Is Calamine Lotion on Dogs Safe?

Cristina Pascual
By Cristina Pascual, Veterinaria. Updated: January 29, 2024
Is Calamine Lotion on Dogs Safe?

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Calamine is a commonly used medication to treat mild itchiness on the skin produced by sunburn, insect bites, poison ivy, poison oak, allergies, among others. It can also be prescribed to dry out skin irritation. It has proven to be very effective on humans. In fact, its use dates back as far as 1500 BC. Calamine is also included in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines. This list contains the most effective and safe medications to treat humanity's most important health needs. But, is calamine equally safe and effective on dogs?

Keep reading this AnimalWised article to find out what is calamine and whether calamine lotion on dogs is safe?

You may also be interested in: Is Chlorhexidine for Dogs Safe?
  1. What is calamine lotion?
  2. Uses of calamine lotion on dogs
  3. Is calamine safe for dogs?
  4. Contraindications of Calamine in dogs
  5. Side effects of calamine in dogs

What is calamine lotion?

Calamine is a widely available over-the-counter topical medication used to treat itching and skin irritation caused by external factors. These factors include insect bites or stings, measles, eczema, sunburn, poison ivy, and other minor skin conditions.

Calamine comes in all kinds of different presentations such as powder, gel, cream, lotion, and spray. However, it is more commonly found as a cream or a lotion. It is intended for topical application. Calamine lotion diminishes the effects of itchiness by producing a cooling sensation as it evaporates on your skin.

Calamine is predominantly a combination of zinc oxide and ferric oxide, but the lotion is produced with other ingredients such as phenol and calcium hydroxide. Let's take a closer look at calamine lotion ingredients:

  • Zinc oxide: is a skin protector that acts as a physical barrier between the skin and external irritants. It absorbs moisture, has an astringent effect and antiseptic properties. It is also a photoprotective agent because it disperses ultraviolet radiation.

  • Ferric oxide: acts as an antipruritic. It gives calamine its distinctive pinkish color because it contains iron(III) oxide, which is red.

  • Phenol: is widely used as an antiseptic that can stop or slow down the growth of microorganisms. It is also used topically as a local anesthetic in certain procedures and also possesses hemostatic and antiseptic qualities.

  • Calcium hydroxide: is very often used in the food industry due to its low toxicity and the mildness of its basic properties.

Uses of calamine lotion on dogs

As we have mentioned before, calamine is used to treat mild skin irritation or itchiness caused by external factors. Most of these factors are as common in dogs as they are in humans, if not more. Common causes include bug bites, exposure to allergenic plants such as poison ivy, food allergies or sensitivity, excessive licking, fungal infections, pyodermas, and ectoparasites.

It is not uncommon for dog owners to try to diminish their dog's frustration by applying a seemingly unharmful lotion such as calamine. After all, there are so many medications that work great in both humans and dogs. However, it is very important to keep in mind that what is safe for humans might not necessarily be safe for dogs, especially when it comes to medications that are applied topically.

When dogs feel their skin itchy or irritated, they tend to scratch, lick or chew on the area. This leads to the ingestion of the medicine. So, before considering if a lotion is safe to use on your dog's skin, you should consider if it is safe in case your dog ingests it. Unless your dog is wearing a cone or other protective barrier, there is little you can do to stop a dog from ingesting something that is on their body.

If you suspect your dog might have ingested something poisonous, be sure to read this article on what to do in case of dog poisoning.

Is Calamine Lotion on Dogs Safe? - Uses of calamine lotion on dogs

Is calamine safe for dogs?

Calamine is mainly composed of zinc oxide and ferric oxide. These ingredients are not harmful if applied on your dog's skin, but they can be if they are accidentally ingested. If a dog ingests high quantities of zinc, this can lead to zinc toxicosis. Your dog may suffer from zinc toxicosis even by ingesting something as little as the size of a penny.

Zinc toxicosis can damage a dog’s red blood cells and cause them to rupture. If this happens, dogs can suffer a range of other symptoms such as anemia, vomiting, and diarrhea. If not treated, it can also cause liver damage, kidney failure, and heart failure.

It is important to notice that, even though zinc is harmful if ingested through a lotion such as calamine, zinc itself is not harmful to dogs. On the contrary, zinc is actually an important part of your dog's diet. If it is ingested through food and in appropriate quantities, it can contribute to having healthy skin and fur, good thyroid function, and healthy immune systems.

At AnimalWised we strongly recommend to avoid rubbing zinc-containing products on your dog unless you can absolutely prevent them from licking the area where you applied the product.

Contraindications of Calamine in dogs

As we have mentioned above you should not use calamine on your dog if you can't prevent them from licking the area and therefore ingesting the lotion. If, however, you are certain that your dog won't reach the area (due to a cone or any other protective barrier) you should still keep in mind the following cases:

  • In case of allergy to any of its components, especially zinc.
  • In case of open and exudative wounds.
  • In areas near the eyes, ears, and other mucous membranes.

Since calamine can cause heart and organ failure, it is potentially lethal. This is especially so if ingested in large amounts. Our video below provides some other household objects which can be fatal if ingested by a dog.

Side effects of calamine in dogs

We have already covered the harmful effects that ingesting calamine can have on your dog. However, even topical application of calamine can also cause negative side effects in dogs:

  • Hypersensitivity reactions to any of its components, with local or general allergic manifestations. In these cases, we can observe rashes, irritation, itching, etc.
  • Irritation in the area of application due to prolonged use of the product (more than 7 days). Prolonged use of zinc oxide increases the debris and clotted material on the skin, which ironically leads to further irritation and discomfort.

If you notice any of the symptoms above, stop the treatment with calamine immediately and wash the area with plenty of water.

Take a look at our related article if you wish to know more about other types of skin diseases on dogs.

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 Is Calamine Lotion on Dogs Safe?, we recommend you visit our Medicine category.

  • Grecu, M., Rusu, AR, Rimbu, C., Mihau, L., Gradinaru, A., & Henea, ME (2020). Diagnostic methods and therapeutic options in dog skin allergies. A short review. Veterinary Medicine Series, 63(3).
  • Patterson, S. (2009). Manual of Skin Diseases of the Dog and Cat. John Wiley Sons.
  • Wen, J. (2018). Zinc toxicosis in a dog secondary to prolonged zinc oxide ingestion. Open Veterinary Journal, 8(4), 458-462.
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Is Calamine Lotion on Dogs Safe?