Not every cut or graze your dog gets will need veterinary intervention, so you need to know how to care for your dog's wounds. Here, our Weldon Spring vets provide tips on how to care for your dog's wounds at home.
Dogs Have Accidents Too
Even the most laid-back and relaxed dog can have an accident that results in a cut, graze, or another injury that necessitates first aid. However, even minor wounds can cause severe infections, so if you're unsure whether you should take your dog to the vet, it's always best to err on the side of caution. Taking your dog to the vet as soon as a wound appears could save your dog a lot of pain and you a lot of money in the long run.
Wounds That Require Veterinary Care
While some dog wounds may be cared for by pet parents, there are also wounds that should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Wounds that require veterinary care include:
- Animal bites (these may look small but become infected very very quickly if not treated)
- Skin that has been torn away from the flesh below (often occurs during dog fights)
- A wound with a large object lodged in it (ie: a piece of glass or nail)
- Wounds caused by a car accident or other trauma
- Injuries around the eyes, head or that lead to breathing difficulties
Putting Together Your Canine First Aid Kit
Having a pet first aid kit on hand, and a little know-how can be helpful if your dog has a minor injury. Below are a few things you should always have on hand in case your dog gets hurt.
- Soap or cleaning solution
- Pet antiseptic solution (ie: 2% chlorhexidine)
- Antimicrobial ointment suitable for dogs
- Sterile bandages
- Self-adhesive bandages
- Bandage scissors
- Spray bottle
- Clean towels or rags
Providing First Aid to Your Pup
Wounds should be cleaned and cared for as soon as possible in order to avoid infections. Before beginning first aid on your dog, it is best to have someone to help you restain your pup and be generally supportive.
If you are unsure about what to do, or whether your pet needs veterinary care, remember that when it comes to your animal's health it is always better to err on the side of caution. When in doubt contact your vet, or an emergency vet immediately.
Place a Muzzle on Your Dog
Because a scared, anxious, or injured dog may bite while you are attempting to help, our team recommends muzzling your injured dog before beginning first aid treatment. It's a good idea to practice putting a muzzle on your dog before an injury occurs so that your dog is comfortable with the process and the muzzle's feel. This will help to avoid aggravating your pup's distress.
Check For Foreign Objects Lodged in The Wound
Look for objects or debris that may be lodged in the wound. This is especially important if the wound is on your dog's paw pad and they may have stepped on something sharp. If you are able to remove the object with tweezers easily, do so gently. If the object is lodged deeply, leave it and call your vet, or an emergency animal hospital immediately.
Clean your Dog's Wound
If the wound is on your dog's paw, you can rinse it in a clean bowl or bucket of warm water to remove any dirt and debris. If the wound is elsewhere on your dog's body, you can gently run clean water over the wound by placing your dog in a sink, bath, or shower. To the water, you could add a small amount of mild baby shampoo, dish soap, or hand soap.
Do not use harsh cleaners or apply hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or other caustic cleaning products to your dog’s skin as these can be painful or even cause the wound to take longer to heal.
Control The Bleeding
Provided that there is nothing stuck in the wound apply pressure using a clean towel. While most small wounds will stop bleeding within a couple of minutes, larger wounds are likely to take longer. Bleeding should stop within 10 minutes of applying pressure. If your dog is still bleeding after that time, contact your vet or emergency animal hospital right away.
Bandage Your Dog's Wound
If you have antibacterial ointment on hand, apply a small amount to the wound before covering it with sterile gauze or another bandage. Products containing hydrocortisone or other corticosteroids should be avoided. To keep the gauze in place, use a self-adhesive elastic bandage.
Prevent Your Dog From Licking The Area
If your pooch is trying to lick the wound it may be necessary to have your dog wear an e-collar.
Check your dog's wound at least twice a day to ensure that infection does not set in and that healing is proceeding normally. Clean the wound twice a day with water or a pet-safe antiseptic solution, and contact your veterinarian immediately if the wound becomes inflamed or shows signs of infection.
Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice increased redness, swelling, discharge, increased pain in the wound area, or a bad odor coming from the wound.
Stages Of Wound Healing in Dogs
Inflammation (Starts right away)
The first phase of healing is all about controlling bleeding and getting the immune system working. Without going into too much detail, blood clots are forming and blood vessels are constricting to limit blood loss in the area of the wound.
Debridement (Starts in a couple of hours)
Wound fluid, dead tissue, and immunologic cells form pus which is designed to flow as a liquid from the wound and carry debris with it. The cells that were called to the wound in the inflammation phase are now actively working on consuming dead tissue and cleansing the area.
Repair (Starts within a few days)
Collagen begins to fill in the wound to bind the torn tissue together. This will take a couple of weeks to complete. New blood vessels begin to grow into the area from the uninjured blood vessels nearby. The wound edge begins to produce “granulation tissue,” the moist pink tissue that will ultimately fill in the wound.
Maturation (Starts in 2-3 weeks and can take months to years)
Once plenty of collagen has been deposited, the final phase of scarring can form. The scar becomes stronger and stronger over time as new blood vessels and nerves grow in and the tissue reorganizes. The final result will never be as strong as un-injured tissue but should ultimately achieve approximately 80% of the original strength.
Laser Therapy for Wound Healing
Cold laser therapy employs low-intensity laser or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to alleviate pain, stimulate and improve cell function, and accelerate healing. Several conditions, including wounds, have been shown to improve with the use of laser therapy.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.