Is Chlorhexidine Gluconate Safe for Dogs?

By Karen S. Johnson

You can confidently use chlorhexidine gluconate for your dog as long as he doesn’t display signs of irritation from the treatments. This antiseptic has a wide margin of safety for dogs when highly diluted and used according to your veterinarian’s directions, notes Austin, Texas veterinarian Janet Roark. It works effectively against gram-plus and gram-negative bacteria; the dilution will vary based on the prescribed use. Commercially available products are also generally very safe.

Topical Skin Treatment

Chlorhexidine gluconate works as an effective antiseptic, and is often prescribed to treat dermatitis and other bacterial or fungal skin conditions. The concentration for a topical treatment should be no more than 2 percent to avoid irritating your dog’s skin, Roark notes. It is also a widely used ingredient in commercial shampoos. Discontinue use if you notice a rash or other irritation on your dog’s skin; this should clear up once you stop using it.

Ear Rinse

Chlorhexidine gluconate’s anti-bacterial properties and easy application make it an ideal ear infection treatment when diluted to 0.2 percent. Never use it in your dog’s ears without consulting your veterinarian; she should examine your dog to make sure the eardrum is intact before prescribing the appropriate treatment.

Oral Rinse

Your vet may prescribe a 0.1 percent chlorhexidine gluconate dilution for your dog’s gingivitis or at any signs of periodontal disease. Still, getting your dog to rinse it in his mouth is a problem. Ask your vet for an applicator designed for canine oral health. You can also use gauze or just your fingers to ensure even application on the affected areas in his mouth. Don’t apply any fluoride treatments at the same time; wait at least 30 minutes to an hour, or according to your vet’s instructions.