Using Vaseline On Dogs: Is Petroleum Jelly A Safe Home Remedy?

Using Vaseline On Dogs: Is Petroleum Jelly A Safe Home Remedy?

When it comes to home remedies for our pet’s ailments, using vaseline on dogs is a fairly common one. Pet groomers sometimes smear it inside their ears to kill ear mites. And, it seems a natural choice for a dry, cracked nose in winter or dry paws when you don’t have a doggy moisturizing balm nearby.

After all, we often use vaseline on our dry skin, so why not apply it on a dog’s cracking or calloused paws? And then some use it to treat fleas or even constipation.

But is vaseline something we should be using on our dogs, or is there a risk? Here we go through the most common vaseline home remedies, the dangers involved, and suggest better alternatives for canine companions.

Is Vaseline Toxic To Dogs?

Vaseline is not toxic to dogs. However, it is not harmless or 100% safe either. If dogs ingest vaseline in big enough quantities, it will lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Excess diarrhea can disrupt a dog’s electrolyte balance and lead to dangerous levels of dehydration.

Further, Vaseline is made from petroleum jelly by the company Unilever. As far as we know, Unilever ensures vaseline is properly refined in the US, and so it does not contain cancer-causing impurities. But this is not the case for all generic petroleum jelly products, as many are not refined in the US and have tested positive for carcinogens.

But seeing as we are not (hopefully) feeding our dogs vaseline, where’s the harm in using it on a dry nose or cracking paw?

The primary issue is that most places we use vaseline are areas that dogs will instinctively lick off, meaning they swallow it. In the best-case scenario, this may lead to a bit of a runny stomach.

Before we discuss the most common problems and misconceptions about vaseline safety, let’s address the issue of using another common remedy in place of vaseline.

Vaseline vs. Coconut Oil

A common “natural” alternative to vaseline is coconut oil. Coconut oil has long been pushed as a healthy natural remedy for almost everything when it comes to humans and dogs. The major basis for this is the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT oil) in coconut and palm oil.

However, purified MCT oil is available, and coconut oil is less than 10% MCTs. Instead, coconut oil is over 70% extremely dangerous and pro-inflammatory saturated fats. New research suggests coconut oil promotes leaky gut in dogs and low-grade inflammation throughout their bodies connected to diseases.

In fact, the ASPCA advises against coconut oil for dogs as it leads to stomach upset. So, as we discuss the issues with vaseline as a home remedy for dogs, remember that reaching for coconut oil instead is not the answer.

Can I Put Vaseline On My Dog’s Nose?

No, don’t put vaseline on your dog’s nose. If your dog has a warm, dry nose, it could indicate fever or dehydration. In both cases, your dog may need medical attention, not vaseline.

However, sometimes noses do get cracked and dry, especially in winter. In this case, rather use a good canine paw & nose balm. A product made for dogs will moisturize the skin without the toxins, chemicals, or irritating fragrances common in human products.

The problem with vaseline on your dog’s nose is that petroleum jelly only provides a surface barrier on the skin. It is what is called an occlusive moisturizer. This means it does not moisturize the skin itself or have any healing properties. It only locks any existing moisture onto the skin to prevent drying out.

It can lock harmful bacteria and pathogens into the skin as much as it seals them out. This can cause an infection if the cracks in the dry nose are deep enough.

Furthermore, dogs tend to lick their noses and may swallow some vaseline, possibly causing diarrhea.

Verdict: a thin layer of vaseline on your dogs nose when it is dried out is unlikely to do any harm. But only use it until you can get an effective canine moisturizing lotion for a dog’s skin instead. Remember, dogs have a much higher skin PH than most other animals, and products that are fine for our skin are much more disruptive to theirs.

Can I Put Vaseline On My Dog’s Paws?

If your dog’s paw pads are dry, a thin layer of vaseline is okay temporarily. However, replace it as soon as possible with a paw balm that is non-toxic, anti-microbial, and moisturizing.

The first reason for this is that most dogs lick their paws, and they’ll ingest anything you put on them. And if they lick up enough vaseline, they will naturally get a tummy upset. A canine paw balm properly formulated for paws is safe to to properly moisturize the epidermis without upsetting a dog’s tummy if they lick it off.

You can read more in our article on “why do dogs lick their paws before bed?”

As with the nose, vaseline does not moisturize the skin itself; it only creates a barrier that stops moisture from evaporating. A balm that creates a barrier and moisturizes simultaneously is a better option for dry and cracking paw pads.

The other issue with vaseline on paws is that paws are a hotbed for bacteria and fungi. Dogs prone to skin problems often get itchy skin and infections between their toes. Not only do these dogs tend to lick their paws excessively, but an occlusive moisturizer such as vaseline will seal in the harmful bacteria, possibly making the infection worse.

Not to mention the sticky vaseline pawprints your pup will likely leave all over the house.

Can I Use Vaseline On Dogs For Fleas Or Ticks?

One of the odder uses for vaseline or petroleum jelly for dogs is to treat a flea or tick infestation. This idea probably comes from using mayonnaise, vaseline, and other greasy substances to treat lice infestations. But wherever the idea stems from, the short answer is; No! do not use vaseline to treat ticks or fleas on your dog.

Putting vaseline, alcohol, or anything else on a tick to get it to release on its own can make the tick regurgitate some of its saliva into the dog. This increases the chance of infection. So when it comes to using vaseline on ticks, it’s a hard “no.”

Vaseline for fleas is a bit more complicated, as it technically can work.

Using a comb thick with vaseline, you can comb through your dog’s hair section by section. The fleas, eggs, and larvae should stick to the comb, and you can drown them all in a jar of alcohol. After cleaning, you can apply a tick and flea treatment, and your dog should be clear of fleas. But you will still need to apply a treatment after, as the vaseline will not keep fleas away long-term.

This problem is that this is a time-consuming, messy, and lengthy process, particularly if you have a large dog with a thick coat. It is far easier to wash your dog with flea shampoo and use prescription flea treatment.

Generally, a good oatmeal and aloe dog shampoo should help the itchiness from flea bites and soothe the inflammation after you treat the flea infestation.

You can read more in our article on ticks on dog ears.

Can You Use Vaseline On Dog’s Ears?

Common advice suggests that vaseline or similar products like coconut oil suffocate and kill the ear mites or other parasites in dog ears. Veterinarian Hannah Godfrey agrees that vaseline may kill some mites, but you’re unlikely to get all the mites deeper in the ear, and it’s dangerous to try.

Ear mites needs prescription anti-parasitic treatment and multiple ear washes. Putting anything into your dog’s sensitive ears, no matter how harmless it seems, can cause issues. A dog’s ears are extremely vulnerable to infection, and vaseline may seal in bacteria and yeast, making problems worse.

In short, never put anything into your dog’s ears that is not explicitly made for dogs, such as dog ear-cleaning wipes.

Can I Give My Dog Vaseline For Constipation?

Pet parents and even vets have been known to give a dog vaseline for constipation. This is a tough one because, yes, it technically does work. The issue is that there is no specific dosage that we know is safe. Whenever we give a dog a home remedy for constipation, we risk giving them an excessive amount that can cause extreme diarrhea and vomiting.

Losing too many fluids disturbs a dog’s electrolyte balance and causes dehydration. This can be dangerous, and they will need medical treatment.

It also unbalances the delicate microbiome in the dog’s gut, potentially creating other health issues. Remember, the gut is 70% of a dog’s immune system and bad gut health always means an unhealthy dog. In short, if your dog is constipated, ask your vet for tested medication before reaching for vaseline.

Vaseline For Dogs Who Swallowed Foreign Objects

Perhaps the oddest vaseline home remedy that even vets have recommended is a vaseline sandwich for dogs. That’s right, bread coated in vaseline is sometimes recommended for dogs that swallow objects such as socks. The idea is that the vaseline will promote gut motility to pass the object faster and also coat the intestines and protect them.

This is questionable and even dangerous logic. If your veterinarian recommends this, seek a second opinion.

Vaseline will promote gut motility but in the form of extreme and even dangerous diarrhea. There is no evidence to say it coats or protects the intestines from damage, but if were to do so, it would likely disrupt the dog’s natural gut biome, causing further problems.

Having a layer of vaseline on the delicate mucus lining of the gut is unlikely to help your dog’s health.

Help! My Dog Ate Vaseline! What To Do

If your dog licked some vaseline off their paws, there is likely no need to worry. Keep an eye on them and ensure they get plenty of time outside if they develop diarrhea. However, dogs eat all kinds of things and if they somehow gobbled up a whole tub of vaseline, they should see a veterinarian.

It is possible to induce vomiting at home, but because of the consistency of vaseline, it’s best to speak to a medical professional first.

If you’re wondering, “can vaseline kill dogs?” the answer is that it’s very unlikely but not impossible. Enough vaseline can certainly upset their stomach to the point that it causes severe dehydration. Untreated dehydration can be deadly.

This will rarely happen with vaseline, but it is something to keep in mind before using vaseline to treat constipation or something similar.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can You Put Vaseline On Dog Scabs?

If your dog’s wound has healed and is not infected, you can put some antiseptic ointment on it and cover it with vaseline to keep the scab from drying out. However, only do this if your dog cannot reach the scab and lick it off.

Can I Put Vaseline On My Dog’s Wound?

Do not put vaseline on an open wound or infection on your dog. Wash the wound out carefully and apply a gentle anti-septic ointment. If needed, your vet may need to prescribe antibiotics or stitch the wound.

Can I Put Vaseline On My Dog’s Hotspot?

Hotspots are bacterial infections that are very tricky to treat and need a veterinarian to prescribe the correct ointments and medications. Vaseline may worsen an active hotspot by sealing the bacteria in, so do not use it. Human ointments also make dogs lick wounds more, exacerbating the issue.

Final Thoughts

As a common household product that we use ourselves, it is tempting to put vaseline on our dogs. Technically, vaseline is not poisonous to our dogs. But it has no real benefit either. It is better to use a quality moisturizing balm for dry noses and paws.

Ingested, vaseline can cause an upset stomach. It is also not a good choice for constipation, swallowing a foreign objects, killing ear mites, or any of the other DIY remedies we often use it for. So when it comes to vaseline on dogs, it’s best to avoid it and choose products and remedies with a proven track record.

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.