A white, tasteless, odorless powder nearly insoluble in water and alcohol, bismuth subnitrate is incompatible with sulfur, sulfids, tannins and acids. Used to enhance the effects of antidiarrheal and dermatological agents and to treat peptic ulcers, bismuth subnitrate coats the stomach's mucous membranes and acts as a protectant against digestive secretions that irritate mucous membranes. When used as a topical, bismuth subnitrate acts an antiseptic, astringent and protective agent on skin ulcers and wounds.
Bismuth subnitrate is also administered to cattle for the control and management of mastitis, an often chronic inflammation of udder tissue resulting from infection or physical trauma. Mastitis is the most common dairy cattle disease in the world and is potentially fatally unless treated as soon as possible.