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Does Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas on Dogs? Is It the Best Option?

Hallie Roddy

By Hallie Roddy

macro shot of dish soap being squeezed onto green sponge

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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

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We’ve all seen the ads on TV where Dawn dish soap is used to clean baby animals that have been affected by oil spills. Dawn is one of the most popular dish soap brands out there and claims to be gentle enough for wildlife but with strong enough degreasing properties to remove oil.

You might have also heard that Dawn dish soap is strong enough to kill fleas. We’re here to tell you that while Dawn dish soap can kill fleas, it is not always the best option for preventing flea infestations. There are a few reasons Dawn dish soap might not be the miracle worker you were hoping for.

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Does Dawn Dish Soap Really Kill Fleas?

Dawn dish soap gets its strength to remove grease and grime from a chemical reaction. Once the soapy water gets combined with oil or grease, it forms clusters of soap molecules that trap it and help wash it away. Killing fleas with this soap doesn’t work quite the same.

Dawn dish soap is capable of killing fleas because it compromises their exoskeleton. A flea’s exoskeleton allows it to float and once compromised, the fleas will sink in the water and drown.

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The Problem With Using Dawn Dish Soap on Fleas

At this point, you might be a little confused. If Dawn dish soap does have the potential to kill fleas, why isn’t it one of the best solutions?

Killing fleas don’t necessarily stop more fleas from attacking your pet or prevent further infestations. It also isn’t going to get rid of the fleas and their eggs in your home and your yard. So, fleas are just going to hop right back onto your dog, and you’ll have to repeat the process over and over again.

A single female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day and there is only a small amount of fleas and eggs on your pet at one time. Much like an iceberg, the tip is just part of the problem.  Most of the flea life cycle and population is in the environment. Their populations can grow out of control so quickly that, even if you washed your dog every single day, you likely still wouldn’t be able to get rid of them all.  You must control the environmental infestation too.

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Does Dawn Soap Kill Eggs and Larvae?

Dawn dish soap can kill adult fleas, but what about their offspring? Unfortunately, no, this soap doesn’t kill fleas while in the other stages of the flea life cycle. In reality, you aren’t making much of a dent in the flea population surrounding your home.

Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe for Pets?

Dawn dish soap might seem like a good option for bathing your dog. After all, it claims to be “tough on grease, soft on hands.” A dog’s skin isn’t quite the same as human skin, though. Dish soap can make a dog’s skin dry and irritated. Putting it on top of a dog with already irritated skin from flea bites is only going to make them more uncomfortable.

Instead, opt for a gentle shampoo that is designed specifically for pets and has soothing properties for this specific situation. Some vets will even offer medication shampoo that repels and kills fleas in all their life stages. The best thing you can do is to take your pet to the vet and get them some proper flea and tick medication.

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Final Thoughts

Dawn dish soap won’t seriously harm your pet, but it isn’t the best option for killing fleas and preventing future infestations. Your best bet is to contact a veterinarian and use their recommendation or prescription medication to kill the pests and repel them in the future. Your dog is already suffering from irritating flea bites, and Dawn dish soap is not a cure.

Featured Image Credit: Jim Barber, Shutterstock

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