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Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe for Dogs? Vet-Reviewed Health Facts

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

a welsh corgi pembroke dog taking a bath with shampoo

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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Dawn dish soap is completely non-toxic and often marketed as extremely gentle. Because it is made to clean the dishes you eat off of, it is known to be pretty safe. Therefore, if you wash your dog with it, they will probably not experience any serious harm.

In fact, dawn soap can be an effective cleaner in many situations. It is particularly effective against oil, which is partially what it is designed to clean up. Therefore, if your dog is sprayed by a skunk or covered in oil, Dawn can do a pretty good job—even better than your average dog shampoo.

However, dish soap is a bit too tough for most dogs’ skin. While many dogs will not have a problem with one bath with Dawn, they may experience skin irritation and dryness with regular use. Some dogs are so sensitive that they may experience extreme dryness right away.

Dawn is simply not designed for dogs and use on the skin. It is not the correct pH for a dog’s skin and contains some harsh chemicals that can be irritating. In an emergency, it would likely be fine (as it is completely non-toxic). However, we would not recommend it beyond that.

Divider 7Why Is Dawn Dish Soap Bad for Dogs?

You may have heard advertisements that Dawn dish soap is extremely gentle and effective, so why is it bad for dogs? There are several reasons, but most of them have to do with how Dawn dish soap works.

1. It Strips Oil

The main purpose of Dawn dish soap is to strip oil. For this reason, it is very effective for removing skunk smell or oil. However, it can also strip the natural oils from your dog’s skin, causing dryness. These natural oils are actually quite important.

They play an essential role in keeping your dog’s skin moisturized and healthy. On top of protecting the coat and skin from the outside elements, these oils also help keep moisture locked in. Without them, your dog’s coat and skin can become increasingly dry and brittle.

However, it likely isn’t going to completely strip the oils from your dog’s hair if used once. The main problem occurs when it is used over and over again. In this case, your dog will likely experience dry and itchy skin relatively quickly. Plus, their skin may become more susceptible to yeast, bacteria, and allergens. All this leads to less healthy skin, especially for dogs that are already more sensitive.

2. It Disrupts pH Levels

Every animal has a specific skin pH. Surprisingly, this differs quite a bit from animal to animal. Humans tend to be much more acidic than dogs, for instance. However, the exact pH will differ from individual to individual and may change over time. As you might expect, dog shampoo is designed to match the pH of your dog’s skin. This balance helps keep your dog’s skin in the proper range and prevents disrupting the pH.

However, Dawn dish soap is not designed with your dog’s skin pH in mind at all. Therefore, your dog’s pH balance is likely going to be knocked off center when using this soap. Not only could this lead to inflamed and irritated skin, but it also strips the skin’s protection from yeast and bacteria.

Therefore, dogs who are bathed with Dawn are much more likely to experience an infection.

dog bathing
Image Credit: oritslama, Pixabay

3. It Is Highly Concentrated

Compared to dog shampoos, Dawn dish soap is extremely concentrated. This is one reason why it works so well. You need very little to do a good job. If you get just a little bit into your dog’s eyes or ears, though, it can cause problems. While dawn is completely non-toxic, this doesn’t mean that it can’t cause irritation and other problems.

Furthermore, dogs do lick themselves frequently. Many tend to “clean” themselves after a bath as they dry. Because Dawn is so concentrated, they may consume some of the soap that is left behind on their fur after their bath. Dawn is not safe for consumption. Even a little bit of Dawn can mean a lot, especially if your dog is smaller.

Divider 4

Can I Use Dawn to Bathe My Dog?

dog silky smooth bath
Image credit: AmandaCullingford , Pixabay

Using Dawn in an emergency or certain situations is typically not a problem. If your dog gets sprayed by a skunk or covered in oil, this may be one of the few ways to get them clean. However, you should not make a habit of it and should be extra careful while bathing. Be sure that you avoid your dog’s face and ears. Rinse very well. Monitor your dog for signs of soap poisoning after their bath.

Preferably, you will only use Dawn on your dog a couple of times in their lifetime. Mostly, they need to be bathed with a quality dog shampoo that is formulated for their skin. Furthermore, when you use Dawn, use smaller amounts than you think you need. Dilute it with water as this will prevent many of the problems associated with Dawn.

If you notice dryness, you may want to use dog lotion to rehydrate your canine’s skin. However, this doesn’t work extremely efficiently. Lotion can help, but it isn’t a cure-all. You should also keep an eye on your dog’s skin for yeast infections and similar problems. Even if your dog isn’t particularly prone to these problems, they can pop up after using a soap like Dawn to clean them.

Divider 7Conclusion

While Dawn dish soap is advertised as gentle, it is not often the best choice for your dog. It’s not formulated to the correct pH, and it can be a bit too strong for your dog’s skin. Plus, it is very concentrated, which means that it may cause soap poisoning more easily. Overall, it just isn’t a good choice for most dogs.

The only time when Dawn may be called for is if you’re dealing with oil in your dog’s coat. In this case, Dawn is extremely effective at cleaning up oil. For this reason, it is often utilized as a DIY skunk spray cleaner, since skunks spray oil but dog-specific skunk shampoos are available.

Still, it is best to stick to your regular dog shampoo that is specifically designed for your dog.

Featured Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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