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Rabbits/Does sodium hydroxide need to be in a povidone-iodine solution for the anti-septic to work?


I am in the process of making a first-aid kit for my rabbits. I've read on various websites (,, that povidone-iodine is one of the safe antiseptics to use on rabbits. I am trying to figure out which brand to buy, between the well-known Betadine and a brand named Qualitest that is at my Kaiser pharmacy. They both have povidone-iodine, 10% (1% available iodine) as an active ingredient, but their inactive ingredients differ. Betadine has: pareth 25-9, purified water, and sodium hydroxide while the Qualitest brand contains: citric acid, dibasic sodium phosphate, glycerin, purified water.

Since Qualitest is missing sodium hydroxide, I am wondering if it is necessary to have sodium hydroxide in order for this antiseptic to work properly. I have read that it is classified as "expected to be toxic or harmful" and one or more animal studies show brain and nervous system, metabolic, and sense organ effects at very low doses and there are warnings regarding using this ingredient around the eyes or mouth (; sodium hydroxide is also known strong-irritant, so I assumed that Kaiserís povidone-iodine solution does not have that ingredient in their product because of concern to sensitivity issues for their patients but that is just a guess on my part.

Again I am just wondering if it is necessary to have sodium hydroxide in order for povidone-iodine solutions to work, which will give me a better idea as to what to buy for my first-aid kit. Any information or advice would be appreciated, as I have been struggling to figure this out on my own. Thank you very much for your time.

Dear Stephanie,

The different brands of povidone iodine appear to differ mainly in the type of buffer in which the iodine is mixed.  The sodium hydroxide is caustic, of course.  But not if it has been reacted with other reagents to make a buffer.  A buffer is a solution that helps maintain a constant pH, and so can help prevent the povidone iodine from breaking down and becoming ineffective.  The Betadine brand uses sodium hydroxide as part of a standard buffer solution.  Similarly, the citric acid and dibasic sodium phosphate in the Qualitest brand are just parts of the particular buffer they have chosen for their solution.

I don't think it matters much which brand you buy.  They all work equally well.  But remember to dilute the povidone iodine before use, as it works better when in a more dilute solution.

Hope this helps.



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

Find a rabbit vet at for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

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For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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