Can You Put Neosporin on a Dog? Honest Answers

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Published by Catharina Hjorth

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Neosporin on Dogs 

Suppose you get a cut or a similar minor injury. In that case, you may automatically reach for a tube of Neosporin. But can you put Neosporin on a dog if the same happens to your best friend? The short answer is yes: You can use this triple antibiotic ointment for dogs without too much trouble. 

But is there anything else you should know before buying Neosporin for dogs? Luckily, we’ve got all the answers! 

Dog injury on the leg

What is Neosporin?

Neosporin is the brand name for several topical antibiotic ointments, also called antibiotic creams, meant for use directly on the skin. They contain three types of antibiotics. 

  • Bacitracin zinc.
  • Neomycin sulfate. 
  • Polymyxin B sulfate. 

Typical uses are to treat minor cuts and scrapes. The cream base of Neosporin moisturizes the area to promote healing, and the antibiotics prevent the growth of many common types of bacteria.

Neosporin is just one type of antibiotic cream. There are many different generic counterparts, and most are available over-the-counter products. They are, however, all labeled solely for human use. None of these creams is an antibiotic cream for dogs or to treat an infected cut on dog paws. 

But is it even a good idea to use a human antibiotic ointment for dogs when you consider the issues we’re facing worldwide with antibiotic resistance? It is definitely something worth considering.

It does not mean you should never use them as a dog wound ointment; it just means you have to be careful. It is always advisable to contact your veterinarian before treating your furry friend with over-the-counter products. 

Can You Put Neosporin on a Dog?

When used with care, using Neosporin on dogs is considered relatively safe, but you should be aware of some things. 

The first thing worth mentioning is antibiotic resistance. According to multiple organizations worldwide, namely, the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health. Several studies within the last decade point toward topical antibiotic creams as one of the significant causes of an increase in resistant bacteria. 

So before you put Neosporin or any other topical antibiotical cream on your dog, it is very well worth considering whether it is strictly necessary. Especially as most studies suggest that the risk a small cut presents to an otherwise healthy dog is very slim. In most cases, a cone or bandage to keep a prying tongue away will be enough.  

This leads to one of the more localized issues with Neosporin. When a dog gets a small cut, it will inevitably itch even if you put an antibiotic cream for dogs or humans on it. Therefore, a high risk of the dog ingesting the cream can be problematic. 

Ingesting a small quantity may not cause severe issues. Still, there is a risk of it affecting the gut microbiome, which can affect the whole organism (the dog)—potentially leading to gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and vomiting. 

On the other hand, the licking of the wound will also prevent the cream from working and may even introduce more bacteria! Licking can also irritate and increase inflammation, leading to delayed healing and further infection. 

So if you choose to use Neosporin for dogs, ensure your dog can’t reach it! 

Is Neosporin Safe for Dogs?

Neosporin is not FDA-approved for use in dogs, meaning the FDA does not review or regulate the use, which can mean that some safety issues regarding the use of the ointment go unnoticed or are unregistered. 

However, the general opinion is that the lotion is perfectly safe for dogs topically, meaning on the outside of the skin. 

There is some anecdotal evidence of dogs receiving Neomycin – one of the antibiotics in Neosporin – as an injectable and experiencing hearing loss. With some evidence suggesting that long-term use can cause similar reactions. This is rare, but of course, something to keep in mind before using Neosporin to treat a minor cut. 

And as always, if you are worried your dog is experiencing any untoward reaction to the medication, you must contact your veterinarian immediately. 

A Neosporin Medication Info Table

Generic name:Topical antibiotic ointment. 
Active ingredients:Bacitracin zinc, Neomycin sulfate, Polymyxin B sulfate.
Dosages available: A tube contains 3.5 g (0.12 oz) of Neomycin, 400 IU Bacitracin, and 5000 IU Polymixin B.
Prescription type:Over-the-counter.
FDA:Not approved for use in animals. 

The Potential Side Effects of Neosporin on Canines

There are very few reported side effects when using Neosporin in dogs. However, some dogs can always be allergic. Anaphylactic reactions are, luckily, rare, and no data exist on the rate of occurrences. 

Some dogs may experience a localized reaction to the ointment. If the ointment application causes any reaction in the skin, including redness and swelling, seek veterinary care. 

Lastly, Neosporin is never for internal use or use in the eye region or within the ears – on dogs or humans. 

Leg wound

The Alternative to Neosporin for Dogs

Neosporin is a triple antibiotic cream and is only one of many on the market. Most of them contain the same three different types of antibiotics. These antibiotics are all aimed toward the most common types of bacteria found in the wound – on humans at least. So if you don’t have Neosporin on hand in a pinch, other similar creams are applicable.

However, there are appropriate products designed specifically with pets in mind. Most of these need a veterinary prescription, but that also means your veterinarian will be able to counsel you and assist in the treatment of your furry friend. 

What to Know Before You Use Neosporin

The general consensus in the scientific community is that dogs experience little to no benefits from receiving treatment with topical antibiotic creams. The fur is likely to interfere with the cream, and dogs are masters at getting to it to lick it off. Even if they don’t lick it off, a dog will move around a lot more than we humans and cannot avoid lying on it! 

Therefore, if you choose to use Neosporin or a similar cream, it is essential to keep a close eye on your dog and the wound. If you are in any way worried, you should seek veterinary assistance. 

Only use topical creams on superficial cuts and scrapes. Never apply it to large areas or as a way to treat deep wounds. You must contact a veterinarian if the cut is swollen, red, or has a discharge. It is also the case if you’re experiencing a strong odor from the wound, as this may be a sign of infection.

Although there are antibiotics within this cream, the dosage is relatively low. There are not enough antibiotics to clear a significant infection. Applying the cream to an area already covered in discharge or with a worsening smell may only worsen the outcome for your dog. To treat significant infections, higher dosages may be needed to clear them before it worsens. 

It is also advisable to remember that a cut might be painful. If it’s only a tiny scrape, it may not be necessary with painkillers. But, especially, wounds on the paw pads are uncomfortable for our four-legged friends! So keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort or pain in your dog; if you are worried, you know what to do! 

Treating Your Dog’s Wounds

So, what should you do to help your dog if it gets a small cut or wound? 

If it’s a larger area, a deep wound, or your dog seems in pain, you should seek veterinary care, but if it’s just a tiny scratch, you can start by trying to treat it at home without too much trouble! 

The most important thing is to clean the wound. You may have to trim the fur around the cut to get proper access to it. The surrounding fur should not be able to get into the wound; remember, it is better to remove too much fur than too little. 

Hereafter you need to clean it. Cleaning should be done with either lukewarm soapy water or, even better, a topical antibacterial solution. Most antibacterial soaps will contain saline (salt water), Chlorhexidine, or similar products with antibacterial effects. We want the bacteria to be removed or killed – antibacterial cleaners will do the job. 

Some places also offer antiseptic solutions to clean wounds. The difference is that antiseptic solutions, e.g., Iodine, are often more robust and remove most viruses. Antibacterial solutions only affect bacteria – this will, however, often be more than enough for household use! 

Be careful not to pick a too strong antibacterial solution as this may sting your dog when you apply it. Although it is unlikely to do any long-lasting harm to your dog, it will complicate the cleaning later on significantly if your dog is expecting a pinch. 

After cleaning the wound, keeping your dog out of it is the most important thing. You can try with a bandage, but be careful when applying these as it is crucial that it is not too tight or loose. The often despised cone is the most effective way to ensure your dog isn’t licking it!

When Your Dog is Licking the Neosporin…

As we’ve already discussed, licking Neosporin can cause gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea, albeit unlikely to be dangerous; it is uncomfortable for your dog and bothersome for you. 

Suppose your dog continues to lick the cream off. In that case, it is necessary to buy an Elizabethan collar – also known as a “cone.” The most common type is a rigid white plastic cone, but softer “doughnut” cones exist now. Indeed, dogs rarely appreciate these cones, but in our experience, most dogs get used to them quickly. 

Your dog should always wear the cone, only getting it off when on a leash, or you are absolutely sure you can keep a very close eye on your dog. Licking the Neosporin off is actually a minor issue compared to the issue of licking the wound, so make sure your dog doesn’t get to it. That’s the best way to help your best friend recover quickly! 

Dog get wound bandaged

Parting Words

So, can you use Neosporin for dogs? You can if you think it is necessary, and it can be helpful in a pinch to assist in the healing of minor cuts and wounds. Remember to never use it on large areas or deep wounds, and seek veterinary care if your dog’s condition doesn’t improve or worsen. 

The real question is whether you should use over-the-counter antibiotic ointment for dogs. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a global issue none of us should ever forget to keep in mind, nor can the role topical antibiotic creams play in this issue. 

In the vast majority of cases, a cone and antibacterial cleaning solution will be more than enough to keep your best friend happy and healthy!

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With a veterinary master's degree from the University of Copenhagen in 2023, this accomplished writer's academic journey culminated in a thesis focused on the "Feasibility of using ultrasound of the abdomen for early diagnosis of necrotizing enterocolitis in neonatal pigs." Additionally, their dissertation delved into the intriguing topic of "Mercury accumulation in Greenlandic sleddogs." Beyond her academic achievements, her passion for animal health seamlessly merges with her love for writing. She excels in harmonizing clinical precision with literary expression, crafting articles that resonate with the heartbeat of her veterinary profession.


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