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Injured dog with a bandaged leg lying on a blanket

The essentials

  • Neosporin is best for small scrapes and cuts — Deep cuts need veterinary care.
  • Avoid applying on lickable areas — When ingested, Neosporin can sometimes give your pooch an upset stomach.
  • Polysporin and Bacitracin are alternatives — One ingredient in Neosporin has been linked to hearing loss, so if you’re looking for alternatives, these are your best bet.

If your dog is the rough-and-tumble type, you’re likely going to be dealing with a lot of cuts, and scrapes. But before you reach for any topical medication to help your pup heal, you want to make sure you’ve done your homework.

We tend to reach for the Neosporin whenever we’re looking to heal up our own wounds, but can you put Neosporin on a dog? Read on to find out if and when to use the ointment, and how best to apply it.

Always use Neosporin with vet guidance

Neosporin is great for treating minor cuts and scrapes on humans, but when it comes to your dog, you should always consult your veterinarian.

Neosporin contains three different types of antibiotics to help prevent infection:

  • Bacitracin zinc
  • Neomycin sulfate
  • Polymyxin B sulfate

Some Neosporin even includes pramoxine, a topical anesthetic used to prevent itching. Together, they kill bacteria and form a protective barrier against further infection.

Neomycin has been linked to hearing loss with human use, so its usage needs to be under careful supervision with pets.

In small amounts, Neosporin can be safe and effective for most dogs. You can keep a tube in your doggie medicine cabinet or first aid kit, but don't leave it where your pup can chew on the tube!

Dr. Erich Irish

Situations where topical antibiotics are needed

Typically, you only want to use Neosporin (or other triple antibiotic ointment) on:

  • minor scrapes
  • minor cuts
  • minor scratches
  • minor burns

In any of these cases, a small amount of Neosporin on the affected area is generally OK for a dog.

Be sure to avoid applying cream to anywhere your dog can easily lick. Dogs can generally lick their nose, snout, paws, legs, and genitalia, so take extra care when treating these areas – or maybe consult your vet before treating them at all.

Injuries that are more serious

As a general rule, your veterinarian should always be consulted after your dog gets injured beyond a minor injury or cut. Open wounds can cause serious problems if not properly treated.

Puncture wounds from a stick or nail can force harmful bacteria deep into the skin, where a topical antibiotic ointment can’t help it. These require special treatment from a veterinarian.

If your dog has been in a scuffle with another dog, you’ll also want to bring your dog to the vet.

🚨 All bites, deep cuts, burns, and open puncture wounds require immediate vet visits.

Dog owners should always keep an eye on your pup for indications of a more serious injury. Symptoms may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Excessive redness or swelling around the dog’s wound
  • Whining or shaking pain
  • Wobbly legs or loss of the ability to stand
  • Difficulty breathing, disorientation
  • Bleeding from mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Excessive vomiting

Risks and dangers of using Neosporin on dogs

Food or not, most dogs will lick anything. It’s not because they are looking to purposefully get sick or ingest harmful things; dogs simply interact with the world differently than humans. So, it’s up to their pet owners to keep an eye on them.

Ingesting a small amount of Neosporin is generally OK and doesn’t require any medical intervention. But, there are some things to be aware of with Neosporin.

Licking wounds

Dogs like to lick their wounds (and yours). But, despite the myths about a dog’s tongue being cleaner than your mouth or a toilet seat, unfortunately licking a wound isn’t good for a dog.

Although a dog’s saliva does have some antibiotic properties, licking a wound will do more harm than good. To top it off, putting Neosporin on a wound will most likely encourage licking.

To prevent this, you can try using a cone or comfort collar. However, pups can be doggedly persistent, and if you are unable to supervise your dog’s recovery, it’s better to avoid it altogether.

Allergic reactions

Some dogs may develop allergic reactions when using Neosporin. You’ll notice symptoms similar to dermatitis, like:

  • Redness
  • Itching

It can be hard to distinguish between itchiness and general discomfort from the injury itself, so if there’s any confusion, it’s a good idea to seek a veterinarian’s help.

Risks of ingestion

If your dog has licked a small amount, don’t panic. It’s typically not going to harm your pooch.

Antibiotics can disrupt the natural microbiome in stomachs, so ingesting Neosporin can cause gastrointestinal issues in your dog, leading to vomiting and diarrhea.

One of the main three antibiotics found in Neosporin, neomycin, has been linked to hearing loss in humans, so its usage needs to be under careful supervision with pets.

If your dog has accidentally eaten a large amount of Neosporin, seek medical attention immediately by calling your veterinarian or Animal Poison Control .

Alternatives to Neosporin

Generic Neosporin is typically called a “triple antibiotic ointment” and contains the same three main ingredients as Neosporin. If you are looking to get away from using Neosporin, the generic brand isn’t any different.

However, there are a few alternatives available for treating minor wounds and small cuts for people looking to avoid Neosporin.

Polysporin and bacitracin

Both polysporin and bacitracin are similar products that help with pain relief and the healing process. These are antibiotic creams that are safer for dogs than Neosporin because they lack neomycin.

Polysporin is an over-the-counter (OTC) drug that contains the same ingredients as Neosporin, minus the neomycin that studies have linked to hearing loss.

Bacitracin’s single active ingredient is bacitracin zinc, an antibiotic found in both Neosporin and polysporin.

Despite the different ingredients, both are antibiotic creams with similar effectiveness for superficial wounds. For your pup, it comes down to availability, cost, or known allergies.

Just like with Neosporin, introducing any topical cream or ointment to a dog without checking with a vet is dangerous. Both also carry similar risks when ingested.

Veterinarian-approved topical treatments

Once you visit your vet, depending on the severity of the dog’s wound, they may require prescription antibiotic creams for your dog to help the healing process.

Common topical antibiotics used by veterinarians include mupirocin and Panalog.

  • Mupirocin is an antibiotic cream used to treat infected wounds.
  • Panalog is a topical antibiotic for dogs usually used to fight ear infections.

Each of these alternatives has specific use cases and must be prescribed by your veterinarian.

Natural remedies

There are many different natural antibiotics for dogs, but not many are topical treatments. The two main natural remedies used to help prevent infection are manuka honey and coconut oil.

Manuka honey is sometimes used by veterinarians for wound care. Honey can be applied directly to small wounds as a protective barrier or on bandages to limit bacterial infections.

  • Manuka honey has a lower pH and more methylglyoxal than other honey, helping it fight germs and speed up healing.
  • Coconut oil can be used for cracked skin and paws, as well as wound care. A natural antibacterial and antifungal, coconut oil can be used topically on the skin.

Tips for dog wound care

No matter the size and severity of the wound, there are some initial care instructions for all cuts, burns, and wounds.

Stop bleeding

Apply direct pressure with a dry cloth or gauze. This will help protect the wound until a veterinarian can intervene.

Whenever possible, try to raise body parts above the level of the heart to help reduce the bleeding. When your dog is bleeding from a wound, you should avoid applying any creams or ointments.

Depending on the severity of the bleeding and the wound, consider veterinarian care.

Cleaning and disinfecting wounds

Gently remove any excess dirt or debris from the dog’s wound using warm water . You can also use a salt solution (one teaspoon of salt to two cups of water) to clean the surrounding areas.

🚨 Never use soaps, shampoos, hydrogen peroxide, or any type of product to clean an open wound unless directed to do so by your vet.

Caring for burns

For minor burns, pet parents should run cool water over the area. Do not apply Neosporin without asking your vet first.

For major burns, the best option is always to seek emergency care immediately.

Monitoring for infection

With any wound, there is the risk of infection — and the larger the wound, the larger the risk. Infection can lead to septic shock, which causes multiple organ failure.

It’s important to monitor your pup closely. Look for any of the telltale signs of infection:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Discharge
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased licking

When to consult a veterinarian

Any major wounds and injuries always warrant a vet visit immediately. If you don’t know already, be sure to make a note of your nearest emergency 24-hour animal hospital.

Injured dogs should get to the vet immediately, but if you cannot, be sure to monitor for the aforementioned signs of infection.

Frequently asked questions

What antibiotic ointment is safe for dogs?

The only truly safe antibiotic ointment for your dog is one that is prescribed by a veterinarian.

How often should Neosporin be applied to a dog’s wound or cut?

Use Neosporin as directed by a veterinarian. Typical use is a small layer on the cut or scrapes one or two times per day. Extended use of antibiotics can lessen their effectiveness.

Can I put Neosporin on my dog’s spay incision?

No, you should not put Neosporin on a spay incision without being directed to do so by your veterinarian.

Can Neosporin be used on dogs with stitches?

No, you should not put Neosporin on stitches without being directed to do so by your veterinarian.

Can I use Neosporin on a dog hotspot?

No, you should not put Neosporin on a dog hotspot without being directed to do so by your veterinarian.