Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Antiseptic Scrub, Chlorhexidine or Povidone Iodine



An antiseptic scrub is useful for cleaning of contaminated wounds and treatment of some skin conditions. A scrub is different than a solution. A scrub contains a soap, and therefore has cleaning properties that a solution does not have. The most common antiseptic scrubs in veterinary medicine contain the disinfectants povidone-iodine (Betadine®) or chlorhexidine.

Iodine solutions are usually reddish-brown, while chlorhexidine based products typically are bluish or greenish. Iodine and chlorhexidine-based products are typically available without a prescription.

It’s important to know the difference between a scrub and a solution.

Scrubs are not to be mixed or diluted with water. They are applied directly to the skin and lathered. For presumed skin infections, an antiseptic scrub should remain in contact for at least 10 minutes in order to kill fungus, viruses and bacteria effectively. Antiseptic scrubs are also a good method for reducing bacterial contamination of one’s hands.


Presumed Skin Infections- ideally use under vet guidance.

Wearing rubber gloves, apply scrub to an area and massage it into a lather. Rinse well with water to remove skin crusts and dirt. Then scrub and lather the area up well a second time. Let the lather stand on the skin for 10 minutes and rinse very well with plenty of clean water. It is important to remove the residual antiseptic and detergent from the skin as it in itself can cause irritation.

For contaminated or infected wound cleaning, follow the above but only let the lather stand a minute or so. KEEP IN MIND that for fresh, clean wounds, it is best to let your vet do the cleaning. Strong antiseptic soaps can further damage wounded tissue, and might interfere with the ability of your vet to repair the wound effectively. Scrubs can in general be harmful to open wound healing so only use on wounds as directed by your vet.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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