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Can I Use Neosporin on My Cat? Vet Reviewed Risks Explained


Mar 30, 2023
Cat with eye infection


Cat with eye infection
Dr. Lauren Demos Photo

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Neosporin is an antibiotic medication commonly used in humans to treat wounds or eye infections. While Neosporin has its uses in the veterinary medicine world, the answer to whether you can use it on your cat is no; you should never use Neosporin on cats! Cats can have a severe reaction to Neosporin, which can be fatal.


What Is Neosporin?

Neosporin is a medication in skin and eye ointments used for wounds and eye infections. It contains three antibiotics: neomycin, bacitracin, and polymixin. Some types of Neosporin have pain relief elements, and the formula is also sold as Tribozene.

cat with eye wound
Image Credit: eremeevdv, Shutterstock

Why Shouldn’t I Use Neosporin on My Cat?

You should never use Neosporin on your cat because of the deadly reaction some cats have to the ingredients. Neomycin and polymixin, two of the three ingredients found in Neosporin, have been shown in studies to cause anaphylaxis in cats. In a study of 61 cats who suffered from anaphylaxis due to Neosporin between 1993 and 2010,1 the cats went into anaphylactic shock within 4 hours of being administered Neosporin. Polymixin seems to be the most probable cause, but no causal link was found in the study.

Most of these extreme reactions to Neosporin in the study occurred within 10 minutes of it being administered, and 18% of the cats died from anaphylactic shock. However, the cats were of all ages and breeds, and some were perfectly healthy before they were given the antibiotic. Although this reaction to Neosporin is rare, it’s severe enough to mean we shouldn’t use it on cats.

Neomycin, one of the ingredients found in Neosporin, can also cause anaphylaxis.2 Not all cats will suffer from this reaction to Neosporin, but many will still be allergic to it, particularly as they groom it off their skin. When applied topically, Neosporin can cause swelling or redness, but this is uncommon. However, if your cat grooms the Neosporin off and ingests it, it can cause gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Therefore, the primary concern with Neosporin is anaphylaxis in cats, whether it’s applied topically, in the eye, or ingested when groomed off the skin.


What Is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis (or anaphylactic shock) is a severe systemic allergic reaction. Several body systems can be affected by anaphylaxis, which is caused by the immune system releasing several immune mediators into the body. Depending on what caused the reaction and how it presents in your cat, different parts of their body can be affected.

Commonly affected bodily systems include:

  • Respiratory systems
  • Gastrointestinal systems
  • Cutaneous (skin)
  • Cardiovascular systems

It can also cause changes in the cat’s organs, such as the gall bladder, throughout the body.

a sick cat lying on the sofa
Image Credit: stokerolga, Shutterstock

What Are the Signs of Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis can show various signs, but the most common include:

  • Difficulty breathing/ stopping breathing
  • Facial swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Incoordination
  • Pale gums
  • Coma

If you suspect your cat is having an anaphylactic allergic reaction to something, take them to the vet immediately as a medical emergency! Anaphylaxis isn’t always fatal but can be if veterinary treatment isn’t sought immediately.


How Is Anaphylaxis Treated?

Anaphylactic shock is treated by first ensuring the patient can breathe and stabilizing them. The veterinary surgeon will open and maintain their airway and will likely give them injections to reduce the reaction and take down swelling in the airways. A tube can be inserted in severe cases to help the patient breathe.

cat treated in vet clinic
Image Credit: Raihana Asral, Shutterstock

Are There Alternatives to Neosporin?

If your cat gets a cut, or you think it might have an eye infection, take it to the veterinarian. The vet can prescribe a safe and appropriate treatment, including other types of topical creams, ointments, or washes. Don’t use human medicine on your cat without getting the okay from your vet, as some contain dangerous or toxic ingredients (such as those found in Neosporin) that could harm your cat.


Final Thoughts

Neosporin is a useful medicine that can help humans and animals fight infection. However, Neosporin should never be used on cats due to the antibiotics it contains. Cats have been documented to have severe allergic reactions to the antibiotics in Neosporin, namely polymixin. In addition, cats can suffer an anaphylactic reaction to Neosporin, which can be fatal if immediate veterinary treatment is not sought. There are alternatives for cats that veterinarians can prescribe, and it’s important never to put Neosporin on your cat at home.

Featured Image Credit: KAY4YK, Shutterstock

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