Instructions on how to care for a wounded dog

Posted by Dr Dog. May 7th 2014.

It can be difficult for pet owners to know what to do when their beloved pooch sustains an injury. Here we offer step by step instructions on how to care for a wounded dog so that you can ensure your dog gets the treatment it deserves.

Type of wounds

Dogs can sustain a number of different wounds from various causes and you may not always be aware of how your dog has sustained an injury. Both active and quiet dogs can sustain injuries so always be vigilant and aware of any changes in your animal that may indicate they are wounded.

Vet with dog

Bleeding can be either light or severe and you should act fast to stop any bleeding. It’s important to spare a thought for your own safety here as injured dogs can be more likely to snap – whatever they nature. Keep them as calm as possible and consider getting someone to help you treat wounds or muzzle them as a precaution.

Stop the bleeding

The first thing you need to do is to identify the injured area and stop the bleeding. Place a clean, dry cloth or gauze pad on the affected area (clean tea towels work well) and apply pressure for at least 10-15 minutes. Be firm but not rough and seek veterinary assistance immediately if the blood flow is heavy. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, keep applying pressure while you seek veterinary advice but never use a tourniquet.The wound needs time to form clots to prevent further bleeding so do not remove the gauze pad or cloth in case you disrupt any clots. If you notice that blood has soaked through the cloth then you should place another one top rather than disturbing the area by removing the first gauze.

Examination and cleaning

When the bleeding has stopped, you can gently examine the injury. This should begin with a visual examination as the wound is likely to be sore to touch which can cause your dog discomfort.

Wounds may have dirt or bacteria in them and this must be cleaned and removed. Larger items like glass should be left for your vet to remove but you can take care of smaller items.
First, you need to trim or shave the fur around the affected area. This makes it easier to keep clean and helps you spot any additional injuries such as bruising. Be very careful when trimming fur around a wound to avoid causing additional wounds to your pet – you may be surprised at how common they are. Round ended scissors or clippers should be used for this job and you should leave a minimum distance of 2-3cm around the wound. You should also trim longer hairs from surrounding areas to stop them contaminating the wound. You can use a little KY Jelly to help catch stray hairs which are in the wound by applying a small amount to the affected area and gently removing later.

Once the area has been cleaned, a good irrigation solution of salt and cooled boiled water should be used to flush the wound. Mix 1tsp of salt with a pint of cooled boiler water and use to wash or flood the wound. Do not rub the area as this can actually drive contaminants further into the wound.

vet and dog

Dressing the wound

When the wound is clean, you may be able to leave it uncovered. This is generally the case for smaller wounds which are best left to heal on their own.
For larger wounds, it may be advisable to apply a clean, dry dressing. Once again, if bleeding seeps through the dressing then do not remove it but simply place another on top.
You should bathe the wound once or twice a day for a few days and change dressings as appropriate. Some areas (such as legs) are easier to dress than others and you may need help when dressing more difficult areas (such as tails). You should also monitor the healing of the wound and check for any signs of infection – seeking veterinary treatment immediately. With wounds on limbs, check the temperature of the leg and paw feel the same as other limbs and seek advice from your vet if concerned.

Preventing contamination

You must not allow your dog to interfere with their injury. Making them wear an Elizabethan collars stop them from licking the affected area – something which can cause further harm by irritating the area with their rough tongue or transferring bacteria to the wound.

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