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Just like their owners, dogs are susceptible to minor injuries and are not immune to getting cuts, scrapes, or burns. But can you use Neosporin® on dogs? The answer isn’t completely straightforward. In some instances, applying the topical, antibiotic ointment can help heal your dog’s wound, but there are situations when it is not advisable or necessary to use it on your canine companion.

Since most people immediately reach for some type of ointment when an incident occurs, it’s not unusual that your first instinct might be to do the same for your dog. But before you go ahead and start applying Neosporin, there are a few things to take into consideration.

With abrasions (scrapes and scratches), you should first clean and flush the wound with soap and water, then rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Your veterinarian should see all puncture or penetrating wounds, including dog bites, as soon as possible.

Neosporin is comprised of three different antibiotics: bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B. Together, they work to kill bacteria on the skin and prevent topical infection. Dr. Rachel Barrack, a licensed veterinarian, certified in both veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbology with Animal Acupuncture in New York City, points out that Neosporin has been formulated for people and is not necessarily safe for use on dogs.

“Bacitracin has been deemed safe for use on animals, as has polymyxin B. However, neomycin has been linked to loss of hearing,” she says. “This was primarily shown with intravenous use, but it is recommended that you do not administer neomycin topically to your dog without first consulting your vet.”

Because Neosporin is topical and applied directly onto the skin, there’s always a chance that your dog could have an allergic reaction. It’s a good idea to administer a small patch test first. The best way to do this is by picking a small area of skin and applying a tiny dab of Neosporin, then monitor the area to see if your dog develops a mild rash, redness, or hives.

“Typically, small amounts of Neosporin are not harmful,” says Dr. Danel Grimmett, a veterinarian with Sunset Veterinary Clinic in Oklahoma. By performing a patch test in advance, you’ll know for certain whether your dog can tolerate this antibacterial cream before he really needs it.

The advantage of using Neosporin is that it kills off any live, existing bacteria, and stops them from growing. When applied to the skin, it helps to create a physical barrier against bacteria to prevent them from entering the wound and offers protection against infection. But there are some instances in which applying it to your dog might do more harm than good.

If your dog’s wound is located in a spot that’s easily reachable, he might try licking the Neosporin off, which not only defeats the purpose but also might make your pup sick.

“The main concern regarding ingestion of Neosporin is the potential impact to the GI flora (normal gut bacteria), resulting in GI upset such as vomiting and diarrhea,” explains Dr. Grimmett. “A second potential cause of GI upset would be the lubricant base, which could also give them diarrhea, etc.”

You can try covering the area with a sterile dressing, but Dr. Grimmett points out that not all dogs tolerate bandaging, and the same desire to lick something off their skin will most likely prompt them to chew, as well. “A bandage can act as a tourniquet, reducing adequate blood flow to extremities, if not managed well,” he says. “Great care must be taken to prevent any constriction.”

Other instances when Neosporin would not be beneficial to your dog are if he is bleeding heavily, the wound is deep, or appears to be severe. In these circumstances, it’s important to call your veterinarian or nearest animal hospital immediately for assistance.

While using Neosporin to treat a minor injury to your dog may be fine at times, there are several products that are designed specifically for canines and completely safe, even if ingested.

Whatever type of injury your dog sustains, it’s important to first talk with your veterinarian before administering any new medications, especially if they’re made for humans. “Your veterinarian is better equipped to treat your dog’s potential infections than you are at home,” says Dr. Barrack.

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