Chlorhexidine for Cats - Uses and Side effects

Laura García Ortiz
By Laura García Ortiz, Veterinarian specialized in feline medicine. May 25, 2022
Chlorhexidine for Cats - Uses and Side effects

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Chlorhexidine is a disinfectant and antiseptic which is used in both human and veterinary medicine. It is considered safe and is commonly used for disinfection of wounds, lesions, erosions and skin disorders such as feline acne, certain infections and pododermatitis. It is also used as a complement to other treatments for dermatological problems in cats such as ringworm. It is an especially effective drug for gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, with growth inhibitory and bactericidal action. Due to its low percutaneous and gastrointestinal absorption in case of accidental ingestion, it is a safe and effective active ingredient in cats of all ages.

If you want to know more about chlorhexidine for cats, keep reading this AnimalWised article. We look at its uses, side effects and contraindications to see how you can use it for your cat.

  1. What is chlorhexidine for cats?
  2. Uses of chlorhexidine for cats
  3. How to use Chlorhexidine in cats
  4. Side effects of chlorhexidine for cats
  5. Contraindications of chlorhexidine for cats

What is chlorhexidine for cats?

Chlorhexidine is in the group of cationic polybiguanide compounds, a class of chemical compounds known for their bactericidal properties. It is effect as a topical antiseptic in cats as it is active against numerous gram-positive and gram-negative microorganisms. It is not effective against other pathogens such as acid-alcohol-fast bacteria, viruses, fungi and spores.

Chlorhexidine is used topically. It is not inactivated by organic matter and its cutaneous absorption is minimal, acting in less than 30 seconds and 25% of its applied amount persisting up to 30 days after administration.

The bactericidal mechanism of action of this drug is based on the coagulation of the bacterial cell content through rapid attachment of the bacteria to which:

  • It absorbs phosphorous compounds from its surface, escaping from the exclusion mechanisms of the cell wall and attraction towards the cytoplasmic membrane.
  • It induces the loss of low molecular weight cytoplasmic components and the precipitation of their cytoplasm with the creation of complexes with phosphates.

Chlorhexidine also inhibits the growth of bacteria by inhibiting direct action of the energy transporting ATPase.

Uses of chlorhexidine for cats

What is chlorhexidine for cats for? Chlorhexidine in cats can be used as a topical spray solution or as an active ingredient in medicated shampoos to treat dermatological problems in cats:

  • Topical solution: either in dropper or spray format, it is used for the disinfection of superficial skin lesions such as erosions, cuts, wounds, non-open surgical wounds, grazes and burns. It can also be used for other types of dermatological problems in cats such as feline acne, pyodermas, nail infections or pododermatitis. It is safe to be used orally, often in the form of an oral rinse.
  • Medicated shampoo: it is especially effective in treating Staphylococcus intermedius skin infections and as an adjuvant or aid to griseofulvin in the treatment of dermatophytosis or ringworm caused by Microsporum canis.

Learn more about treating feline skin problems with our article on miliary dermatitis in cats.

Chlorhexidine for Cats - Uses and Side effects - Uses of chlorhexidine for cats

How to use Chlorhexidine in cats

Chlorhexidine in cats is for cutaneous use. When it is applied in solution form to injured skin, it is used undiluted after the area has been cleaned. The lesion can be sprayed several times a day depending on the severity of the condition and according to your veterinarian's directions.

Depending on the format, it can be applied by direct spraying or by applying a quantity of the product with gauze. We can then dab the gauze gently on the lesion for disinfection.

If applied as a shampoo, it should be used twice a week until hair cultures are negative for the fungus Microsporum canis and treatment should never be exceeded beyond 16 weeks. In long-haired cats, it could be a good option to shave the hair a little so that it penetrates better.

The cat should be rinsed with clean water before applying the shampoo to several areas of their coat. This is then massaged until the fur is lathered. Don't forget the face, under the tail and between the toes of the hind legs. Let it rest for 10 minutes and then proceed to rinse with clean water, letting it dry naturally.

Chlorhexidine for Cats - Uses and Side effects - How to use Chlorhexidine in cats

Side effects of chlorhexidine for cats

Due to its cutaneous application and its wide safety margin, as it is not absorbed through the skin or well absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. If the cat ingests the product or licks the area treated with chlorhexidine, an overdose or intoxication by chlorhexidine is practically impossible. In the rarest of occasions, side effects may include:

  • Photosensitization reactions: issues occur when in contact with the sun.
  • Dermatitis: usually only occurs when its administration is exceeded in quantity and/or time..

Contraindications of chlorhexidine for cats

The only indication for the use of chlorhexidine in cats is its external use by direct application to the skin of cats that require it. If this active ingredient comes into contact with your cat's eyes, you should wash them immediately. It is also not good for the cat to ingest the product either in shampoo or skin solution. Although it should not be well absorbed by the digestive system, we should still do all we can to avoid it happening.

Chlorhexidine should not be used in cats allergic to the active ingredient or any of its excipients. We usually see this if redness or itching appears after use. It is important that chlorhexidine-treated kittens not come into contact with lactating females until their coats are completely dry. In the case of chlorhexidine shampoo for cats associated with griseofulvin, it should not be used in pregnant females as the latter is contraindicated in this physiological stage of cats.

Find out other ocular problems in your feline with our article on why a cat's eyes are puffy.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Chlorhexidine for Cats - Uses and Side effects, we recommend you visit our Medicine category.

  • Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products. Technical sheet Adoeqmina cutaneous solution for horses, dogs and cats. Retrieved from:
  • Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products. Data sheet Malaseb shampoo for dogs and cats. Retrieved from:
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Chlorhexidine for Cats - Uses and Side effects