Keep a Cool Head and Know How to Treat Wounds on a Dog

I have been a veterinary technician for over 20 years.

I got into this industry because I was good at dog training and
dog handling.

I started as a receptionist but quickly worked my way up to
handling bad dogs.  Thankfully I had the ability to handle the
really bad and aggressive dogs.

I love both my veterinary technician job and my job as a dog
trainer, and thankfully I am given a voice to help others who may
run across similar training and health issues with their dogs.

Here’s how to stay calm in dog emergencies.

Make an Emergency Kit

Make an emergency kit for your dog!

Thermometer (normal temperature for a dog is between 100 and
102.5 one of the first things to do in an emergency is to take your
dog’s temperature rectally.  This information is vital to your

Clippers (something to shave a minor wound or infection)

Scissors (something clean to help trim damaged skin i.e. paw

It should include mild soaps (more on this later)


Sterile gauze pads

Nonstick gauze pads

Rolled cotton for bandaging

Vet-wrap (for bandaging)

Elastikon (sticky bandaging that will help hold a bandage in

Sticky cotton tape


Silver sulfadiazine cream (great for burns and most skin
click here
to find out more from the Mayo Clinic

Manuka honey

Saline solution


Tongue depressors (these are great for applying ointments
without having to touch the skin directly)

A muzzle (just in case)

Elizabethan Collar in your dog’s size (to keep your dog from
licking.  Dog saliva can create infection)


Heating Pad (make sure the skin never gets too hot or


A Cold pack

A warm pack

Treating Minor Wounds on Dogs

The first thing to know is how to treat minor wounds on

Minor wounds come in the form of scrapes, bruises, ripped paw
pads and cuts, among some other negligible conditions.

Scrapes and abrasions

Scrapes and abrasions can happen when your dog runs through a
wooded area or scrapes his fur and skin on things like rocks or
other things in his environment.  Manuka honey may help some small
wound healing process.


Bruises which are simply damaged small blood vessels that bleed
under the skin can appear a day or two after a scrape or cut.

Ripped Paw Pads

Ripped paw pads can range from small rips and little damage to
bleeding paws.  If there is active bleeding you should seek the
help of your veterinarian.  If the damage is a small injury and
the rip is negligible or not tender to the dog, the damaged tissue
paw pad can usually be trimmed back so that it doesn’t tear and
create more injury.

Imagine damaging your own skin, the damaged skin has died and is
no longer painful; but when pulled or caught it damages the
surrounding tissues which are still sensitive and alive.  Trimming
the dead tissue can help the healing process of the alive

Vet wrap can be helpful, but make sure you don’t wrap it too
tight!!!  Click here to see how
to appropriately vet wrap a wound


Cuts can happen anytime your dog receives damage to his skin by
either something sharp or something blunt.  Cuts can range
anywhere from minor in both length and depth to seriously life
threatening when they are deep or cut a major vein or artery.

First Things First

Assess the area!

If the your dog has incurred an injury the first thing to do is
assess the area and the damage.

For many dog owners, they have a hard time dealing with the pain
and wounds of their dog, however if you are going to either help
your dog yourself or take your dog to the veterinary clinic; it is
best to assess the damage and be prepared and in the know.


One of the best ways to assess a small wound is to shave the
damaged area.

It may require you and a friend, a neighbor or a family member;
but shaving will help you discover how much area has been

Many dogs come into our veterinary hospital with a small wound
only to have us begin shaving and realize how much more of the
surrounding skin and tissue is suffering from infection or rashes.
  Many times these infections will require antibiotics prescribed
by your veterinarian in order to help your dog recover.

By shaving the area, you can see how much of the skin is
affected and shaving helps to clean the wound.

Fur, simply by it’s nature, holds bacteria and can keep the
skin from breathing adequately.  Shaving the fur can help you to
clean and sanitize the wound care area.

Shaving also keeps the area dry.  Often time drying the wound
is preferential to using ointments.  Ointments can keep bacteria
closer to the skin and inhibit the healing process.  Just like our
own wounds, sometimes letting them dry out and form a scab is
better than keeping them open and oozing with ointments.  If in
doubt as your vet!

Be sure to shave in the direction of the wound and don’t run
the clippers too close to infection or a laceration or cut.  By
doing so, you can inadvertently make the wound bigger or create
more bleeding and damage.  You certainly don’t want to make the
pain or injury greater.

If the wound needs to be clipped closer to the skin or against
the grain of the fur, allow your veterinarian and his/her
veterinary technicians to use his/her skill and medical knowledge
to do so in their treatment area.

Clean the Area

If the wound is something you feel you can touch and deal with
after shaving, the next best thing to do is to clean the injured

Be sure to use a mild soap and warm water.  Wound care is

Cold or hot water can shock the area and cause more pain.

Harsh chemicals like peroxide, isopropyl alcohol or strong soaps
can damage the tissues that are trying to begin the healing
process.  Inappropriate wound care and treatment can hurt your

In veterinary medicine we often use diluted chlorohexidine soaps
and solutions.

We often also use betadine solutions.  Both are gentle on the
skin, tissue and wound; but dilute chlorohexidine is less likely to
stain clothing and is easier to use
click here
for more information.

Know Your Wounds

I will mention this again, because it is so important, many
wounds do better if they can dry out a bit and heal.

After having a piercing, it is recommended that you clean the
area about twice daily and let it dry.  Putting ointments like
Neosporin on puncture wounds can actually help bacteria breed.

In some instances your dog may need some prophylactic
antibiotics, prescribed by your veterinarian so that the area can
also be treated by a cream like silver sulfadiazine without
creating an issue.

If you are in doubt ask your vet!  It is sometimes difficult
for me to assess just what a dog wound might need and I have worked
in this industry for over 20 years.

Complicated Wounds

Treating complicated wounds can be more difficult and may need
to be assessed by your vet.

Puncture Wounds

Puncture wounds usually need prophylactic antibiotics. 
Bacteria and debris on the puncturing instrument can cause serious
infection and abscesses to form under the skin.  Treatment of
puncture wounds and exploring them and their length is

Make sure you utilize an Elizabethan Collar because dog saliva
can spread bacteria and make wounds more severe.

Bite Wounds

Dog bite wounds may also need very specific care.  Most need
prophylactic antibiotics to reduce the chances that infections will
spread and abscess.  Depending on the size of the dog bite wound a
drain may need to be applied to help infection to safely drain out
of your dog’s skin.

Cat bite wounds are seriously dangerous.  Cats have a large
amount of bacteria that live their mouths.  In veterinary medicine
we joke that they are like Komodo Dragons.  Most of us that work
in this industry would rather be bitten by a dog than by a cat.  I
have had several coworkers that have had to be hospitalized on IV
antibiotics after a cat bite.  Thankfully cats don’t often bite
dogs (not as often as dog to dog bites).

If you don’t know what bit your dog but you assume it is an
animal bite of some sort, be sure and take him to the vet to be on
the safe side and to be treated with antibiotics as a precaution.
 Even if you aren’t quite sure it is an animal bite; it is
better to be safe.  Let your vet figure out if he thinks it is an
animal bite or not.  We are always trying to assess wounds for
tooth punctures.


We usually lacerations in the veterinary world are considered
bigger than “cuts” and can have jagged edges.  Typically most
lacerations are not caused by very sharp objects; creating that
jagged edge.

Many lacerations need to be surgically sown up by your
veterinarian, and wound closure may be very difficult.  Any
laceration should be assessed as quickly as possible so that it can
receive proper treatment.

The older the laceration the less apt wound closure can be
safely achieved.

Old wounds often become necrotic around the edges and their
treatment cannot be closed safely, surgically.  Often times the
area needs to be cut back into undamaged and alive tissues
(surgical debridement) so that they can be surgically sown or
stapled and the tissues can heal.

Make sure you don’t allow your dog to lick.  Dog saliva can
damage skin and affect wound closure and healing.

Otherwise we have to allow them to heal by “second
intention” meaning what we would have sown shut will have to heal
on its own and form granulation tissue.  This typically takes much
longer and may need an extended treatment of antibiotics to keep
infection from spreading and killing tissues that are trying to

Old wounds can also encourage infestation of maggots, especially
in hot weather.  Maggots can cause severe tissue damage and
necrotic tissue, so do your best to assess your dog after long
periods of time outside.

Dangerous Wounds Bleeding

Bleeding can come in many forms.

You might find a few drops of blood, or your dog might be
hemorrhaging from a vein or artery.

Obviously, a few drops of blood is less scary and you can take
your time to begin your assessment process.  Honestly, fresh blood
and bleeding is better than finding an old wound, because again,
fresh wounds are easier to suture, treat, and treat with
prophylactic antibiotics as well as ointments that might assist in

If your dog is bleeding more than you are comfortable with, but
is not actively hemorrhaging you can bandage the area before
heading to your vet.

One of my dogs cut her foot on
sharp metal lawn edging.  Her foot was bleeding a great deal and
the injury was deep, but I wasn’t worried she was going to bleed
out before I could get her to the vet.  I was able to use some
nonstick gauze pad, rolled cotton, vet-wrap, and elastikon to
bandage her and get her to the vet for sutures and assessment. 
She needed 5 sutures and was losing blood fairly rapidly!  Bandage
changes should be done every 2-3 days to assess healing.

Bleeding Heavily

If your dog is bleeding heavily a tourniquet may be your only

Again, take a brief moment to assess the area and damage.  A
cool head is required even in serious emergencies.

It is also important to make sure the tourniquet is applied
correcting, above the wound and on the legs or paws and that it is
not left on too long!

A tourniquet should not be left on for more than 10 minutes!
 If you must apply the tourniquet release and reapply.
 Tourniquets left on too long can create permanent damage.


In short it is best to prepare yourself mentally and physically
for a probably emergency or wound incurred by your dog.

Set up an emergency kit and work toward getting the items on the
list.  Be sure to put an e collar or “cone” collar on your
list.  Many people like the Kong Cloud

Get comfortable taking your dog’s temperature and assessing
what he looks like normally, so that you can better assess when he
is distressed.

Look your dog’s body over when he has spent time outside.

If you see blood take some time to try and find its source so
that you can help your vet.

If you can, shave and clean the area prior to your arrival at
your vet; this will help your veterinarian immensely.

Keeping a cool head during an emergency or even when dealing
with a wound can mean the difference between life and death.

Do you have any other first aid tips?  Please share them in the

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Keep a Cool Head and Know How to Treat Wounds on a Dog
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Source: FS – TheDogTrainingSecret
Keep a Cool Head and Know How to Treat Wounds on a Dog