Dawn dish soap has been touted to clean animals who've gotten caught in an oil spill, but experts weigh in on if it is a safe way to regularly bathe your pets.
young girl washing her english bulldog in the kitchen sink
Credit: LWA/Dann Tardif / Getty

Knowing which types of soaps you can use on your dog can help keep their skin and coat healthy (and keep itchiness at bay). And while you may be familiar with Dawn dish soap being used to clean up animals who were victims of an oil spill, it may not be the best option to use regularly on your pets during bath time. We asked two experts to weigh in on using Dawn dish soap in various capacities for dogs.

Should You Use Dawn Dish Soap to Wash Your Dog?

Dawn is a strong soap that tackles your dirty pots and pans. However, it's not the same when it comes to your dog, according to Lorraine Rhoads, an environmental biologist at Dogtopia. "Dawn dish soap can be a safe choice to bathe your dog in rare circumstances, but it is not recommended as a regular shampoo." Your dog's skin can be sensitive to allergies, have different coat conditions, and even different pH levels than human skin, so this strong soap can be very irritating to their skin.

In addition, Jenna Mahan, RVT, director of claims and underwriting at Embrace Pet Insurance, says that Dawn "works well to strip oils, and while you do not want your pet to be oily, they need to retain some of their natural oils for skin comfort and protection."

But what about the cute duckling pictured on the Dawn bottles? "Professional wildlife rescue and rehabilitators have used this product to safely and effectively remove oil from the feathers and fur of animals who have found themselves in very sticky situations," Rhoads explains. "Because of Dawn's grease-fighting power, this use can be helpful in the sad situation where wildlife need help."

So for general bath use, skip the Dawn in favor a gentle dog shampoo. However, Mahan points out that "Dawn is great for degreasing if your pet is exposed to oil or sprayed by a skunk. Dawn can help break down the oily bonds that make the smell stick around."

Is Dish Soap Toxic for Dogs?

According to Rhoads, "Like any cleaning product, Dawn dish soap could be harmful when ingested." Dawn can also be irritating to your dog's eyes. If this happens, gently wash your pet's eyes and if the eyes look red or swollen and continue to be irritated, call your veterinarian.

If you think your dog ingested Dawn, Rhoads says to first determine if your dog tasted the sudsy dish water that is more diluted or ingested the concentrated soap directly from the bottle, which would be more dangerous.

How harmful it can potentially be depends on the size of your dog, how much you think they ingested, and if the dog consumed the concentrated or diluted solution. "If you are ever worried about what your pup ingested, please call your veterinarian immediately or reach out to the Pet Poison Helpline. For a small fee, the helpline will be able to quickly put your mind at ease or tell you that you need to take your pup to the closest emergency vet hospital," Rhoads explains.

Does Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas on Dogs?

"Dawn can kill fleas during a bath, and it all has to do with the surfactant chemical that makes the bubbles," Rhoades says. She further explains that fleas, who normally float in water, have exoskeletons, which means they breathe through their body. The surfactant chemical in Dawn breaks the surface tension of water that causes the fleas to sink down into the water where they can no longer breathe. This is a temporary solution for a dog that has fleas, but it's not a 100-percent effective solution for a flea infestation.

"It [is] estimated that we see only 5 percent of the fleas from a dog infestation," Rhoads says. "This means that there are more places in your home environment that need to be treated, so bathing your pup in dish soap will not take care of a flea problem." If your pup does have fleas, Rhoades advises to seek professional veterinarian advice for treatments and preventative medication to keep your pup parasite-free.