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Is Neosporin Safe to Use on Dogs?

Just like us, our dogs get cuts, scrapes and other minor injuries from time to time. It is tempting to reach into our first aid kit and treat them using medications formulated for humans. After all, we commonly treat our own minor wounds with topical ointments like Neosporin. Should we be using it on our pets? Is Neosporin safe to use on dogs?

By the time you’ve finished this post, you’ll have a good understanding of the right and wrong ways of using Neosporin on dogs.

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Neosporin for Minor Injuries

It is not necessary to use Neosporin on a minor injury in a dog. Most of these wounds will heal quickly on their own. Keep them clean, prevent your pet from licking them, and you will likely be fine.

If you choose to use Neosporin on your dog, get the original formula and avoid using the extra strength version. Even the original formula of Neosporin contains higher amounts of the active ingredients than those formulated specifically for pets.

If you want, you can use a version that contains the pain reliever Pramoxine. This may make your dog more comfortable while the injury heals.

Do not use Neosporin around the eyes, mouth or in the ear canal.

Use for no longer than 5 days. If you don’t see improvement or if the wound looks worse, go see your veterinarian.

Prevent your pet from licking the medication off. Do not use if you can’t keep your pet from ingesting the medication! Neosporin is not safe to use orally, and is stronger than medications designed for use on dogs.

What is Neosporin?

Neosporin is the brand name for a triple antibiotic ointment or cream designed to be used topically on minor wounds to human skin. It comes in regular and extra strength formulations, and it sometimes contains an ingredient that numbs pain.

Let’s take a look at what is in Neosporin and what effect these ingredients have when used on dogs.

Neomycin Sulfate

This is an antibiotic that damages gram positive and negative bacteria. It has been found to decrease the likelihood of bacterial infections when used prophylactically. So, it is considered a good product to use to prevent an infection from starting!

Neomycin sulfate is used in veterinary medicine orally to reduce the number of bacteria in the colon (either pre or post surgery) or the liver. It is also commonly found in topical veterinary products and as a component of eye medications.

The possible side effects of oral neomycin use in dogs include:

  • Allergic reactions such as itchiness, inflammation, facial swelling and anaphylaxis.
  • Hearing loss. Some dogs may experience a permanent reduction or loss in hearing after ingesting this and related antibiotics.
  • Upset stomach including vomiting, diarrhea, and inability to eat

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? The good news is that when it is used topically and not ingested, the most common side effect is an irritation of the skin. Neomycin is generally considered safe to use topically on dogs.

Bacitracin Zinc

This antibiotic is very effective at preventing and fighting infections by gram positive bacteria. It is often used in topical skin and eye medications. It is frequently used in conjunction with other antibiotics in both human and veterinary products.

In veterinary medicine, bacitracin is usually found in medications used to treat minor skin infections and for infections of the eye. It is not used internally because it can have toxic effects.

The most common side effect of bacitracin zinc in dogs is an irritation or inflammation of the skin or membranes of the eye. It is considered safe to use topically on dogs.

Polymyxin B Sulfate

This is a more narrow spectrum antibiotic that is very effective at treating gram negative bacterial infections. It works by damaging the cell membrane of the bacteria, which prevents it from reproducing and kills it.

Polymyxin is commonly used in veterinary eye and ear medications, often in conjunction with other antibiotics and/or a steroid ingredient. Since it targets a narrow range of bacteria, it is not used in many veterinary topical products. It is not typically used in oral medications for dogs.

The most common side effect from using Polymyxin B is an irritation or inflammation of the skin, eye membrane or ear canal. It is considered safe to use topically on dogs.

Pramoxine Hydrochloride (Pain/Itch Reliever)

Pramoxine HCl is a topical anesthetic used to reduce pain, inflammation and itching from minor skin problems. Some formulations of Neosporin contain this pain reliever.

It is often found in topical medications and sprays used to treat skin infections, minor injuries and rashes in dogs and cats. You can find it in both prescription and over-the-counter products.

Side effects from using Pramoxine are not common, but can include redness, irritation or inflammation of the skin.

Pramoxine is considered safe to use topically on dogs.

How To Use Neosporin on a Dog

After clipping away any fur and cleaning the injury, apply a small amount of cream or ointment directly on the injured skin, and rub it in gently. Remove any excess with a sterile gauze wipe (don’t use a cotton ball or tissue, as they leave fibers behind that could irritate the wound).

Avoid getting it in the fur. You can reapply the Neosporin up to three times a day. You may need to gently clean the area first. If the area looks worse, spreads or shows signs of infection, go to your veterinarian.

Is Neosporin Safe to Use on Dogs?  Yes, with the following guidelines:

  • Minor scratches and abrasions
  • Small, shallow cuts
  • Insect bites and other small wounds

Avoid Using It On:

  • Animal bites or puncture wounds
  • Rashes
  • Abscesses or infected wounds
  • Surgical incisions/stitches unless directed by your veterinarian
  • Any injury that extends near the eyes or mouth, or into the ear canal
  • Any injury that your pet can reach and possibly lick (use an Elizabethan collar, clothing or a bandage to prevent this)

At the end of the day, your question…is Neosporin safe to use on dogs, is best answered with a yes. The most important thing is not to get it in your dog’s eyes, mouth, or ears. If your dog has a wound that shows any sign of infection (hot to touch, redness, swelling, pus, fever in dog) please get your dog to a veterinarian ASAP.

I want to thank you for reading this post and I invite you to stick around.  Sign up for my email newsletter so that you don’t miss out on great posts that will help you look after your dog. 

Before I let you go, I also want to say a big thank you to the author of this post, Jen Clifford!


Jen Clifford has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College. She was a field biologist for several years, and then spent 10 years working in veterinary medicine as a receptionist and technician.  Jen is currently a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her tribe of pets. She is a passionate animal lover who is dedicated to helping people find solutions to their pet-related challenges. You can find more of her work at her website