Pet Care with Dr. Bronner’s

Washing pets with Dr. Bronner’s (not just for dogs!)

If you haven’t seen Lisa Bronner’s video on how to wash your dog with Dr. Bronner’s, then we recommend you watch that first. Dr. Bronner’s is excellent for cleaning dogs and absolutely safe! But can Dr. Bronner’s be used to clean other pets and animals? The short answer is a resounding yes! Read on for some important pointers.

Treating Fleas

First, a general word about treating fleas on any animal. Dr. Bronner’s will kill fleas, but only when it comes into contact with them while they are wet. Once the animal’s skin-fur-feathers dry out, the soap will have no effect on fleas. Also, the soap does not kill the flea eggs, so the best approach once you know your pet has fleas is to bathe your pet frequently, so that you are killing off newly hatched fleas. Make sure to also wash your pet’s bed and bedding frequently with Dr. Bronner’s—use 1/3 cup in a top loading washer and add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle (halve these measurements for an HE washer).

Bathing Cats with Dr. Bronner’s

Some of you are probably wondering whether cats need to be bathed at all—after all, they’re well-known for their meticulous grooming habits and their violent dislike of getting wet. The reality is that some breeds do require regular bathing, while others may have a medical condition, or simply may have gotten into something sticky.

As a rule of thumb, consider bathing your cat about once per month, with extra washings thrown in if they get particularly dirty.

The number one thing to be aware of when bathing your cat is that essential oils are potentially toxic to cats. These include eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, lemon and orange oil. To be clear, these oils generally only present a problem when they’re undiluted and come into contact with a cat’s skin—and the concentration of essential oils in Dr. Bronner’s soaps is around 1 or 2 percent, hardly enough to cause problems for a pet. However, we recommend being absolutely safe and only using our Baby-Unscented Pure-Castile Soaps to bathe your cat.

OK, so you’ve got your soap ready. Now, the most important thing is to properly prepare so that the bathing experience is as comfortable as possible for both you and your cat. Here are some tips:

  • Trim your cat’s claws before bathing
  • Brush your cat before bathing (knots are more difficult to untangle when they’re wet)
  • Tire your cat out by playing with him or her before bathing
  • Close the bathroom door
  • Fill the tub with 7 to 9 inches of room-temperature water
  • Lay down some towels in the tub and on the bathroom floor
  • Wear long sleeves or a hoodie to protect yourself from scratches

Remember that your cat can pick up on your anxiety and stress—so try to make the experience as relaxing as possible for yourself, and hopefully your cat will chill out, too! It can also be super helpful to have another person on hand to assist… so invite a friend or loved one to help you.

Bathing Birds with Dr. Bronner’s

Most times, it’s best to let birds wash themselves by simply providing a small tub of room temperature water and allowing your bird to bathe itself. You can also mist your bird with a bit of water. However, if your bird ends up covered in oil or a sticky substance, then a soapy bath is in order. Similar to bathing cats, the more comfortable and stable you can make the experience for the bird, the better things will go.

We recommend filling a small tub of water, then adding in a squirt or two of soap. Use your hands (or shower gloves for a bit more protection) and gently rub the soapy water over your bird, avoiding the eyes and beak. Use a spray bottle or mister to rinse your bird clean, and allow your bird to dry itself.

Other Animals? Yes!

Our soaps are pretty safe for any animal. We’ve received photos from our customers washing their chickens, goats, and pigs with Dr. Bronner’s—and animal sanctuaries regularly use our soaps to wash horses, llamas and cows. For any animal, remember to make things as comfortable as possible and to keep the soap away from their eyes and nose. The “tear free” characteristic is one that can only be achieved with synthetic detergents, and is not something we’re able to do given the all-natural formulation of our soaps.

Coconut Oil for Dogs

Before diving into this topic, I’d like to make three important caveats. First, there simply hasn’t been a lot of research done on treating pets with coconut oil. The studies that have been conducted have been fairly limited in scope, so more research needs to be done in order to obtain conclusive evidence about coconut oil’s benefits for pets. Second, you should always check with your vet when considering treatments for your pet. Your vet has a great deal of experience and can give you his or her insight on what treatments tend to yield results. Third, make sure your dog does not have an allergy to coconut oil. If you put coconut oil on your dog’s skin, and things get worse, that’s a sign that your dog may be allergic.

Having said that, we believe that our Organic Coconut Oil can provide benefits for dogs when used externally. Yes, some people also choose to feed their dogs and cats small amounts of coconut oil (emphasis on small!), based on claims that it can help with everything from weight loss to cognition. We simply have not seen enough research to support the efficacy of this practice—there is no evidence of harm, but also not enough research has been done to show benefit.

But given coconut oil’s established moisturizing and antimicrobial properties, we feel confident in saying that it could help keep your dog’s coat moisturized, help heal mange and other skin irritations, and help prevent or heal your dog’s chapped paws and nose. As your vet will no doubt tell you, nutrition plays a huge role in keeping your dog’s skin and fur healthy, but coconut oil can provide topical assistance when problems arise.

To apply coconut oil topically, simply rub a very small amount onto your hands and then gently pat your dog’s coat. Run your fingers through the fur, and massage the oil down onto the skin, taking special care to coat problem areas. Your dog will love the special care and massaging that they are receiving!

No Animal Cruelty!

Not only are Dr. Bronner’s products great for pet care, but you can rest easy knowing that they are completely cruelty-free. Our products are certified with the Leaping Bunny logo, indicating that our products and ingredients are never tested on animals.

Author Profile
Rafi Loiederman

Rafi Loiederman is Content Editor at Dr. Bronner's, and has been using the company's products for over 20 years. He enjoys recording and performing music, is an avid hiker and naturalist, and an erstwhile linguist.

See all stories by Rafi Loiederman
  • AlmostJane

    I have friends who swear by coconut oil for everything external – for themselves & their pets. They adopted a shelter dog who’d been neglected & had fleas, ticks and some areas of mange – and the poor little guy had been treated at the shelter by the vet but was still recovering when adopted. My friends – after asking the vet – added a spoon of refined coconut oil in his food daily – and also rubbed some on him daily for several months. You should see what a beautiful coat he has today – and the best part is that he’s clean and comfortable again, without using toxic lotions etc.

  • Sherri

    Will the soap hurt a puppies eyes? I assume it will.

  • Aaron

    Hey Rafi, it’s me Aaron J. (trippy coincidence; I was just poking around for info about a Dr. B product I wasn’t familiar with and here I am). Here’s my 2 cents: My dog Janet has been known to pounce on skunks a couple times a year. There are plenty of effective, ethical remedies for removing skunk odor from a dog’s coat. But the areas around the eyes/nose/muzzle tend to really soak up the stink and are easily irritated by the oils from the skunk as well as the ingredients in many cleaning products. The SINGLE most effective and gentle solution I’ve found: make a paste of peppermint Bronner’s and baking soda and apply with a toothbrush in little circles. Rinse. Repeat PRN.

  • CMorris

    I just took my cat to the vet and he peed in the carrier. Normal occurrence for cat owners. I scrubbed the carrier with an all natural spray for pet odors and let it dry. The smell was still there. So I decided to wash it with DB unscented soap and the smell came out. I was so happy!

  • Jennifer Lyar

    It’s no wonder you need to trim your cats nails with this method of bathing, OMG! You do not ever fill the bathtub with water, please! The correct and least stressful way to bath a cat is to put it in an EMPTY bathtub and use a gentle fawcet DIRECTLY onto the cats fur, as close as possible so the cat never gets sprayed with any water. I can’t believe the number of people who think it’s ok to fill a bathtub and try to get the cat in it willingly, it’s bad for the cat AND the owner.