How to Use Vetbond Tissue Adhesive

Vetbond (n-butyl-cyanoacrylate) was developed to close surgical incisions after veterinary procedures. It is very similar to Dermabond, but at a fraction of the cost. Although it is not sterile and not FDA approved for use on humans, it is nontoxic, hardens in 15 seconds, remains flexible after hardening, and releases very little heat as it cures. It comes in 3mL (.1oz) reusable plastic squeeze bottles with separate single-use, thin tip applicators.

I've found that the applicators are messy and unnecessary, and just using the bottle directly works fine. I haven't had a big problem with glue hardening in the squeeze bottle tip, but it can always be opened with a knife or scissors.

Vetbond is reusable, and I've used the same bottle dozens of times over the course of a year without problems. Use your best judgment though, because the bottle can be contaminated. For example: if you've only used it on yourself, you know you don't have any blood borne diseases, and the bottle has been kept clean during use then it's fine. If you use it on a stranger and the bottle gets covered in blood or blood gets inside the bottle, just get a new one; don't take the risk.

See here for more information on cyanoacrylate surgical glues.

Vetbond for Animal Use:

As the name applies, Vetbond is marketed for animal use. The glue works equally well on both human and animal skin, but it has not gone through the arduous process of obtaining FDA approval for human use.

One of the best reasons to choose vetbond for your pet is that it begins to harden almost instantly. Any contact with water will cause a chemical reaction that hardens the glue, so when it touches blood it will harden immediately. Often times it's difficult to keep an animal from squirming, so this can be a big help.

How to Use Vetbond:

Vetbond comes in a sealed plastic squeeze bottle. To open, unscrew the cap, and cut the tip off the squeeze bottle.

  1. First try to make sure the cut is clean. Bleeding pushes dirt and bacteria out of the wound site and prevents infection, so if the cut bleeds a lot it's probably clean; use your best judgement. Stop the bleeding with sterile gauze and direct pressure to the cut. If the cut is on a joint, move the body so the skin is slack. For example, if there is a gash on your knee, straighten your leg to relieve the tension on the cut.
  2. While keeping pressure on the wound, slide the gauze off the wound site to expose the edge of the wound. Making sure to line up the wound edges as accurately as possible, apply a thin layer of Vetbond to the exposed cut. Vetbond will begin to seal the wound almost instantly. Move down the length of the cut in this way until it's completely glued.
  3. Apply a second and third layer over top of the first, waiting until each layer has dried before applying the next. Use medical tape or butterfly stitches to pull the skin together around the wound in order to relieve any tension from the glue if possible.

While you're applying the glue to a cut it will probably still be bleeding. Some of the glue might wash away or mix with blood to form a hard clump. This is normal and won't stop the wound from healing properly. Even if it looks messy, controlling the bleeding is the number 1 priority. The glue will slough off by itself over the course of 5-7 days.

Do not apply more than a thin layer to prevent the glue from running.

Try to keep the glued area dry while the cut is healing. Surgical glue is resistant to water, but it will slough off faster if it's being held in the shower or washing dishes. Do not put triple antibiotic ointment(Neosporin) ontop of the glue. Triple antibiotic ointment will break down the glue.

It is completely fine to apply more glue if the cut reopens or the glue sloughs off prematurely.

My Personal Vetbond Experience:

I had an opportunity to try this glue in a real life emergency while I was home visiting my family for Christmas. My mother was cutting lettuce with a sharp knife when she slipped and cut about halfway through her left index finger. The cut was bleeding like crazy, but the edges of the cut were smooth. I got my first aid kit, took out Vetbond and some Quikclot hemostatic gauze, and had her hold pressure with the gauze on the wound.

Vetbond surgical glue used to reattach fingertip

The hemostatic gauze actually didn't do any more good than normal gauze because I sealed the wound with glue faster than a clot could form.

I’ve used Vetbond before for smaller cuts, and the glue had dried inside the tip of the nozzle. I used my pair of folding scissors to cut off the blocked tip, and had her slowly slide the gauze off to expose a small part of the wound so I could glue it. This worked alright, but she was shaking from the pain making it difficult to slide the gauze off while gluing the wound closed at the same time.

Instead I had her pinch right below the cut to stop blood flow to the fingertip. The wound still bled, but it slowed enough that I was able to glue all the edges. It didn’t look pretty, but the bleeding was controlled.

My father and I drove her to the emergency room to get examined. The doctor told us he could dissolve the glue in triple antibiotic ointment and reclose it with stitches to increase the strength of the bond, but he said as long as she was careful not to reopen the cut it would heal better if they left it alone. He said stitches probably would have caused her to lose the tip of her finger because fingertips don’t have good circulation and poking more holes with a needle doesn't help.

The emergency room doctor was actually surprised that the fingertip looked healthy and pink. Usually it takes at least 30 minutes (usually longer) before a cut gets properly sealed at an emergency room. By that time the tissue around the cut has been starved of oxygen and nutrients and starts to turn grey. Since I had sealed the cut in less than 5 minutes, the skin healed perfectly all the way up to the edges of the cut.

The doctor advised using a functional splint with a guarded tip to prevent bumping the the cut during the day or while sleeping. I cut a piece off my SAM splint and made a position-of-function splint with a curved guard sticking out past the fingertip.

My mother types for a living, so her fingers are essential for her work. Having Vetbond in my first aid kit let her keep the tip of her finger and allowed her to get back to work in about 3 weeks. My first experience with Vetbond as an emergency surgical glue was extremely positive, and I recommend adding it to every first aid kit now more than ever.

Tips:

  1. To make a stronger bond apply several thin coats to the wound, waiting until the previous coat dries before applying the next.
  2. Vetbond works great to seal and protect ripped cuticles or skin cracks.

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About Peter Oldani - Author of Inside First Aid

About the author

Peter Oldani graduated college with a B.S. in biomedical engineering, worked as an EMT to gain hands on experience in emergency medicine and completed active shooter training as part of New York State’s initiative to prepare civilian organizations for disaster response.