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My Dog Licked Triple Antibiotic Ointment! Vet-Approved Advice

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Dogster Team

jack russell terrier dog licking hind leg

My Dog Licked Triple Antibiotic Ointment! Vet-Approved Advice

VET APPROVED

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Triple Antibiotic Ointment (TAO) is a combination medication of bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B. These antibiotics treat minor scrapes, skin infections, or burns. Dog owners are surprised to learn they can apply it to their skin sparingly. But then the panic sets in when the dog inevitably tries to lick it.

If this is your dog, keep reading to learn what to do.

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What to Do When Your Dog Licks Antibiotic Ointment

Thankfully, minor amounts of Triple Antibiotic Ointment (TAO) aren’t toxic if your dog accidentally licks the medicine off the skin. However, ingesting TAO is never recommended, as it is meant to be used as a topical ointment only.

With this in mind, you’ll want to prevent your dog from licking the medicine again after you’ve reapplied the TAO to the affected area. To do so, you can:

  • Apply a dog cone
  • Offer your dog a chew toy
  • Place a muzzle on your dog’s snout (if you don’t have a cone)

Dogs naturally want to lick wounds, so don’t feel bad if your dog gets a taste of the TAO. What you don’t want is for your dog to continually lick the medicine. Too much ingestion of TAO will make your dog sick, so do what you can to prevent licking.

king charles spaniel dog wearing an elizabeth collar
Image Credit: Micah, Pexels

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What to Do When Your Dog Eats the Triple Antibiotic Tube

TAO is designed to kill bacteria from the skin to prevent infection. Small doses of TAO aren’t toxic, but a significant amount will disrupt your dog’s gut microbiome, leading to illness. In addition, exposure to high amounts of the drug can be problematic for your dog’s kidneys.

If your dog found a tube of TAO and decided to have an afternoon snack, you should take your dog to your veterinarian for an immediate check-up. You may also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661.

Alert your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline if you notice any of these signs:
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (discoloration, greasiness, etc.)
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Drooling
  • Skin lesions
  • Inappetence

If your dog ate the tube of TAO, they may also require surgery to remove the tube from their digestive tract. Your vet will run the necessary tests required to determine the best possible stabilization and treatment option for your pup.

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What is Triple Antibiotic Ointment?

Triple Antibiotic Ointment (TAO) is commonly sold under the tradename Neosporin in the US. It is a topical ointment composed of three key antibiotics: neomycin, polymyxin B, and bacitracin. These are mixed in a base of cocoa butter, cottonseed oil, and petroleum jelly, and they are packaged into tubes.

TAO/Neosporin is most often used as a preventive for minor skin trauma and infections, such as minor burns, scratches, and cuts. A “plus” variation of the medication exists with a pain killer (pramoxine) added to the formulation. Such variations often exclude bacitracin from the medicine as it cannot properly mix into the newer composition.

This medicine is sold under different names in other countries. Furthermore, in many countries, the active ingredients and base may also vary. For example, versions from China contain Lidocaine, a numbing agent.

Around the world, the medicine is a popular over-the-counter (OTC) ointment. This means that for humans, it is available for purchase without a doctor’s prescription. However, it is not advised to be used as an OTC treatment for your dogs (or any other pets you have).

Veterinary advice and prescriptions are required prior to applying this medicine on your dog. Therefore, only use this product on your dog according to a veterinarian’s prescription and instructions. Remember that in many cases, your vet may opt for alternate topical medications that are more appropriate for your dog, depending on their skin ailment.

It is also important to note that not all skin ailments in dogs are caused by bacteria. At the same time, this medicine is effective ONLY against bacteria. Fungal infections, parasites, hormonal imbalances, nutritional imbalances, food allergies, or other environmental allergens can cause many different skin ailments in your pup. Therefore, you should never self-diagnose or self-treat any ailment on your dog’s skin.

Finally please note that in many jurisdictions, it is illegal to use products on your pets without a veterinarian’s prescription. Therefore, always opt for a veterinarian’s input before applying anything to your dog’s skin.

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Conclusion

Neosporin, also known as Triple Antibiotic Ointment, is an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine for humans. Use on your dog isn’t recommended without a veterinarian’s prescription. Minor amounts of the medicine licked by your dog might not be cause for panic. However, if large amounts are ingested, immediately take your dog to the veterinarian.

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Featured Image Credit: Veronika Gaudet, Shutterstock

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