Lock up your iodine.

Bottle_2 I don’t use a lot of strong tincture of iodine.  This bottle is so old, that I’m not sure just how old it is. Strong iodine is very caustic — in fact, about the only thing I use it for would be some type of chemical cautery, like sealing the navel cord on a newborn foal.  When we want iodine activity in an antiseptic, we would use a tamed iodine.  Povidone iodine (Betadine being the most well-known trade name) has the iodine bound to another molecule that makes it less traumatic to tissue.    Even with the tamed iodine, we use very low concentrations.  0.5% (that’s one half of one percent — looks like weak tea) is plenty to kill germs.  Any stronger, and you begin to kill the tissue you’re trying to protect.  All that stuff that burns when you pour it on is burning for a reason. It’s not just hurting your feelings, it’s hurting the tissue that you were trying to help.  If it burns like crazy, don’t pour it in an open wound.

It’s a good thing I don’t use much of it, as it is being declared a "controlled substance"; I’ll have to keep records on its purchase and use, just like a narcotic.  It seems that iodine crystals are used as a catalyst in methamphetamine manufacture.  So, just as cold-pills with pseudo-ephedrine got moved behind the counter, and you can only buy two lithium batteries at a time, the meth-heads (with help from federal regulators, of course) have now created a hassle for legitimate users of iodine. [ This is just for the strong stuff, strong tincture, crystals, and so forth. You can still buy the weak stuff without a problem.]

Of course, there are people who shouldn’t have access to iodine, I suppose.  This past week a lady brought in her little Dachshund who had been vomiting a bit.  Her uncle had told her that the dog might have parvovirus (it didn’t) and that she could kill the virus by putting a drop of iodine on the dog’s tongue. This is not the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, but it will make the semi-finals.  NOT a good idea.

Fatal_2 Apparently her uncle thinks that the skull and crossbones refer to some sort of pirate-themed party.  "Poison" is only one letter off from "poisson", which is French for fish, and again you’ve got your nautical reference.  My client was made a little uneasy by this warning, but … she trusted her uncle.  She compromised by touching the dog’s tongue with a cotton-swab moistened in iodine.  It was a bit like our Presbyterian approach to baptism: sort of a promise of moisture, rather than immersion.

Probably didn’t taste too good, but not enough to poison the dog, thank goodness.

3 thoughts on “Lock up your iodine.

  1. Barbara says:

    Hey Doc…I think you’ve missed your calling completely!! You are the funniest author on a gazillion subjects that I’ve read in years. Ever read Cleveland Amory’s rendition of “how to give a call a pill” in “The Cat That Came for Christmas?” Well, I laughed till I cried (having cats all my life) and YOUR article on the same subject duplicated the same results! You, my man, are a hoot! I was certain you must be British but the Missouri address says likely no. Most educational and humorous! Keep up the good work.

  2. kenri says:

    Hello Doctor,
    I just chanced upon your page through a yahoo query about dog and vomiting and iodine.
    I am sorry but can you help me…?
    I am taking my dog to the doctor tomorrow but I would like your advice as well…
    Coco is a Lasha Apso is 5 years old and she has been limping since last 4 days. I couldn’t take her to the vet because of my tight schedule. She looked fine except yesterday I saw the cause of her limp. Her one nail broke and the toe got swollen. It was bleeding yesterday but after I cleaned it with detol, it stopped bleeding.
    She is still limping but I am quite worried because she hasn’t eaten the whole day today and since today morning she is passing bloody stools and just now she vomited thick and large amount of white gooey clear substance with foam. She drinks water though…
    I wouldn’t worry much because once she has similar problem but then she just vomited small amount of yellow foam and passed normal stool with little blood in it.
    I also applied iodine on her wound a while ago and she just licked it (after vomiting)!…
    I dewormed her last month.
    I am quite worried…
    Her watery bloody stool smells a lot…
    She has got all her shots…
    One of her 6 puppies died due to parvo virus and the stool smells familiar…

    Kindly help me!

  3. Doc says:

    Hello, Kenri,

    Just licking the wound after the previous application of antiseptic is unlikely to make the dog sick.

    Bloody stools have a characteristic foul odor, whether caused by parvovirus, clostridium bacteria, bleeding tumors or whatever.

    First aid for the vomiting patient is to keep the stomach empty for 3 or 4 hours. Loading an irritated stomach with just about anything has a tendency to provoke further vomiting. The stomach needs to rest and replenish its natural mucus coating that repels its own acid and protects the lining.

    After the rest, only allow small amounts of water at a time. Think of sipping so that there is just a steady trickle of water. You can also let the dog lick ice (not chew it up and swallow it).

    Pepto Bismol doesn’t help a lot with vomiting, but may help some with this type of diarrhea. It inhibits bacterial growth and slows down the dumping of fluid into the bowel. The average dose is 1/4 cc per pound per dose, or about one teaspoon (5cc) per 20 pounds.

    It really sounds like she needs to see her veterinarian, and sooner rather than later. I am concerned about the blood loss, as well as dehydration.

    Despite the deworming you administered, there are numerous types of parasites, and no one drug that gets them all. A severe whipworm infestation certainly could produce these signs. I don’t know of any over-the-counter preparations that are effective against whipworms.

    Good luck.

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