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Does Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas on Dogs?

This is not medical advice. For medical advice regarding pets, see your veterinarian.

Dawn dish soap can kill fleas on your dog. It is not harmful to pets but it can dry out the skin. Wet your pet’s coat and lather the soap into its fur; fleas will die within minutes. Dawn dish soap does not prevent future infestations. Apply an antiparasitic for this.

If you are a dog owner, chances are that you have been dealing with fleas. Fleas multiply fast and can make your pet’s life miserable. Their bites are itchy and create a lot of distress.

If your dog is sensitive to flea bites, it can develop flea allergy dermatitis on top of that. This is a medical condition that triggers intense itching and scratching until the hair falls off.

It is good to act in time to eliminate fleas. Many in-house methods promise to work wonders, and one of them is to apply Dawn dish soap to your dog’s fur.

In this article, you will find out if Dawn dish soap is safe for dogs, if Dawn dish soap is good against fleas, how to use Dawn dish soap to kill fleas, and more.

Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe for Dogs?

Dawn dish soap is safe as long as your dog doesn’t ingest it. If your dog accidentally ingests dish soap, it can lead to various side effects. It is not recommended to use Dawn dish soap regularly as it dries out the skin and can lead to bacterial and fungal infections.

Dawn dish soap is non-toxic to adult pets and can easily be used to kill fleas. It can also be used safely on puppies and kittens.

Dawn dish soap can dry out the skin, as its main purpose is to degrease and remove oil. Studies have shown that repeated bathing with dish soap increases epidermal irritation.[1]

It should only be used when needed or for massive infestations, not for a single flea. Baths can be done at most once every 2-3 weeks. 

Do not bathe your dog excessively and repeatedly with dish soap. Dry skin represents a favorable environment for the development of bacteria and fungi. 

Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe for Dogs
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Symptoms of bacterial or fungal infections include[2]:

  • Thickened skin, also known as “elephant skin”
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Flaky, crusty, or scaly skin
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Musty smell
  • Wet eczema, also known as hot spots – in bacterial dermatitis

Ensure you rinse the dish soap off your dog thoroughly. Do not let it get into its mouth as it is toxic when ingested. 

Side effects of dish soap poisoning include[3]:

  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal lesions
  • Lack of appetite
  • Burns or lesions in the mouth
  • Excessive watering of the mouth
  • Disorientation
  • Hair loss
  • Eye irritations
  • Skin irritation
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

If the intoxication is massive and you do not intervene in time, your dog can die.

How to Kill Fleas With Dawn Dish Soap

The best way to use Dawn dish soap to kill your dog’s fleas is to bathe your pet with it. Dish soap should be left on your dog for about five minutes, and then rinse thoroughly. No detergent residue should remain on the fur and skin of your dog.

How to kill fleas on dogs with Dawn dish soap:

  1. Wet your dog’s fur thoroughly before applying Dawn dish soap.
  2. Avoid getting any water into your pet’s eyes or ears.
  3. Use ¼ cup of Dawn dish soap for a medium-large dog (less for small and toy breeds).
  4. Apply the dish soap with your fingers, brush, or a comb – make sure it reaches your pet’s skin.
  5. Leave the soap on for a maximum of five minutes.
  6. Rinse thoroughly.
  7. Dry your dog with a towel.

How to fill fleas on dogs with sensitive or dry skin using Dawn dish soap:

  • Fill the tub with warm water.
  • Apply ¼ cup of Dawn dish soap into the water.
  • Let your dog soak for five minutes.
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • Dry it with a towel.

If your dog hates baths, you can fill a spray bottle with water and a little Dawn dish soap and spray the content on your dog.

Dawn dish soap baths are not recommended for dogs that have excessively dry skin or suffer from bacterial or fungal dermatitis.

How to Kill Fleas With Dawn Dish soap

How Does Dawn Dish Soap Work on Fleas?

The Dawn dish soap kills fleas by breaking down their exoskeleton. This is their hard outer skeleton. If anything happens to their exoskeleton, they die.

The flea exoskeleton is composed of:

  • Epicuticle – a thin, outer protein layer
  • Procuticle – a thick, inner, chitin–protein layer

The epicuticle contains wax and helps reduce water loss through evaporation[4]. That’s why fleas float in water.

Dish soap, such as Dawn, works as a surfactant, which compromises their exoskeleton and causes them to sink. They essentially die by drowning.

Even if they escape the water, fleas will still die later due to their bodies drying out.

Related: What Kills Ticks on Dogs Instantly?

What Are Fleas

Does Dawn Soap Kill Flea Eggs Too?

Dawn dish soap kills flea eggs, but it does not prevent them. Flea eggs are easily removed when you bathe your dog with dish soap

Flea eggs are smooth and non-sticky. They do not stick well to the skin or fur, most often being found in large quantities in carpets, bedding, or areas where the dog sits the most. 

In cases of massive infestations, it is recommended to prevent fleas from climbing on your pet by using antiparasitic substances.

You don’t have to use dish soap to get rid of flea eggs on dogs. These are easily removed with water. Make sure to wash your dog thoroughly, and you should be free of eggs.

Flea eggs are different from flea droppings, even if they are about the same size.

Flea eggs Flea droppings
White Dark (digested blood)
Oval Round
Soft Crumbly
Non-sticky Sticky
Do not disintegrate in water They disintegrate in water and leave a red stain

An effective way to remove eggs from the carpet or your dog’s cage is to use hot water.

Washing bedding at 140°C/284°F will destroy most eggs. Steam cleaning of carpets, upholstery and fabrics in which eggs are found is also effective.

Are There Other Dawn Dish Soap Alternatives for Flea Removal?

If you do not have Dawn dish soap at hand, you can use other brands. These should be as natural as possible, free of harsh chemicals that can harm your dog.

A good replacement for Dawn dish soap is baby shampoo. It has the same effect and is gentle on your dog’s skin and fur.

Avoid laundry or dishwasher detergent or other products that contain harsh substances and strong perfumes. If you are not sure about a product, it is best to ask your veterinarian to avoid excessive irritation and itching.

Soap Alternatives for Flea Removal

Can Dawn Dish Soap Control Flea Infestations?

Dawn dish soap is only effective in removing fleas when you bathe your dog. It does not prevent future infestations. Use antiparasitics to prevent fleas in dogs.

Dawn dish soap is great for temporarily removing fleas in massive infestations. It does not prevent future infestations and does not treat fleas in pets.

You have to use antiparasitics to prevent fleas.

Antiparasitics are effective and can prevent future infestations because they have a different mechanism of action than Dawn dish soap. 

Antiparasitic substances dissolve in the natural oils of your pet’s skin and coat, spreading around the body. It remains in the skin’s oil glands and continues to be released over time – it forms a reservoir[6]. A flea that comes to feed on your dog will paralyze and die shortly after.

Dish soap strips your dog’s skin of natural oils and breaks the flea’s exoskeleton, causing it to drown.

Related: Flea Bites on Dogs: Identification & Symptoms

What Does a Flea Bite on a Dog Look Like
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Best ways to prevent flea infestations

The best way to prevent fleas on your dog is to use antiparasitic substances.

There are a lot of antiparasitic products on the market:

  • Tablets
  • Spot-on pipettes
  • Collars
  • Sprays
  • Powders
  • Shampoos

Of these products, the most commonly used by dog owners are spot-on pipettes. They are effective for four weeks. After this, another pipette needs to be applied.

It is recommended to use a combination of products (such as collar and pipette) in warmer months when there are more fleas.

For dogs sensitive to topical antiparasitic substances (that are applied on the skin), anti-flea tablets can be used. They have the same effect as spot-on pipettes, but last longer.

Related: How to Prevent Fleas on Dogs

Natural Alternatives to Soap for Fleas

Conclusion

Dawn dish soap is commonly used to remove fleas. It is non-toxic but can dry your pet’s fur if you use it often. It can cause various severe side effects and even death if ingested. Rinse your dog thoroughly and ensure you don’t get any water into your pet’s eyes or ears.

Dawn dish soap does not prevent future infestations. For prevention, use antiparasitic products.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.