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Dawn Dish Soap On Puppies: This Is Why To NEVER Use

Many owners ask me whether dawn dish soap can be used on puppies: Is it safe? can it kill fleas? These are all great questions with important answers. Let’s get into it.

Can You Use Dawn Dish Soap On Puppies?

The quick answer is no. Dawn dish soap is not suitable for use on puppies or adult dogs. Bathing in any dish soap can lead to severely dry skin, irritation, and in worse cases, a skin infection.

Risius Family Veterinary Service explains that using dish soap on dogs is bad for two main reasons:

  • It is NOT safe for you pet
  • It is NOT effective

And I’ll add one more specific to puppies:

  • Puppies have fragile and sensitive skin!

There’s no disputing that dish soap works as an effective cleaner. The reason it cleans so well is due to the range of chemicals that act as degreasers, breaking down dirt and grime while washing them away.

The problem here is that these degreasers will remove most (if not all) of your puppy’s natural oils on their skin and in their coat. And it’s these very oils that protect your puppy in the first place.

The lack of natural oils will lead to dryness, irritation, and severe itchiness. Soon, your pup will be scratching and itching until they give themselves a wound or infection. At which point, veterinary help will be needed.

However, we still see many recommending it as an effective flea solution. So let’s explain that below.


Can Dawn Dish Soap Kill Fleas On Puppies?

The second most common question I receive is about whether dawn (or any brand of dish soap) can be used on puppies to kill fleas.

Can dish soap kill fleas?
Technically, yes. While fleas are able to float in water, the addition of dish soap with its chemicals and surfactants (surface active agents) prevents the fleas from floating, effectively drowning and killing them.

Why it’s still not effective:
Despite dish soap killing fleas effectively, the true problem lies in the fact that only up to 10% of the flea population will be on your puppy at any time. 90% of fleas, eggs, and larvae will still be in the environment including the carpets, dog bed, furniture, and even clothes. Ultimately, the fleas will return to your puppy.

Times when vets recommend it:
In situations of severe flea infestation, veterinarians may still recommend cleansing with dish soap to kill an overload of fleas as soon as possible. The reason they say dish soap is because many flea shampoo manufacturers state that their products are not suitable for use on puppies. (which is kind of ironic considering dish soap isn’t suitable either!).

The bottom line:
Dish soap does kill fleas, and some vets may recommend it for use on puppies in situations of severe flea infestations. But you must know that dish soap still poses a threat to your puppy’s skin, coat, and eyes. So in many people’s opinions, it’s still best to find an alternative.

Killing Fleas on Puppies Without Using Dish Soap

If you have a flea issue with your puppy, there are alternatives that are healthier and safer than dawn dish soap.

The truth is that you don’t need to use harsh detergents to kill fleas. Most mild and even natural ingredient puppy shampoos work in a similar way to dish soap as long as you create a thick lather and leave the suds in for a good 10 minutes.

You can, of course, always opt for a flea shampoo, just be sure that it is safe for use on puppies.

In addition to thorough bathing, it’s always recommended to follow a flea preventative for at least 3 months for ALL pets in the household. Please consult your veterinarian about this first.

Addressing the environment:
As mentioned previously, a huge part of the problem won’t just be the fleas currently living on your puppy. It will be fleas, eggs, larvae, and pupae that are in the carpets, bedding, clothes, and so on.

It’s crucial that you tackle fleas in one big blitz and as quickly as possible. Not only should you run through your puppy with a flea comb, give them the most thorough bath they’ve ever had, but you’ll have to clean the entire home (sorry!)

This means washing the dog bed, bedding, clothes, and ideally hovering and cleaning the carpets.

Failing to do all of this will likely result in a prolonged flea battle you can’t get a handle on. This is by far, the step that most people get wrong, and that’s addressing the environment as well as the dog or puppy in question.

To sum it up:
Dish soap is not necessary to rid fleas from your puppy. Thorough, 10-minute bathing using a regular pet shampoo will be plenty strong enough. Ensure you start a flea preventative, use a flea comb regularly, and clean the entire home meticulously.

3 Puppy-Friendly Shampoos Better Than Dish Soap

Let’s run through some friendlier alternatives to dish soap that you can use on your puppy.

Below are some of the best, healthiest and safest shampoos for your puppy. From general bathing to flea obliteration, all are appropriate.

Burt’s Bees Natural Tearless Puppy Shampoo.
Burt’s Bees have long been one of the best brands for healthy dog shampoo. This formula is specifically made for puppies, contains only natural ingredients, and won’t irritate their ears or sensitive skin.
Free from: Harsh chemicals, detergents, fragrances, sulfates, colorants.

Pet Care Sciences Tearless Puppy Shampoo & Conditioner.
Another excellent option with amazing reviews. Pet Care Sciences have created a gentle formula based on coconut oil. It’s a tearless formula that also works to keep the coat tangle-free, odor-free, soft, and moisturized.
Free from: Parabens, harsh chemicals, sulfate, phosphate, MEA, or DEA.

Earthbath Ultra Mild Tearless Puppy Shampoo.
A well-known brand is Earthbath. Earthbath has been making quality shampoos for pets for a long time. This formula is their extra gentle and “ultra mild” shampoo made for puppies. It’s tearless and gently cleanses using mainly Aloe vera. This shampoo is mild enough for those with very sensitive skin.
Free from: Soap, gluten, DEA, parabens, synthetic dyes, sulfates, or phthalates, and is animal cruelty-free.

All shampoos are Ideal for:
General bathing
Flea removal (although not guaranteed, a thick lather left for 10 minutes should kill most fleas)

Last Thoughts About Puppies & Dish Soap

To sum everything up. Dish soap is terrible for use on puppies. It may be effective at killing fleas but at the same time, it’s dangerous for your puppy’s skin, coat and eyes. Only in very few circumstances where a flea infestation is out of control, might it be appropriate.

It’s crucial to remember that removing fleas from your puppy is only a small part of the equation. Up to 90% of the fleas, eggs, larvae, and pupae need to be cleaned from the environment as well.

Most regular and mild puppy shampoos can help remove fleas if left in long enough. It will act the same way dish soap does by effectively drowning the fleas.

In general, you should only use a mild or preferably, natural ingredient shampoo to bathe your puppy. Whether we are talking about general bathing or fighting a flea problem, always stick to friendly shampoos made for puppies (free from harsh chemicals, detergents, parabens, sulfates, phosphates, alcohols, DEA, and MEA).

Thank you for reading! Back to more health or behavior articles >>

Additional sources:
Vet West
Preventive Vet


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.