Antiseptics for Dogs

Any injury to your dog that calls for an antiseptic is also worthy of a call your veterinarian. Punctures, animal bites or other serious wounds need professional medical attention, but your vet may give you the green light to treat less serious wounds at home or have you clean them before you get to the clinic. Some antiseptics serve as disinfectants and are good cleaning agents to use around your dog. Don’t pull out an antiseptic intended only for humans without your veterinarian’s blessing; you can find dog-appropriate antiseptics at your local pharmacy, making them easy to keep on hand for those unexpected canine catastrophes.

Ill dog
Many of the same antiseptics your veterinarian uses are available at retail for dog owners.
credit: Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images

Common Canine Antiseptics for Topical Use

Chlorhexidine and povidone iodine represent two of the most common antiseptics for dogs and are easy to obtain. Chlorhexidine works on several microorganisms, including gram negative and gram positive bacteria. You will find many dog products with chlorhexidine, including shampoos and ear rinses. Povidone iodine is commonly used by veterinarians as a surgical disinfectant before and after surgery; it destroys viruses, bacteria and fungi.

While you may have hydrogen peroxide in your medicine cabinet, don’t use it unless it’s all you have or with your veterinarian’s permission. It's only minimally effective as an antiseptic and can damage tissues.

How to Use Topical Canine Antiseptics

Dilute the chlorhexidine with water until it is light blue before using; the diluted povidone iodine should be the color of weak tea. Clean around a wound, but not directly in it, unless instructed by your veterinarian.

Flush wound with plain tap water , as long as you can get enough force to remove dirt and debris. A syringe provides a good low-pressure choice for this cleaning. Your vet may recommend adding salt or Epsom salts to flush the wound.

Other Antiseptics and Uses

Don’t be so quick to reach for the isopropyl alcohol -- rubbing alcohol -- for treating your dog. While an effective antiseptic, it can burn when applied topically and can cause toxicity if he licks the area, as well as irritate his respiratory tract. You can use it to clean your dog’s living quarters when disinfecting is necessary.

Potassium peroxymonosulfate, sold under the brand name Trifectant, is another effective disinfectant that animal shelters use for cleaning.

Difference Between Antiseptics and Antibiotics

Antiseptics destroy microorganisms indiscriminately and also prevent them from growing. Conversely, when your vet discerns that an antibiotic is warranted, she recommends it based on the type of infection present; for example, a fungal infection won’t respond well to an antibiotic designed to target a specific bacterial infection. Sweeping use of antibiotics -- even topical ones -- can also lead to increased resistance against them, making certain infections hard to treat.