Safe or Toxic: Are Laundry Detergents Safe for Dogs?

There are dozens of household items toxic to pets, including our dogs. Most household detergents, for example, are not safe for dogs as they contain ionic and anionic surfactants and should be kept in safe places. Ingestion in small quantities can cause gastrointestinal issues including excessive drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Is laundry detergent safe for dogs?

Laundry detergents are not safe for dogs and if ingested in small quantities it can cause stomach upsets, upper airway irritation, and if inhaled into the lungs it causes aspiration pneumonia. Ingestion in large amounts leads to detergent poisoning, with some detergents more life-threatening than others.

What happens if a dog licks laundry detergent?

If a dog licks laundry detergent in small quantities, it is likely to develop minor health issues such as stomach upsets, vomiting, diarrhea, skin irritation, excessive drooling, and burns or lesions in the mouth. Ingestion in large quantities can lead to disorientation, swollen abdomen, muscle weakness, seizures, and aspiration pneumonitis.

Please note that detergents have varying pH levels. Some detergents are very strong and ingestion even in small amounts can still lead to detergent poisoning.

Signs of detergent poisoning in dogs

Detergent poisoning is a result of ingesting a household detergent in amounts toxic to dogs. The most common signs of detergent poisoning in dogs and cats include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lack of appetite
  • Burns or lesions in the mouth
  • Skin irritations
  • Eye irritations
  • Disorientation
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Gastrointestinal lesions
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures or collapse
  • Aspiration pneumonitis

The severity of these symptoms depends on the ingested detergent and the amount ingested. Detergents are generally classified into:

  • Soaps – such as laundry and bathing soaps
  • Anionic detergents – such as dish soap and dishwashing detergents
  • Cationic detergents – such as fabric softeners, disinfectants, and sanitizing agents
  • Nonionic detergents – such as shampoos, laundry detergents, and dishwashing detergents
Is laundry detergent safe for dogs
Image source Freepik

What causes detergent poisoning in dogs?

Detergent poisoning in dogs is a result of ingestion of anywhere from small to large amounts of household detergent. The ingestion and/or dermal exposure to toxic detergents can cause a myriad of health issues, including damage to the eyes, skin, and mucus membranes as well as causing gastrointestinal issues, muscle weakness, collapse or seizures, swollen abdomen, and aspiration pneumonitis.

Can dogs die from laundry detergent poisoning?

YES. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ((ASPCA), dogs who ingest detergents will aspirate and develop aspiration pneumonitis. Dogs that succumb to detergent intoxication die of aspiration pneumonitis where food, liquids, saliva, or vomit is breathed into the lungs or airways leading to the lungs.

Can you wash dog toys with laundry detergent?

You should only use pet-safe detergents to clean dog toys because not all laundry detergents are safe for pets. Alternatively, you can wash soft dog toys using water and vinegar solution then proceed to air-dry the toys. You should avoid using a laundry detergent to clean dog toys if you’re not sure it’s pet-safe.

Can dogs have allergic reactions to laundry detergent?

YES. Allergic reactions to a laundry detergent are caused by the aggressive response of the immune system to a protein in the detergent. Skin reactions are largely concentrated around the face, under the legs, groin, and between the toes. The reactions are often triggered by contact with the detergents or laundered bedding.

Signs of laundry detergent allergies in dogs

The most notable signs of laundry detergent allergies in dogs include:

  • Skin rashes
  • Skin ulcerations
  • Blister-like lesions
  • Bald patches
  • Face rubbing
  • Obsessive licking
  • Paw biting
  • Skin infections
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Chronic feet inflammations


Laundry detergents are not safe for dogs and other pets within our homes. Some detergents are so strong that even ingestions or exposure in small amounts can lead to detergent poisoning. Always keep laundry and household detergents away from your pets. In the event your dog is exposed to a detergent, look out for the signs of detergent poisoning highlighted above, and if the symptoms seem severe be sure to consult your veterinarian.

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