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Can I Use Desitin On My Dog?

Pets and pet care is a multi-billion dollar a year industry.

Today, there are a seemingly endless supply of products marketed specifically to dog owners for the well-being of their pets.

From different kinds of food and treats, to an array of leashes, collars, accessories and toys, to countless health and wellness products that have been uniquely tested on, and proven to work for, puppies and adult dogs.

That being said, some of these products can be quite expensive, and they are not all readily available to the average pet owner.

Given this dilemma, there are thousands upon thousands of dog lovers who regularly flock to Google and other spaces on the Internet to ask about the safety and efficacy of certain “human products” on dogs—asking whether a given medicine aimed at treating a particular condition in humans will have similar results if used on dogs.

One such question, “Can I Use Desitin on My Dog,” is becoming frequently popular and thus deserves the attention we will give it here.

In this article we will first provide a brief description of the product known as Desitin—its ingredients and uses—and explore the question as to when and if it should be used on dogs.

We will also describe how to use Desitin, and highlight some of the risks associated with this medicated treatment.

What Is Desitin?

Desitin is a topical medication that is marketed in the United States mainly as a treatment for diaper rash and as a preventive measure for the same.

Although its primary target area is diaper rash, Desitin can also be used to protect minor scrapes and burns against infection, and many oncologists recommend the formula as a treatment for radiation burns—burns a cancer patient might incur as the result of radiation therapy.

Desitin comes in cream form and falls into a class of therapeutics known as “emollients.”

According to WebMD, emollients are “substances that help to soften and moisturize the skin, while also decreasing instances of itching and flaking.”

As an emollient, Desitin works by creating an oily layer over the surface of the skin.

This layer then prevents water from escaping the skin, the very process that can lead to dryness and irritation.

Desitin contains only a few ingredients, but since we will next be talking about its potential usage and effectiveness for dogs, we feel it’s important to list all of them here.

Here are the ingredients in Desitin ointment:

  • Zinc oxide.  Zinc oxide is the one and only “active” ingredient in Desitin—the ingredient that gives the product its effectiveness.  This ingredient is responsible for protecting the skin and sealing out potential irritants, including water or wetness.
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole.  Referred to as BHA, this ingredient is a chemical preservative that is found in many creams and cosmetics.
  • Cod liver oil.  Cod liver oil is a natural ingredient that is loaded with healing vitamins, particularly Vitamins A and D.  In Desitin, the oil helps facilitate the healing of dry or damaged skin.
  • Lanolin. Lanolin is produced from the wool of sheep.  A natural ingredient, it also aids in creating a moisture barrier between the skin and outside irritants.
  • Methylparaben.  This is an antimicrobial preservative.  It is important to list here, as some people (and some dogs) may have allergic reactions to this ingredient.
  • Petrolatum.  Like “Vaseline,” this ingredient is also a natural emollient that helps to moisturize dry or irritated skin.
  • Talc.  In Desitin, the ingredient known simply as “talc” helps to give the ointment bulk and scent.
  • Water.  Water is added to Desitin to make it easier to apply and use.

Desitin and Dogs:  All You Need to Know

Now that you understand exactly what Desitin is and how it is used, let’s address the subject of Desitin and dogs.

First, the title question: “Can I Use Desitin on My Dog?”  The easiest answer to this question is “yes,” the medication can be used on dogs in certain situations. 

However, because some of the product’s ingredients may cause harm or toxicity if ingested, it is vital that you do not apply the formula to any area of your dog that he or she could easily lick away and ingest.

The guiding principle when considering using any “human medication” on dogs is “do no harm.”

And while most dogs will have no problem with Desitin, it is still wise to use the medication sparingly and only in areas where ingesting the medicine will be difficult to impossible.


We know that, on humans, Desitin is used primarily for diaper rash.

We also know that diaper rash is not an issue with dogs.

So in what situations might the ointment be used on our canine buddies?

Well, for dogs that have incur minor scrapes or burns, Desitin can be a great weapon in keeping those areas safe from infection.

The protective layer created by the formula can help protect minor wounds and burns from water and other irritants that can slow healing.

Another fantastic place to use Desitin on dogs is the underside of their paws.

On very hot days, your pet’s paws can become overheated and burned.

This in turn can cause a lot of pain, redness and irritation, all of which will be made worse should your pet develop an infection.

In cases such as these, Desitin can help protect the burns by sealing in the natural water under the skin.

This not only prevents infection; it will help speed healing in these areas, prevent moisture loss, and a provide a soothing balm that also eases pain.


We have mentioned that Desitin should only be applied to areas of a dog’s skin that would be difficult for him to lick and ingest—a habit that is instinctual with dogs.

This is because Desitin can be toxic in large amounts if ingested by dogs.

The active ingredient in Desitin—zinc oxide—is very healing to skin, but it does NOT agree with a dog’s gastrointestinal tract.

Therefore, if enough zinc oxide is ingested, it may cause your dog to become ill and vomit—and vomiting increases the chance of aspiration, a process in which vomit is aspirated into the lungs, causing a very serious and hard-to-treat form of pneumonia.

The bottom line:  Use Desitin sparingly and wisely to treat the minor cuts and burns on your dog.

The product works great as a protectant and healing aid, but it can also be toxic if ingested in large amounts.

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National Canine Research Association of America