Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Dilute Betadine Until It's a Weak Tea Color
What Is Betadine?
Among the many items and products you must have in your dog's first aid kit, make sure betadine is in it. Betadine is an over-the-counter topical antiseptic meant to reduce the number of microorganisms on the skin. It contains povidone-iodine, which is a potent antispetic. For many reasons, veterinarian surgeons use it when preparing the skin for surgery. It is also great for dog wounds. Here are some factors to consider when using it.
Things to Consider When Using Betadine
- It burns. You must always dilute it prior to its use. Betadine is normally of a dark brown color, so you'll have to dilute it with water until it's a weaker tea color. Applying it as is without diluting, can damage tissue. If you are looking for ratios, one part of it to 10 parts water is a good guideline.
- What about hydrogen peroxide? You may have heard about this alternative, but hydrogen peroxide doesn't have much value as an antiseptic and actually kills healthy tissue, which is why it foams. According to Vet Street, "The fizz created when it interacts with tissue makes it seem like something good is happening. Hydrogen peroxide, in fact, inflames the healthy skin around a wound, which increases healing time. Recent studies have shown that it’s not even an effective antibacterial." The only reason you see hydrogen peroxide in a dog's first aid kit is because it can be used to induce vomiting.
- What about alcohol? Do not use alcohol, because it burns. It is also a a drying agent and causes a delay in the healing process. The main reason why alcohol is in a dog's first aid kit is to disinfect thermometers after use for fevers.
The main products used as antiseptics for dog wounds are therefore betadine (povidone-iodine) and Nolvasan (chlorhexidine diacetate). In this article, we will be mainly focusing on betadine.
How to Use Betadine for Dog Wounds
There are several betadine formulations on the market. Before choosing one, it's a good idea to do some homework. For instance, consider that the scrub version contains povidone iodine and a detergent, making it suitable only for use on intact skin. You therefore want to look for a version containing 10% iodine in it that doesn't contain the detergent and has lower cytotoxic effects.
Dilution of Betadine
Even though the solution is 10 percent, you still need to dilute it. Never use full strength!
- Dr. Karen Becker suggests to dilute the povidone iodine with warm water until it is the color of iced tea. If too light, add more iodine. If too dark, add more water. If you want clearer directions then consider using 1 part betadine solution to 10 parts warm water mix.
- The Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook suggests making a 0.2 percent irrigation solution. Pour 10 ml of 10 percent betadine into two quarts of water.
Application of Betadine
- After diluting it, it can be applied to the sores with a washcloth by gently wiping.
- Wipe up to twice a day for minor sores and skin infections.
Another great feature of povidone iodine, according to Karen Becker, is that it's also safe for the dog to lick the area after being treated.
I recently got certified in pet first aid and CPR, and I was taught to always treat any wound as contaminated unless it's in a sterile environment. All wounds are contaminated with dirt and bacteria. So, when dealing with any wound, your top priority should always be to stop the bleeding and do every thing possible to prevent infection. This is where betadine comes in handy. Discovered by Bernard Courtois in 1811, it is capable of destroying or inhibiting the development of microorganisms in living tissue. However, its use on open wounds is a bit a subject of controversy.
- There are those who disapprove the use of antiseptics on open wounds, and those who believe that their use is helpful in favoring and promoting wound healing while keeping infections at bay.
- Infections can delay the healing because of the toxins and waste material left behind that create issues. Along with the fact that microorganisms stimulate a persistent production of immune mediators. Invading bacteria also competes for oxygen and nutrients necessary for healthy cells to promote healing.
- Those who disapprove antiseptic use are concerned about antiseptics being cytotoxic. Cytotoxic is a term that simply means "toxic to cells." In other words, antiseptics have the potential to kill cells that are essential for healing, just as antibiotics potentially kill both bad and good bacteria.
- While it's true that betadine is cytotoxic, it's also true though that in low concentrations, it's significantly less cytotoxic. According to The Pill Book Guide to Medication for Your Dog and Cat:"Tincture of iodine is irritating, painful and damaging to tissue when applied to open wounds, and can delay healing. Tamed iodine or povidone-iodine retains the antiseptic properties of tincture but has none of its adverse side effects."
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is betadine poisonous to dogs?
Answer: Good question. As with all first-aid products, it's important to prevent access to products, carefully monitoring the dog and keeping such products out of the way. Dogs should also be discouraged from licking off products either through careful supervision, distraction or the use of an Elizabethan cover when close supervision or redirection isn't possible.
According to veterinarian Dr. Andy, in general, ingesting a very small amount of diluted betadine shouldn't be a concern for toxicity. Some dogs with very sensitive stomachs though may develop some mild gastrointestinal irritation (nausea, vomiting, and possibly diarrhea). Large quantities are more problematic. Veterinarian Dr. Kara mentions that excess iodine can be toxic to a dog's thyroid gland causing electrolyte disturbances, but in general, a few licks should not be a problem. Encouraging the dog to drink may be helpful. Ice cubes, fresh water or low sodium broth with no onion or garlic in it can help. A dog who acts sick or ingests a larger amount should report to their vets or poison control.
Question: Is povidone-iodine the ointment version of Betadine?
Answer: Povidone iodine is the generic name. It is sold under a number of brand, trade names including Betadine.
Question: Is betadine safe for hot spots?
Answer: Yes, as long as it is diluted and your dog is prevented from ingesting it. Normally, one would clip the area around the hot spots very short so to allow the area to dry and would apply a solution mix of Betadine solution and warm water, made to look like weak tea. The area would then be treated twice daily. This is an antibacterial. Consider though that this solution can stain horribly so you probably want to do this outside. An Elizabethan collar would be important to prevent licking the area. Also, because hot spots are super painful, you may want your vet to shave the hot spots. When in pain, dogs can bite. Of course, hot spots with an infection require antibiotics prescribed by the vet. Please see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment as there are other skin conditions that mimic hot spots.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 07, 2020:
Kerry, you would have to apply pressure with a gauze to stop bleeding and then take steps to prevent infection. Good products are a betadine solution or plain Neosporin (make sure dog doesn't lick it off). See your vet if bleeding doesn't stop or you see signs of infection, redness, swelling, odor. Also see your vet to see what the growths are!
Kerry Ginnard on September 07, 2020:
I am looking for info on growths on my dog and I my other dog jumped and it started to bleed. HELP!!
Brian on October 23, 2019:
Can i use betadine solution inside of my dog's mouth on a laceration
Jenny on April 21, 2019:
I had a neo mastiff whose paws and elbows kept getting sore. Diluted betadine was great but the vet kept prescribing antibiotics and steroids. Eventually he died of renal failure he was only four. Beware of vets overprescribing antibiotics and steroids.
nichole on December 29, 2018:
Shannon on June 02, 2017:
I've been cleaning my dogs wounds after hydrotherapy (5 times so far) with squirting straight betadine then patting dry with gauze and then applying granulex spray..... unfortunately I didn't know I should dilute the betadine, have I already caused harmed with his tissue re-growth? I'm so worried and can't afford any more vet bills as I'm already down $2,300. Any advice will be helpful. Thanks
Misty snow on October 12, 2016:
I have a bigger boxer and she got into a big fight with my other boxer and she's got some pretty good gashes on her legs the vet only gave her antiobiotics can I use the betaine on them
Sherry on August 01, 2016:
Thank you very much for the information ,because I was not for show its been a long time since I had a pet and its not even mine grand son is going off to College
Cheryl Fleischer-Smith on July 06, 2016:
My beagle has sores between his toes caused by hair or allergies my vet says. I have used this tea type mixture and all I can say is the swelling goes down and he seems comfortable. I do worry about him licking it tho, before I do a rinse cup of water. I found this link and am glad I did. Vet just wanted me to treat with steroids and antibiotics. Too many steroids is not good and I feel the same with antibiotics. I just worry about the licking...he is quick.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 16, 2013:
Thanks AliciaC, Betadine solution is also in my dog's first aid kit.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 14, 2013:
Thanks for the useful information, alexadry. I use betadine on my dogs. It's good to learn more about it.