Dogs will be dogs—they love to eat things they shouldn’t. We are all aware that as their caretakers, it’s our job to keep toxic household items out of their reach. However, you may not have considered that soap could be dangerous to your dog if ingested. 

Soaps and detergents may be particularly enticing for your dog, because they are usually filled with tempting fragrances or essential oils. If your dog ate soap or detergent, you’ll need to contact your vet right away, but there’s no need to panic. Read on to learn how eating soap or detergent can affect your dog, signs to look for, and what to do about it. 

What Is in Soap?

Every soap is slightly different, of course—however, most liquid soaps contain water, oils, fragrances and dyes, as well as other ingredients, including sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, triclosan and cocamidopropyl betaine.

Bar soaps have similar ingredients—even many that are marketed as “natural.” Some soaps may also contain essential oils or dried herbs that could be harmful to your dog.

Is Soap Toxic to Dogs?

The answer to this question depends on the kind of soap your dog ingested. Many soaps contain pine oil, which can cause serious side effects. Soaps can also cause chemical burns in your dog’s mouth, esophagus, or stomach. If your dog ate a large piece of soap, it could cause a blockage in his GI system, which may require surgery to remove. 

Is Detergent Toxic to Dogs? 

Detergents are often more dangerous to dogs than soap. Non-ionic detergents are the least harmful of the detergents and cationic detergents are the most dangerous for dogs. Ingesting even a small amount can have serious consequences and can be potentially fatal for a dog. 

Types of Detergents

  • Non-ionic detergents—dish-washing detergents, shampoos, and some laundry detergents
  • Anionic detergents—most laundry detergents, dish soaps, shampoos, and dish-washing detergents
  • Cationic detergents—fabric softeners, sanitizers, disinfectants, and rust inhibitors in petroleum products 

Laundry and Dishwasher Pods 

Pods pose an even bigger threat to dogs. The reason for this is twofold: 1.) the detergent is much more concentrated in pods and 2.) when a dog bites into a pod, the pressure inside causes its contents to be expelled forcefully, increasing the risk for aspirating (inhaling/choking) or swallowing the detergent. Pods or dishwasher tabs may also be more appealing for dogs to grab since they are contained in a small package and may look like a treat or a toy. 

Signs and Symptoms of Soap or Detergent Toxicity

  • Vomiting/Diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal lesions
  • Lack of appetite
  • Swollen tongue 
  • Respiratory symptoms, such as difficulty breathing
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Burns or lesions in the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Disorientation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures
  • Collapse
  • Hair loss
  • Organ damage 

What to Do if Your Dog Ate Soap or Detergent

Call Your Vet Right Away 

If it’s after business hours, call your local 24-hour emergency vet. DO NOT attempt to induce vomiting in your dog. This can cause serious chemical burns in the esophagus or mouth. 

It’s always best to contact your vet or the closest emergency vet if your dog ingests soap or detergent, rather than waiting to see if your dog develops any symptoms. Let the vet know exactly what kind of soap or detergent your dog ate and how much. It’s possible that your dog may be just fine, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution. 

Flush the Eyes/Mouth/Skin

After you have contacted your vet, they might instruct you to rinse your dog’s mouth, eyes, or skin with running water for 20-30 minutes, depending on where the exposure to the soap was. 

Prevent Pet Poisoning 

The good news is that pet poisoning is completely preventable, so taking some simple steps, like keeping soaps and detergents locked away and out of reach, can ensure your dog stays healthy. This is especially important for puppies. Do not just assume that your dog will not eat something just because it tastes bad. There are also non-toxic alternative soaps and detergents available, which we will discuss in our next post. 

Emergency Vet in Gilbert

Keep emergency contact information easily accessible at all times. This should include the number for the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680), the phone number for Anasazi Animal Clinic in Gilbert (contact us), as well as the name and location of a local 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital. If your dog ate soap or detergent, do not hesitate or wait for signs and symptoms before taking your pet to see your vet. 


Image used under creative commons license – commercial use (2/5/2021)  by Antonio Jose Cespedes from Pixabay