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Why Hydrogen Peroxide Is NOT For Cleaning Pet Wounds

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. 

Please note: Unless otherwise stated, products, services, and/or companies mentioned, or links to same, are for illustration purposes only and their inclusion does not constitute an endorsement from Preventive Vet. Additionally, we are NOT compensated if you choose to buy what we feature. 

Topics: Cat Health, Dog Safety, Dog Health, Cat Safety, pet safety tips, First Aid, Pet First Aid Kits, Pet First Aid, Wounds

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Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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