We vets see a lot of wounds (cat bite abscesses, skin cuts, abrasions, etc.) where well-intentioned pet owners have inadvertently slowed healing with the at-home care they’ve tried before bringing their pet in.
How have they done this? By using something you likely have in your medicine cabinet, and something that many people sadly reach for as a first line of defense when cleaning and treating a wound on their cat or dog (or even on themselves).
I’m talking about good ‘ol Hydrogen Peroxide.
The Problem With Peroxide
Unfortunately the bubbling you see when you add hydrogen peroxide to a scrape, bite, or cut isn’t just a sign that the peroxide is killing any bacteria that might be present, it’s also a sign that the peroxide is killing the very cells that your pet's body is counting on to heal the wound! These cells are called fibroblasts, and they are truly crucial to proper wound healing.
So while the peroxide may be helping to disinfect the wound, it's unfortunately also slowing down the body's natural process for healing itself. Fortunately, there are better disinfecting alternatives for you to choose from. Neither of the disinfectants below will cause any significant damage to your pet's fibroblasts when diluted to the indicated strength.
- Chlorhexidine diacetate: dilute to 0.05% solution, a pale blue.
- Povidone iodine*: dilute to a 1% solution, a pale reddish-orange (like tea). *Use caution, some people can be allergic to povidone-iodine.
So please keep this in mind the next time your pet gets a wound or cut. Forget about the hydrogen peroxide (or even the alcohol—ouch!) and do your initial wound cleaning with water from a garden hose or, even better, a bottle of saline wound flush (saline eye/contact lens flush or saline nasal spray will also work). Then disinfect the area, and continue to keep it clean, using one of the disinfectants listed above.
First aid is often just that… first aid
If your pet has suffered a bite wound, deep puncture, bad cut, or a nasty abcess, and you want to administer first aid, your next step, after cleaning, should be a visit to the vet. These types of injuries typically also require second aid... veterinary care!
Want to make your own pet first aid kits? Check out our list of items to include.
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