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Formulating for your furry friends

July 10, 2013

I am pathetically allergic to most animals even though I will myself not to be as I love them so much so when the opportunity to work on a pet care brand arrises to work  I go barking mad with excitement! Luckily I get plenty of chance to practice my furry formulating skills these days and as such wanted to share a few tips and tricks with you, just in case you share my passion.

Nigella piggie

So, what are some of the things that one has to consider when formulating for a pet?

ID the animal.

Sounds obvious but……….Just like we do when we formulate for people it is important to identify your target audience and then get to know what their special features are.  For example, you may be wanting to make a dog shampoo. This is fine but think about it, there are LOTS of types of dogs with very different fur patterns, sensitivities and sizes.  Break it down some more to enable more specific research.  Reputable breeders can be a great source of info on any quirks of a breed and please make sure you talk to a vet or pet dermatologist just to get an understanding of any breed-specific sensitivities. Same goes with cats but things like horses, guinea pigs and rabbits are usually a bit more uniform (in terms of the types people have as pets).

Sonny dog

Research your chemistry.

Ingredients used in human products may be toxic to your pet OR may just be very attractive and end up in their tummy – not always a good idea!  Again this is where a good vet or animal health professional can help, especially when it comes to herbs, essential oils, preservatives and perfumes.   Again, make sure you focus your research in an applied way by thinking about the pet, the product and how the two will interact.  For example Aloe Vera can be very toxic for dogs but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add it to a shampoo. The toxicity is related to ingestion rather than topical application so as long as you make your aloe shampoo un-appealing to eat they should be able to enjoy the benefits without the stomach ache.

Application matters.

OK so now you have to get down and dirty with some hands-on R&D work.  Your formula may be great for your average human but will it spread over your big fur ball?  Will it sting their eyes or dry their skin?  Does it stay on if you need it to?  Can it be rinsed off quickly?   Most pets are covered in hair and as such any product has to be able to spread through that coat in an even and economical way.  This sounds obvious but it is easy to forget when you are busy in the lab mixing up a dream product that looks great to you but is going nowhere on your pet!

Rudy and daisy

Smells you like.

Aroma really matters to your pet as it is one of the key ways that they communicate.  While pet owners love their beast to smell of roses many pets will find it depressing and socially degrading – I’m not joking!  Also be aware that aromas can affect a pets mood making them either more relaxed or hyper.  You can use this knowledge to your advantage if you have the experience, if not then do your research or get someone like us to run testing for you.


Just because we love things to be ‘pH balanced to 5.5’ doesn’t mean that your pet will.  The skin of a your pet will have a different pH balance to yours and that needs to be respected unless you want to give them an acid peel while you are at it!


Oils and grease balls.

Furry animals don’t sweat like we do and as such don’t produce a build up of oily dirt on their coats.  Most of the dirt and smell you see is from their lifestyle (rolling in the mud or horse poo maybe), from scent glands or from a possible infection site.  A harsh clean with detergent is probably not going to do the pet much good at all, especially given that this is an ‘un-natural’ situation for them even if you are using the greenest of green ingredients so go easy and formulate as if the pet is very sensitive.

Packaging and brand issues.

OK so unless you have a pet prodigy it will be the owner rather than the animal that does the purchasing.  This means that you also have to research the owner  – who would own a pet like that?  What money do they have? DO they see their pet as a handbag accessory, a best friend, a baby or a work mate?  Brand accordingly so that your hard work doesn’t get overlooked.



Just like for human products pet products are grouped into the more ‘cosmetic’ and the more ‘active pharmaceutical’.  Pharmaceutical claims are regulated by the APVMA here in Australia and include anti-fungal,  parasite claims, treatment claims and much more.  The regulators are usually really willing to help you out with information so if in doubt ask BEFORE you make and bottle 20,0000 units of good stuff.

If that all sounds too much for you then don’t despair, it’s all in a day’s work for us so give us a call and we will see what we can do to make your pet’s clean and shiny dreams come true!




One Comment leave one →
  1. July 10, 2013 11:00 pm

    I love puppies!!!

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