Antiseptics are substances which are used to treat wounds by inhibiting the growth of bacteria. Minor scratches and wounds can be treated at home as long as they are not deep or bleeding profusely, however, there is a range of antiseptics that can be safely used on humans, but should never be used on cats as they can damage the skin and/or cause toxicity.
Phenols are extremely toxic to cats. Any antiseptic that turns cloudy when diluted with water contains phenols. Any antiseptic (and disinfectant for that matter) which turns white, when diluted, should not be used on or around cats. Dettol is one very common product which contains phenols. Other products you shouldn't use on cats are hydrogen peroxide and alcohol.
Antiseptics safe to use on cats
Products containing either chlorhexidine diacetate or iodine are safe to use on cats.
- Chlorhexidine (brand names Peridex, ChlorhexiDerm, Avaguard) comes in 1% or 2% strength. 2% should be diluted at a ratio of 2 tablespoons per 1 gallon of water, or pale blue in colour.
- Iodine (Betadine) should be diluted to the colour of weak tea.
- Saltwater - Add 1 tablespoon to 250ml water.
Avoid contact with the eyes when using antiseptics, these are for external use only.
Cat wound treatment
Wounds should be flushed prior to being treated with antiseptics.
To stop bleeding, use clean gauze or a sanitary towel and apply gentle pressure to the wound. Once bleeding has stopped, rinse the wound with clean water and then apply the antiseptic solution. To do this, gently dip some cotton balls in the antiseptic solution and then gently dab onto the affected area. Don't make it soaking wet.
Keep a close eye on wounds for signs of infection, if you notice redness, inflammation or any oozing, take your cat to a veterinarian.
Puncture wounds or long, deep wounds should be treated by a veterinarian.