Watch Your Pet's Preservatives!

Oct 29th 2018

Can the preservative in my pet product that is meant to heal a skin condition actually aggravate it?


Formaldehyde releasers, which are common preservatives used in body products for pets, can cause increased eczema irritation. Unfortunately, formaldehyde releasers can also have other dangerous health effects even at low levels of exposure. They can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, create mucosal decongestion, create serious respiratory problems, and increase the risk of cancer.

What exactly are Formaldehyde releasers?

When formaldehyde went out of popularity as a preservative because of its strong links to cancer, a "slow releasing" formaldehyde was developed. This new type of formaldehyde releases small amounts of formaldehyde over time, instead of having straight formaldehyde in the product's formulation. There are many alternative preservatives available, but to keep prices low and shelf lives long, many manufacturers are still formulating their products with formaldehyde releasers.

Surely my pet must be safe. Aren’t there laws protecting them?

In the US, there are no restrictions on the levels of formaldehyde allowed in pet grooming products and there are no testing requirements to prove levels of formaldehyde are safe. There are also no obligations for manufacturers to tell customers that the pet grooming products they are using contain an ingredient that has links to cancer, and strong links to allergies and skin irritation. It is also not a requirement for manufacturers to list any of their ingredients on their labels for pet products. Any product you buy will have a preservative, but if it doesn’t list one on the packaging, you may want to ask yourself, “Why?”.

What is DMDM Hydantoin?

It is an antimicrobial formaldehyde releasing preservative. Manufacturers who use DMDM Hydantoin will tell you they are used at low levels and pose less of a risk than formaldehyde. In our opinion, using formaldehyde at any level is not acceptable for healing a skin condition.

What may be listed on the packaging?

DMDM-hydantoin, Glydant, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Germall, Diazolidinyl Urea, Carbamide, Metheneamine, Urotropin, Cystogen, Ammoform, and Ammonioformaldehyde, Quaternium-15, Polyoxymethylene Urea, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and Glyoxal.

In addition, a product that contains slow-releasing formaldehyde increases in the level it contains the longer it sits. When a product is first manufactured, it is less potent in terms of formaldehyde levels than it is after it sits on a shelf in a store, and then under the cabinet when it is purchased and brought home. Since very few pet products come stamped with a "use by" date, as a consumer you have no way of knowing how much formaldehyde has been slowly released in it since it was produced.

The information provided is not to replace proper medical care and guidance. The statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and any recommendation is not intended to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease or condition. Please work with your veterinarian for any health concern.