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Is there anything that hurts worse than a paper cut? Personally, I think using paper would have been a great torture device in the Middle Ages – can you imagine something like “the death of a thousand paper cuts”? I can just picture some big burly guy in a leather mask saying, “Tell me what you know; I have paper, and I will use it!”
I gave myself a nasty one today when I was taking a sheet out of my printer. I’d like to tell you that I was really brave, and just sucked it up, but if I did, I’d be lying. The reality is that I whined like a baby and then went running for the Neosporin.
Then, of course, as is my habit, I started wondering how I might translate this learning experience into a blog post – thinking about using Neosporin for dogs.
I’ve done a few things with dog wounds that might strike other people as a bit strange, but of course, I’d never do anything without veterinary approval. I’ve learned a lot over the years, as you could probably tell from my post, Should You Worry About Dark Spots on Your Dog’s Skin. One thing I learned is that not every little injury requires a visit to the vet.
Just as an example, a few months ago, Leroy tore his skin diving into a culvert after a squirrel while we were out on our walk. I called my vet, Stephen, and he said, “Ash, if it’s not a huge cut, and the edges are clean, he probably doesn’t need stitches. Why don’t you just disinfect it and Crazy Glue it?” See, Crazy Glue is pretty much the same thing as the surgical glue that veterinarians use.
So I cleaned Leroy up, Crazy Glued the edges together, and then gave Leroy a shot of Penpro to take care of the possibility of infection.
My friends at the dog park were amazed: “You did that yourself? And your vet was okay with it?”
Yes, I did. He was. And I saved a fortune by being able to handle what might be considered a moderate wound on my own.
Truthfully, I’ve never really had to deal with a minor wound until a bit after the thing with Leroy. I’ve always had big dogs, and usually that means at least moderate-sized injuries. So I never really had to think about something like Neosporin for my dogs.
Then, shortly after the Crazy Glue episode, Janice scraped her face on some ice while trying to dig out something that was apparently of interest to her, and I got thinking about Neosporin for dogs again. She didn’t seem to be in a lot of discomfort, and it’s not like the injury was anywhere that she’d be able to lick, so I decided to do a bit of research, and I found out that there doesn’t seem to be any real agreement on whether using Neosporin for dogs is a good idea or a bad one.
What I did end up learning is that Neosporin is a brand name, and that there are all kinds of other preparations out there that contain the same ingredients – Neomycin, Bacitracin and Polymyxin B. All three ingredients are antibiotics, meaning that they’re intended to stop infections that are caused by bacteria. Neosporin has been in use since the 1950s, and most people even refer to other, identical brands as “Neosporin,” in much the same way as we say “Kleenex” for any brand of facial tissues and “Bandaid” for any brand of adhesive strips.
The other thing I learned is that minor cuts and abrasions are probably going to heal just as quickly, and just as effectively, if you simply leave them alone as they will if you apply Neosporin. Also since it’s antibacterial, Neosporin won’t help your dog if the infection is due to a virus or fungus.
That said, though, it probably won’t do your dog any harm if you want to use Neosporin for a dog’s minor cuts or scrapes. Just make sure that you clean the wound thoroughly before using it, because it’s a thick, greasy preparation and it will not just seal out contaminants; it will seal in those that are already in the wound. Just as I cleaned up Leroy’s cut before gluing him back together, you’ll need to make sure that the cut or scrape is completely free of undesirable material before you use Neosporin for your dog. You can use warm water, or peroxide. Don’t use alcohol, though; it will sting your dog just the same way it stings you when you put it on a wound.
If you do want to use an antibiotic ointment on your dog, you’ll feel reassured knowing that Neosporin is the one that vets recommend most often. Given that I’ve discovered, as stated above, that wounds of the type that you would use Neosporin for are also the kind that usually heal well even if left untreated, I’m not sure if this is because vets honestly believe that Neosporin helps, or if it’s more along the lines of, “Well, if you want to do something, Neosporin won’t hurt your dog.” Veterinarians say that it’s safe for minor wounds, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s helpful.
Your vet will probably tell you, though, that if you’re dealing with broken skin, itching or redness in delicate areas, or spots that are hard to reach, you should proceed carefully and always seek your vet’s advice before using Neosporin on a dog’s sensitive parts.
Just as an example, if you suspect an eye infection (usually indicated by a green, slimy substance in the corners of the eyes), stay away from the Neosporin. Eye infections are caused when irritants get trapped under the eyelids or in the corners of the eyes, and Neosporin can actually make an eye infection worse. Jut use some saline solution and clean your dog’s eyes out with a moistened cotton ball.
When it comes to the ears, infections are usually caused by bites from parasites or sensitivity to certain plants. Again, avoid human medications like Neosporin. For a dog’s ears, you’re far better off with a veterinary-approved cleaning solution.
Now, you don’t have to worry about your dog licking Neosporin off his face, but when it comes to the paws, licking is a very real possibility. I would strongly advise against allowing your dog to ingest anything that contains antibiotics (with the exception, of course, of oral antibiotics prescribed by your vet). If you must use Neosporin on the paws, cover the wound with a bandage. Change it regularly, and clean the injury each time. If your dog is the type to chew off bandages, you might consider fitting him with an Elizabethan collar.
Realistically, licking off Neosporin is not likely to cause your dog any more harm than perhaps a bit of diarrhea. But why add to his discomfort?
I’ve already pointed out that Neosporin, for both dogs and humans, is meant only to prevent infection in minor wounds. If your dog has had surgery, your vet will already have prescribed an antibiotic to take care of any post-surgical infections. You don’t need Neosporin.
This is another instance in which Neosporin for a dog’s wounds is not the best idea. Usually, if your dog has been in a fight, you’ll be contending with rips and puncture wounds, not with minor abrasions. Neosporin, in this scenario, is not going to do any good. Your dog will probably need stitches and medication for pain. Don’t try to handle this on your own; see your vet.
As I’ve already mentioned, there are a number of topical ointments that are pretty much identical to Neosporin. Many are less expensive, and if you’re considering Neosporin for your dog’s injuries, you’ll do just fine with a generic brand that has the same ingredients. If the wound is properly cleaned, though, and your purpose is to keep out contaminants, you might also just consider giving it a swipe with petroleum jelly.
So, is Neosporin okay for dogs? If your dog has some minor scrapes or small cuts, there’s no harm in using it. The official Neosporin site does state that the company doesn’t recommend using the product on animals, but take that in context; a lot of family doctors don’t really recommend using it on humans!
Most veterinarians take the position that Neosporin for dogs might not do a whole lot of good, but it probably won’t do any harm. So if it makes you feel better to use Neosporin on minor injuries, go ahead. Add it to your veterinary first aid kit.
If you’re like me, and you’re pretty good at doing things for yourself, toss in a tube of Crazy Glue, some Penpro, and a couple of syringes, as well!