Dogs get hurt just like we do, so it is important to know how to care for your dog's wound and the healing stages. Here, our Mamaroneck vets will explain everything you need to know.
Dogs Have Accidents Too
Even the most laid-back and relaxed dog could experience an accident that leads to a cut, graze, or other injury requiring first aid. That said, some wounds that may seem small can result in serious infections so if you are in doubt about whether you should take your dog to the vet, it's always best to err on the side of caution. Taking your canine companion to the vet for a wound as soon as it occurs 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, some wounds 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 to avoid infections. Before beginning first aid on your dog, it is best to have someone to help you restain your dog 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
A scared, anxious, or hurt dog may bite while you are trying to help which is why our team recommends muzzling your hurt dog before beginning first aid treatment. It's a good idea to practice putting a muzzle on your dog before an injury arises so that your dog is used to the process and how the muzzle feels. This will help to prevent adding to your dog'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 can easily remove the object with tweezers, 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 could swish the injured paw around in a clean bowl or bucket of warm water to help rinse out any dirt and debris. If the wound is elsewhere on your dog's body you can place your dog in a sink, bath, or shower and gently run clean water over the wound. You may want to add a small amount of mild baby shampoo, dish soap, or hand soap to the water.
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 you may want to apply a small amount to the area before covering the wound with a piece of sterile gauze or another bandage. Avoid using products that contain hydrocortisone or other corticosteroids. Use a self-adhesive elastic bandage to hold the gauze in place.
Prevent Your Dog From Licking The Area
If your dog is trying to lick the wound it may be necessary to have your dog wear an e-collar.
Monitor your dog's wound at least twice a day to ensure that infection doesn't set in and healing is proceeding as expected. Clean the wound with water or a pet-safe antiseptic solution twice a day, and contact your vet immediately if the wound becomes inflamed and shows signs of infection.
If you notice increasing redness, swelling, discharge, increasing pain in the area of the wound, or a bad odor coming from the wound, contact your vet right away.
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.
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.