If your dog is anything like ours, they’re always getting themselves into scrapes often not serious enough for a trip to the vet.
Jess from digital vet service FirstVet has written this really helpful guide on how to treat minor wounds in dogs at home.
The treatment options depend upon the cause of the injury, the severity and size of the wound, and where is it located on the body. So let’s look at the causes first.
Causes of wounds:
Wounds can arise for many reasons and the cause will influence how deep and complicated a wound is.
Don’t be fooled; a small wound can be as complex to treat as a large wound. Equally, a large wound may heal more quickly than a small wound.
There are a number of factors which influence wound healing, which include movement, contamination, a foreign body, continuing trauma and infection caused by licking or scratching, or use of harmful creams or ointments.
It is important to assess each wound separately in order to select the right treatment option(s) and achieve the best and fastest healing outcome.
For example, a split paw pad, caused by stepping on a sharp stone, may not heal initially as the wound constantly opens up when the dog walks, and dirt from the ground continually contaminates the wound. Appropriate intervention is needed to ensure that this wound has the optimal conditions to heal quickly.
Wound healing process:
No two wounds are the same, but there are three phases of normal wound healing:
1. Inflammation and removal of debris
2. Production of new tissue
3. Maturing of new tissue into its final form (skin and scar tissue)
There is no set way to treat a wound and management will naturally change over time as healing progresses through these three phases.
Wounds that are left open will heal by scarring, and those closed with stitches, skin staples or skin glue should have minimal scarring.
Photographs are a very useful way to monitor the progress of wound healing over time.
Interventions at all three phases can speed up or slow down healing, so if you are unsure you should ask your vet for advice.
How to help your dog if they have a deep wound:
You’re not superhuman. Some wounds will need investigation at your veterinary clinic.
For squirmy doggos, or for wounds in hard to reach areas, a general anaesthetic and diagnostic imaging may be required to enable complete exploration and treatment of a wound.
This will ensure that the extent of the wound is known, and damage to deeper structures (muscles, blood vessels, nerves and bones) is not missed.
Often, large or deep wounds, or wounds where there has been significant skin loss, will need suturing. The aim of suturing is to bring the skin edges together so that healing is as straightforward and quick as possible.
Very large or severe wounds may need to be surgically closed more than once, or require several dressing changes to achieve resolution. Occasionally, advanced surgical techniques, such as skin grafting or skin expansion techniques, are necessary.
When to take your pooch to the vet:
- If there is significant bleeding
- If the bleeding does not stop with ten minutes of gentle pressure
- You believe an artery is bleeding
- If you are suspicious that there may be a foreign body or foreign material in the wound that hasn’t come out with cleaning
- If there is significant swelling, redness or pain associated with the wound
- If there is a bad smell or discharge from the wound
- If your pet becomes unwell (vomiting & lack of appetite, listless, withdrawn)
How to help your dog when they have a minor wound:
Even though you know your doggo inside out, take extra care with any of the following steps as your pet may be in pain, and interfering with the wound may cause them to bite or scratch.
If you don’t think it’ll spook them too much, it may be easier to ask a second person to hold your pet whilst you investigate.
- If your pet sustains a cut or abrasion the first priority is to stop any bleeding. Do this by placing a clean dressing against the wound and applying mild to moderate pressure for ten minutes. The blood should be dark red in colour and should slow down and stop (clot) fairly quickly. If the bleeding is pulsating, bright red in colour and does not stop after applying pressure then it is likely to be from a damaged artery. Maintain firm pressure with a clean dressing or towel and seek immediate veterinary care.
- Once the bleeding has stopped, the next step is to clean the wound. The best way to do this is to use lukewarm saline solution (see instructions on how to make this below). Gently clean the wound using gauze to remove any contamination or debris. Cotton wool can be used but ensure that fibres are not left behind during cleaning.
- Clean the wound 1-2 times per day, particularly in the first 2-3 days whilst it is open to infection. It is important to keep the wound clean and protected, so use a bandage, if appropriate, and make sure your pet doesn’t go in any dirty water or other sources of contamination.
- Your pet may want to lick the wound. It is very important to prevent this happening because it will cause contamination and infection. A dressing over the wound, such as a medical pet shirt or Buster Collar (lampshade or inflatable) are the best ways to prevent licking. Alternatively for a wound on the foot, a clean sock may be used on the affected limb.
- The dressing will need to be changed daily at the start of wound healing. Dressings can then be changed every 2-3 days, as long as any discharge from the wound is clean, and the bandage does not slip or become too tight. (Please seek guidance from a vet if you need help with bandaging. A poorly placed bandage can create more problems than the wound itself!)
- Depending upon where the wound is, lead-only walks, or stopping walks for up to 2 weeks will dramatically speed up healing. This is particularly important for wounds over joints, for example, where there is a lot of movement.
Keep wounds clean by making a saline solution for your dog:
- Boil 500ml of tap water.
- Pour into a clean container, and stir in one teaspoon of table salt whilst still hot.
- Allow it to cool to room temperature. This can be stored in the fridge for up to a week in a sealed container.
We hope you find this article on how to treat minor wounds at home helpful!
If you’re trying to decide whether to take a pet first aid course, check out Dog Furiendly’s advice here.
If you’re still worried, you should consult a vet. If you’re with your pooch right now, you can give FirstVet a call and have a 15 minute video consultation with one of their lovely vets, or visit your local clinic.
Who are FirstVet?
FirstVet is a digital vet service, which allows you to book a video call with one of their experienced UK vets at any time of day or night, instead of heading straight to the vet clinic.
When you call you will get help and treatment and, if you need it, a referral to the nearest vet clinic.
Consultations charged for on a pay-as-you-go basis, so you don’t need a subscription – just the app.
Appointments are £20 during the day 9am-6pm, and £30 out of hours. There’s also a free text Q+A service via the app, where questions are answered by one of their vets within 48 hours.
You can sign up here.
Gudog would like to give a very big thank you to Jessica May, Lead UK Vet and Dr Sophie Milligan MRCVS from FirstVet for the professional advice provided for this article.