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Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe For Dogs? Is It Effective For Cleaning?

dishwashing detergent dispenser on a woman's hand

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Vet, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Whether it’s romping in the mud or rolling in the smelliest item they can find, dogs always seem to find a way to get smelly and dirty. If you find yourself out of doggy shampoo with a pup in desperate need of a bath, you might wonder if the solution lies in your kitchen.  Dawn dish soap, one of the most popular dishwashing liquids, is also safe to use on your dog, but it is not recommended for regular bathing.

In this article, we’ll discuss whether Dawn dish soap is effective for cleaning your dog and why it’s not a good idea to use it frequently.

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Dawn Dish Soap Is Safe But Is It Effective?

Most of us are probably aware that Dawn dish soap is commonly used to clean wildlife caught in oil spills. Gentle enough to clean even baby animals, it’s strong enough to handle the worst messes your dog will encounter as well. Dawn will get your dog clean, but there’s a catch, which we’ll talk about later in this article.

Sometimes, veterinarians may use or recommend Dawn dish soap to bathe your dog if they get a toxic substance on their skin or coat, especially one with an oil or petroleum base.

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Will Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas?

bath foam to a Golden Retriever dog
Image Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

Dawn dish soap is regularly suggested online as a flea-killing alternative to more expensive parasite preventatives. But does it actually work? The answer is yes, but again with a catch.

Bathing your dog in Dawn should kill any adult fleas on their body. Fleas can usually float in water, but the chemical reaction caused by Dawn soap interferes with the flea’s exoskeleton, causing them to sink and drown. Veterinarians in animal shelters often use Dawn to kill fleas on puppies and kittens too young for other flea control medications.

However, Dawn provides no lingering protection or repellant against further flea infestation. You can kill all the fleas on your dog, and they could immediately become infested again from fleas in their environment. Dawn is also ineffective against flea eggs or immature fleas. Complete flea control requires breaking the life cycle of the flea by destroying these stages as well. We don’t recommend relying on washing with dawn soap to treat your dog’s flea problem.

For more effective flea control, veterinarians recommend using prescription flea and tick prevention year-round once your dog is old enough. Many different products are available, and your vet can help you choose the one that will work best for your dog.

Why Dawn Shouldn’t Be Your Regular Dog Shampoo

Okay, we’ve learned Dawn is safe for your dog, will get them clean, but won’t do a good job dealing with fleas. So why shouldn’t you use Dawn dish soap to regularly bathe your dog?

Well, the problem with Dawn being effective at removing oil is that it works on all kinds of oil, even the natural ones your dog produces. Your dog relies on those natural oils to keep their skin and coat healthy and moisturized. Removing them by bathing with Dawn (or similar soaps) will dry out your dog’s skin, possibly leaving it itchy, flaky, and uncomfortable.

If your dog already has sensitive or irritated skin, bathing with Dawn could worsen the problem. If your dog scratches excessively, they could create open sores or develop an infection.

The best option for bathing your dog is shampoo formulated for use on pets. If your dog has allergies or a skin condition, your vet may recommend specific shampoos. For routine bathing, however, your choices are endless!

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Conclusion

Inexpensive and readily available, Dawn dish soap makes a tempting option when it comes to choosing a bathing option for your dog. While this soap is not toxic to dogs, frequent use could dry out your dog’s skin and hair and should be avoided. Every dog’s grooming needs are different. You must select a shampoo that not only keeps them clean but won’t cause problems for their skin in the process.

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Featured Image Credit: ViDI Studio, Shutterstock

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