Dogs are often very active and can get a cut, scrape, or puncture wound a variety of ways. Some wounds can be managed at home while others are more serious and require veterinary attention. How to care for a simple wound at home or manage a more serious wound temporarily are things dog owners can benefit from learning. If wounds are left untreated, pain and infection will result and the wound may not heal properly.
Types of Wounds
Just like people, dogs can get injuries that cause wounds when they are at home or in the yard. Punctures, scrapes, and cuts are all classified as contaminated wounds since they are not surgically made, so this means they are also at a higher risk of getting infected. If a dog has surgery, then the wound is classified as a clean or surgical wound. Whenever the skin barrier is broken, bacteria is able to get into the body and, since a contaminated wound is not made in a sterile environment, bacteria is likely to be present on whatever caused the injury in the first place. Additionally, as the wound is exposed to the environment, bacteria have more opportunities to infect it.
Supplies Needed to Clean a Wound
If your dog has a wound on its skin, the first thing you'll want to do is clean it. Depending on where the wound is located, how deep it is, and how old it is, you may or may not need all of the following supplies. But this list is a good starting point for your at-home wound or first aid kit. These items can be compiled prior to your dog having a wound and stored in a bag or container so that you can be ready if your dog gets wounded.
- Warm water or sterile saline
- Clean wash cloths or gauze
- Diluted chlorhexidine solution or iodine solution
- Non-stick gauze
- Antibiotic ointment
- Vetrap™ or other self-adherent bandage wrap material
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Disposable latex or nitrile exam gloves
- Electric hair clippers
How Do You Clean an Open Wound?
Depending on your dog, the location of the wound, and how painful it is, you may need a second person to help your dog hold still while you inspect and clean it. First, put your disposable exam gloves on and if there is fur where your dog's wound is, use electric clippers to carefully clip the hair away from the wound. Next, use your sterile saline or warm water to gently clean the wound. You can pour it directly into the wound to flush it and then gently wipe away any debris with clean gauze or towels. After you've flushed the wound with water or saline, gently clean it with the diluted chlorhexidine or iodine solution. If there is blood around the wound you can use hydrogen peroxide to help remove it from the fur, but do not put the hydrogen peroxide directly into the wound. Finally, pat the area dry with the gauze or towels.
If the wound is located on the leg, paw, or somewhere else that is able to be easily wrapped (and the injury just happened), prepare your bandage materials. Squeeze some antibiotic ointment onto the wound and place the non-stick gauze over it. Use the self-adherent bandage wrap material to hold the gauze in place by wrapping it around the leg, paw, or other body part. Be careful not to stretch the bandage while wrapping it as this can make it too tight. If your dog tries to lick or chew on the bandage it will need to be covered with a sock or your dog will need to wear an E-collar or something else to prevent it from getting to it. Make sure the bandage stays dry at all times and change it daily to monitor the wound until it is no longer open or you can see the veterinarian.
When to See a Veterinarian
If your dog has an open wound, you should have it examined by a veterinarian to ensure it does not require stitches, surgical debridement, or more invasive surgery. Some puncture wounds can penetrate into the abdominal or chest cavities which can be very serious. If your dog shows any signs of trouble breathing, or has pockets of air under its skin, they should be seen as soon as possible. Small punctures, scrapes, and cuts may be fine to heal on their own as long as they aren't infected, but your veterinarian may still recommend prophylactic antibiotics to prevent an infection and pain medications to help keep your dog comfortable during the healing process.