By Kim Rain
Published: 12/04/2021, edited: 12/04/2021
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Some dogs love to sport their groomed look while strutting through the neighborhood or local dog park. Short bangs, trimmed paws and legs, and other pawfect looks can instill confidence in a dog, giving them a sense of pride and comfort.
Encore, however, gets applause whenever he shows off his Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat impression from Alice in Wonderland! Seen in the documentary, “Well Groomed,” this Poodle is involved in creative grooming, a type of dog grooming that features dyes and elaborate designs for competitive grooming shows. While some may say that Encore loves the attention, the preparation of getting ready for a show takes around 20 to 40 hours of time on the table getting his hair cut, dyed and styled. Who knows if he likes that, or if it’s causing any health problems?
While creative grooming is a growing trend, there are owners who may just want to celebrate the holidays with a red and green streak in their pooch’s tail, or give their dog pink highlights around their ears and feet. But there are opponents to dyeing dog fur that say the practice is unethical and dangerous.
Is it safe to dye your dog’s fur? Let’s find out!
In the ethical debate surrounding dyeing dog fur, there’s passionate voices on both sides. Fans of creative grooming say that dogs love the attention they get from their wild designs, and the long time on the table increases the bond between them and their owners. While some designs can take a year to complete, the groomers say individual sessions are only a couple hours long.
Critics of dyeing dog fur bark about the unethical practice of turning our best furry pals into accessories rather than being treated like the intelligent animals they really are. Dogs don’t get to choose whether or not they want to be purple or orange, or have their hair shaped into the Lion King. The long hours forced to stand on a table for an owner’s pleasure is cruel, and could be quite stressful. And the dyes themselves could change how a dog’s fur smells, causing aggression and problems with other dogs, creating more psychological stress.
Sporting different colors and looks can be fun, but dyeing your dog can be downright dangerous. Dyes made for human use contain toxic chemicals, a fact that some amateur, home groomers may not know. Hair dyes and highlights can cause skin irritation which can include itching and burning, and could be lethal! In 2018, a Maltese almost died from severe burns after undergoing a purple die job using human hair dye!
A dog’s skin can also be sensitive to other chemicals used when dyeing hair, such as ammonia and hydrogen peroxide. And if they lick any of these products off their fur, they could end up in the emergency room with diarrhea and vomiting.
Creative groomers are required to use dog-safe dyes, which come in semi-permanent and permanent in many colors, and are made from less toxic materials. If you are considering dyeing your dog, always use these dog-safe dyes, and be sure to read all the ingredients and look up anything you don’t recognize as these products are not regulated. While these dyes seem to be much safer for pups, studies have not been conducted about the long-term effects of dyeing your dog, so always use caution and talk with your veterinarian if you have questions.
If you decide to dye your dog’s ears and paws your local team’s colors for the big game day, be sure you find out if its legal in your state, or you might be looking at a fine or misdemeanor charge. While most states in the U.S. haven’t drawn a line quite yet, there are four that have decided to ban dyeing dog fur.
Now that you’ve gotten past all the issues and limitations, if you are still planning to put some color in your dog’s life, there are some tips to ensure your dog stays safe.
So, is dyeing your dog safe? While we can't be sure any chemical product is 100% safe, as long as you practice safe techniques and use dog-friendly products, dyeing your dog can be a fun and creative bonding experience that is sure to gather looks wherever your dog goes.
If your dog is at risk of being exposed to chemicals such as those in hair dyes, check out our pet insurance comparison tool to make sure they are covered when medical emergencies strike. Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like Figo and Healthy Paws.
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