers from making organic claims that are false however, it is largely up to pet parents to report violations to the NOP for enforcement. This is why it is so important for pet parents to have a proper understanding of what “organic” means and how they can identify products that truly are organic from ones that are not. Pet parents pay, on average, 21% more for products with the words “all natural” on the label. If you are going to pay more, don’t you want a product that really is all natural?  Only products that are certified organic to the USDA NOP standards ARE all natural!

6. hat are the differences that owners will notice between 4-legger products and the cheaper products they can find at big box stores? The biggest difference is, by far, the consistency. We don't  add the synthetic thickeners that are in traditional dog shampoo and as a result we often hear “It is thin”.  We are very upfront about the consistency and caution people to not turn the bottle over and pour it out over their dog. Use a little ­ it will go a long way! The second difference is the use of natural essential oils instead of artificial fragrance. The lavender will smell like real lavender ­ not synthetic lavender. You have to laugh when someone says, “This doesn’t smell like this other lavender product I’ve used.” You look up that lavender product to discover that it is all synthetic. No wonder!

7. Are there certain conditions (dry skin, for example) that require special grooming products? Do 4-Legger products cater to these needs? We are big users of and strong believers in essential oils and this extends to 4­Legger. We developed the unscented formulation for dogs who have very sensitive skin and need an ultra gentle hypoallergenic formulation, or dogs that are sensitive to aroma. It is also perfect for adding your own essential oils. This goes beyond the skin and coat. An older dog with cognitive issues may benefit from a few drops of Frankincense essential oil. Or a few drops of Copaiba Balsam essential oil for arthritis. That being said, it is very important to be well­educated in the use of essential oils before trying to mix your own formulations.  Essential oils are nature’s medication and they are very effective in providing holistic alternatives to man­made, synthetic ingredients.  There are many exceptional resources for education about essential oils and many communities are fortunate to have holistic veterinary clinics where essential oils are used in practice,  instead of traditional chemical­based treatments. The lemongrass and aloe formulation is also hypoallergenic and perfect for dogs with normal to dry skin and coats. You can also use it on dogs with oily coats but; should be ready for the coat to feel a little waxy during the bath. Once rinsed off, dried, and brushed, the coat will look fantastic. Lemongrass is a natural skin toner and deodorizer with antioxidant, anti­fungal and antimicrobial qualities. While it is known to also be a natural muscle relaxant, for the first time the other day we got a review where someone’s dog fell asleep during their lemongrass and aloe bath! I don’t think that is a typical result but clearly both pup and parent were happy with the “spa­like” experience they had! The oatmeal, lavender and aloe formulation is good for all skin types except those with an oatmeal allergy or an undiagnosed skin problem. The oatmeal may provide a carbohydrate food source for yeast and bacteria ­ contributing to the skin problem. We recommend using our healing balm on paw pads before walks, at night when they are the most relaxed, and on noses if needed. Just like your skin gets dry, so does theirs. It is important to keep it moisturized. It’s important to note that 4­Legger products are NOT medicated except by the natural benefits of essential oils and certified organic ingredients.  If your dog is having an active issue with any type of condition, it needs to be properly diagnosed by your veterinarian.  Our products won’t heal an active condition (like a yeast infection), but it can help your dog's immune system to restore and balance itself naturally.

8. Is there anything else that you'd like to share about pet grooming products, the pet product industry or 4-Legger? Two more things I’d like to share. The base of our shampoo is saponified organic oils, commonly referred to as Castile soap. Over the years, soap has gotten a bad reputation. I want to set the record straight. A natural byproduct of saponifying oils (or making soap) is glycerin. Glycerin is what makes your hands feel so good when you wash with a product that has retained it throughout the manufacturing process.   It is really nice stuff and until recent years glycerin was a natural byproduct that remained in the final product.  The problem is, many soap manufacturers learned they could remove the glycerin from the saponification process and then re­sell the glycerin instead of leaving it in the product. Glycerin can fetch big dollars, especially by manufacturers who want to mask inferior ingredients and not surprisingly, the modified soap they make is vastly inferior in quality. The lower percentage of glycerin in the inferior soaps do in fact leave your hands (and dog) feeling dry.  ALL of the glycerin is retained in our shampoo and you wil be able to tell the difference between our high quality shampoo and an inferior product.  The point is, that soap is not a dirty word!  It’s just important to know that some manufacturers take advantage of making an extra buck by substituting  inferior softeners for the naturally­occurring glycerin and then turning around and selling the glycerin as a separate product. The vast majority of our customers have noticed differences in their dog's skin and coat within just one or two washes. That said, I want to point out that our dogs are more than just their exterior. Like their humans, dogs are whole systems. If they are being fed inferior food or suffer from undiagnosed allergies, it will show in their skin and coat. Since they can’t tell us what’s wrong, you will need to be patient while figuring out the underlying cause of the skin condition using a process of elimination. If your dog is having severe issues, start with our unscented and move up to the lemongrass and aloe. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about 4­Legger and helping us spread our two­fold mission of educating pet parents on the ingredients in pet grooming products and providing a safe, effective, non­toxic alternative to help our pets leave healthier and happier lives.

Melissa Boland ­ co­owner 4­Legger

Angela Copple ­ co­owner 4­Legger

Original Interview May 2016 All Rights Reserved | Content Permission Required