Hydrogen peroxide is a common disinfectant found in most homes. It generally comes in a square, brown bottle, and you likely remember the white foam it creates when cleaning a cut or scrape from childhood. It stings! Hydrogen peroxide is also a whitening agent, making it good for teeth whitening and laundry whites. Even though hydrogen peroxide is generally safe for people and a common household item, you likely know how important it is to do your research on human remedies before using them on your dog. In this article, we’ll discuss the common uses of hydrogen peroxide and dogs, and whether or not they are safe.

What is Hydrogen Peroxide?

Let’s talk science for a minute. Hydrogen peroxide is an inorganic compound of hydrogen and oxygen. It is a weak dibasic acid, which means it is water-soluble and contains two replaceable hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen peroxide is water with one extra oxygen molecule. That additional oxygen molecule is unstable, which makes it very reactive. This is what allows hydrogen peroxide to disinfect and causes the white foam. Hydrogen peroxide can also eliminate microbes as part of its disinfectant action. 

Can You Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Clean Wounds on Your Dog?

This might surprise you, given how common hydrogen peroxide is, but hydrogen peroxide, while it’s an effective disinfectant, can slow healing down. Hydrogen peroxide can be irritating to healthy skin and even more so to broken skin. So, when it comes to disinfecting your pup’s cuts and scrapes, here are some safer options for cleaning a scrape or cut on your dog.

  1. Warm tap water.
  2. Saline solution, from a first aid kit. 
  3. Diluted betadine. Betadine is a topical antiseptic. Betadine is a dark brown color. Dilute until it’s the color of iced tea, otherwise, it can burn.
  4. An antimicrobial ointment made for pets.

Can You Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Safely Clean your Dog’s Ears?

While it may be common to use hydrogen peroxide on human ear infections, it isn’t safe for use on dog ears. You may have heard from friends or read on a website that hydrogen peroxide is a good tool for cleaning out your dog’s ears. However, despite its disinfectant properties, hydrogen peroxide is very harsh on the skin, especially delicate skin, like your dog’s ears. Using hydrogen peroxide on your dog’s ears could hurt the inner ear, and not just the sensitive skin surrounding the ears. 

Your instinct to clean your dog’s ears is a good one, however. Clean ears prevent ear infections. Dogs with long, large ears, like cocker spaniels, may need more regular cleaning than dogs with shorter ears. But all dogs can potentially develop ear infections, and the cleanliness of your dog’s ears is something to keep an eye on. One sign that your dog’s ears are dirty is if your dog, who usually loves having their ears petted, pulls away when you pet their ears. The American Kennel Club advises against using hydrogen peroxide to clean your dog’s ears. Instead, they recommend the following approach.

  1. Be sure your dog’s ears need cleaning. While regular cleanings are needed, too much cleaning can also make your dog’s ears vulnerable to infection. Healthy ears are pink, don’t smell, and don’t look dirty. If your dog’s ears are inflamed, they’ll tend to look redder. Dirty ears can also smell. If you start to notice a mild odor, or if your dog is shaking their head around a lot, then it is likely time for an ear cleaning. However, if your dog’s ears are red and inflamed, smell yeasty, or if your dog appears to be in pain, hold off on the cleaning and call your vet. Those could be signs of an ear infection, fleas or ear mites and cleaning might do more harm than good in those cases. 
  2. If you’ve determined that your dog’s ears are healthy, but a bit dirty, gather your supplies. You’ll need a cotton ball or gauze, a dog ear cleaning solution, and a towel. Don’t use Q-tips, or anything with a pointed tip since they can push dirt further back into the ear. This could be very dangerous to your dog, including hurting the inner ears. Pick a room that is easy to clean for your dog’s ear cleaning, it can be a messy process. What about using a homemade ear cleaning solution from Pinterest? It’s better to use a product that’s made for dogs. Homemade solutions can be ineffective or even dangerous to your dog’s ears. Swing by your local vet’s office for an ear cleaning solution or give them a call to find out what products they recommend. 
  3. Lure your dog over to the cleaning station with treats. Using a veterinary-approved cleaner, fill your dog’s ear canal with the cleanser and massage the base of the ear gently for about thirty seconds. You should hear a squishing, swishing sound. Be careful not to let the tip of the bottle touch your dog’s ear because that will introduce bacteria to your bottle of cleanser. 
  4. After thirty seconds, allow your dog to shake its head, use your towel to wipe yourself and your dog down. Next, take the cotton ball or gauze and gently wipe out your dog’s ear canal, only going to the depth of one knuckle. Stop the process if your dog seems like they’re in pain and call your vet.

What if You Need to Induce Vomiting?

If your dog just found your supply of chocolate chips or got into something else entirely, you may need to induce vomiting. Under the supervision of a vet, administering hydrogen peroxide to your dog will cause them to throw up whatever harmful substance they ingested. Be sure to call your vet first and don’t administer if your dog is:

  1. Already vomiting

  2. Severely lethargic

  3. Comatose

  4. Having difficulty swallowing

  5. Having difficulty breathing

  6. Having a seizure

  7. Acting hyperactive

  8. Recovering from an abdominal surgery

  9. Has an enlarged esophagus (megaesophagus)

  10. Consumed corrosive agents (like batteries), sharp objects, or drugs

The last item is especially important. If your dog ate some batteries, then there would be a caustic, or burning reaction inside your dog if you administer hydrogen peroxide. And if your dog ate something with sharp edges, they could cut themselves internally if you induce vomiting. Using hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting is generally safe when done under the care of a vet.

Hydrogen Peroxide is Good for a Skunk Encounter

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what hydrogen peroxide isn’t good for, and when to use it with extreme caution under the care of a veterinarian or veterinary clinic. One mostly safe application for hydrogen peroxide and dogs is in the case of a skunk attack. While this only applies to people who live where skunks are common, or when people are camping, this application makes it worth having a bottle or three of hydrogen peroxide on hand, and in your pet first aid kit. 

Skunks excrete or spray, a highly smelly substance when they feel threatened. Even if your dog was just trying to play with its newfound forest friend, any encounter your dog has with a skunk will likely result in them being sprayed with a foul substance. If your dog has been skunked, you’ll need to bathe them a few times, at least, to remove the stubborn smell. Hydrogen peroxide can help with removing the odor. Make a mix of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap. Then bathe your dog with this mixture, being sure to avoid their eyes, until the unpleasant smell is gone. The only risks here are if your dog has any open wounds because hydrogen peroxide can be irritating to healing skin and getting any of the cleaning mixture your dog’s eyes. If any hydrogen peroxide gets in your dog’s eyes, rinse and wash your dog’s eyes for at least 15 minutes.