According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), as many as 47 percent of all U.S. households contain at least one pet canine. This adds up to an estimated 80 million pet dogs living alongside people today.
As well, Petfinder lists the costs of pet care as one of the top 10 reasons why pet owners choose to relinquish their animal companions to shelters or rescue agencies.
In these statistics, it is easy to see how important it is to find affordable home remedies for your dog. Those vet bills really can add up, and the more you can learn about how to remedy minor cuts, scratches and scrapes at home, the more affordable it will be to keep your precious pup healthy.
In this article, learn more about neosporin, including whether it is safe to use for dogs and if so, how to use it effectively for the best results.
What Is Neosporin?
Neosporin is a topical, over-the-counter antibiotic that comes in both an ointment and a gel form. “Topical” means that this antibiotic should be applied to the skin rather than taking orally.
The active ingredient in Neosporin is called Bacitracin.
Here, Neosporin should not be confused with another antibiotic that is actually called Bacitracin. The latter contains only Bacitracin, while the former contains Bacitracin plus two other active ingredients: neomycin and polymixin b.
Neosporin Versus Bacitracin
Bacitracin, neomycin and polymixin b are each antibiotics in their own right. But the combination gives both drugs different effects. Bacitracin by itself will stop bacteria from growing. Neosporin, with its two additional antibiotic ingredients, will stop bacteria from growing and also kill off live existing bacteria.
Also, Neosporin has the ability to kill off a wider range of bacteria types than Bacitracin, due to its additional antibiotic ingredients.
One reason why Bacitracin is available on its own and as an ingredient in Neosporin is because sometimes patients (people or canines) will be allergic to one but not the other.
Testing for Neosporin Allergies
Neosporin should always be applied as a small patch test first to check for possible allergic reactions.
Here is what to do:
- Pick a small area of skin and spread a tiny dab of Neosporin there.
- Watch the test patch area for a mild rash, redness or hives.
- Also watch to see if your dog begins to scratch at the patch area.
- Other possible side effects (especially if your dog licks or ingests Neosporin) can include stomach upset, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting.
- More rare and serious side effects can include trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, kidney damage and liver damage (in these cases, you should take your dog to a veterinary urgent care clinic immediately).
By doing this patch test in advance, you can know whether your dog can tolerate Neosporin before he really needs it.
How is Neosporin Used?
Neosporin is designed to be used topically (spread on the skin surface) as a wound sterilizing and healing ointment or gel.
The first thing to know about using Neosporin is to never use it on the eyes or internally.
Also, if your dog is pregnant or is still nursing puppies, you should consult with your veterinarian before using Neosporin.
You should always talk with your veterinarian before using any new medication on your dog as a best practice.
If your veterinarian okays the use of Neosporin on your dog, here is how to use it:
- First, cleanse the wounded area as best you can with clean water, Castille soap (if needed) and a soft rag.
- Next, dab a bit of Neosporin on the end of your finger (about the size of half a dime).
- Spread a very thin layer of Neosporin over the area of the cut, scrape or scratch.
- Cover the area with a thin layer of gauze or bandage, both to keep the wounded area clean and to keep your dog from trying to lick the ointment off.
- Re-apply the same amount of Neosporin once or twice more at even intervals throughout the day and night for one to two days or as needed (do not exceed seven days in a row of use).
Should You Use Neosporin on Your Dog?
There are a few ways to answer this question.
Overall, most dogs tolerate topical Neosporin well, so long as they do not lick and ingest the ointment, which can make them sick.
Most veterinarians will give permission to use brand name or generic Neosporin, so long as it is used precisely as described here on a one-time or temporary basis for wound disinfection and healing.
However, is Neosporin the very best choice for sanitizing, sterilizing and healing minor wounds on dogs?
Here, the answer is less clear. There are some products that are made especially for canines, such as Veterycin, a wound and skin care spray product that is formulated specifically for dogs and other pet animals.
Canine experts such as Cesar Milan endorse Vetericyn for a variety of common health and wound issues in his dogs.
This is important, because while he also states on his website Cesar’s Way that human use products like Neosporin can be used for canine wound sterilization and healing, his first choice is clearly to use a product like Vetericyn that is made specifically for dog health care needs.
For example, while Neosporin can be toxic if your dog licks the ointment, Vetericyn will not cause any side effects in your dog even if she licks at it.
When Not to Use Neosporin
In some cases, you may not need to use Neosporin at all. And in some cases, it is not advisable to use Neosporin.
Here are some examples of when you may not need to use Neosporin (or another product such as Vetericyn):
- When your dog’s wound is very superficial and does not seem to be bothering her
- When your dog’s wound is superficial and heals on its own in a day or two.
Here are some examples of when you probably should not use Neosporin or a related topical antibiotic:
- When your dog’s wound is located in an area she can easily reach to lick.
- When you do one application and you see your dog immediately try to lick it off.
- When your dog’s wound is deeper, bleeding heavily or appears to be more severe.
- When your dog appears to be in serious pain, even if the wound looks superficial to your eyes.
How to Treat More Serious Wounds
If you suspect or know that your dog’s wound, scrape, cut or abrasion is more serious, trying to use Neosporin may actually cause it to get worse rather than better.
One reason for this is that, if the wound is deeper, the Neosporin may enter the bloodstream and cause side effects such as stomach distress or vomiting. Also, if your dog’s injury is bleeding, the Neosporin is unlikely to stay where it is needed.
Also, trying to use a topical antibiotic designed to treat very minor cuts and scrapes on a more serious wound could delay getting the kind of professional medical care that your dog needs to recover from a deeper injury. Deeper wounds are more likely to get infected and the infection is more likely to spread throughout your dog’s system unless they are treated and sanitized promptly by a veterinary professional.
What to do if you suspect your dog’s wound is more serious:
- Apply a tourniquet or compression bandage to reduce the bleeding as much as you can.
- Wrap your dog in a soft blanket as best you are able so he will stay warm.
- Locate and contact the nearest veterinary urgent care to notify them you are on your way.
- If possible, crate your dog for the car ride to be sure he will not injure himself further in transit.
- While waiting to be seen, write down as much detail as you know about your dog’s injury, how it occurred and all medications or supplements as well as foods he is taking to give to your vet.
- Following these steps will expedite your dog’s treatment in urgent care situations.
Using Neosporin Versus Letting Time Heal Your Dog
When you have a canine family member, it is easy to forget that often animals will heal more quickly than people. You just want your beloved dog to feel better fast and to heal so the danger passes quickly.
But here, because dogs can heal remarkably quickly from superficial wounds such as skin lacerations, abrasions, scrapes or shallow cuts, it can make sense to just do nothing and let time take care of the issue.
This especially holds true since dogs often will lick wounded areas, so adding Neosporin may prove irresistible.