Use Basic Wound Care To Start The Healing Process

Using basic wound care, you can easily treat your dog's minor wounds, including cuts, tears and punctures, if they're minor.

The following signs indicate that the wound is serious enough that it should be treated by a vet, or that there may be other injuries requiring urgent care.

Use this dog first aid for wounds that are open and bleeding, deep wounds, and bite wounds.

  • The wound is bleeding heavily. See Dog First Aid for Wounds for information on how to stop or slow the bleeding before you transport your dog to the vet.

  • He's been hit by a vehicle. He likely has internal injuries to go along with his scrapes and open wounds.
  • He appears to have a broken bone. The wound may be the result of a compound fracture, or the break may be obvious. Learn how to immobilize a fracture before transport.

  • The wound is hot and swollen due to possible infection or deeply embedded debris. Do not try to deal with the wound, as rubbing the flesh against the debris may worsen the wound.
  • If your dog's breathing is not normal, he's panting excessively, or he cannot stand or walk properly, he may have injuries that are not obvious.

If any of these signs apply, do whatever you need to stabilize him for transport to the vet clinic. Do not waste time using basic wound care to tend to minor scratches and cuts. The clinic staff will treat his serious injuries first, and then will tend to the cuts.

Clip and Clean

The best way to treat minor scratches, tears and punctures is with the "clip and clean" method of basic wound care. This involves clipping the hair from around the wound and then washing it with an antiseptic solution.

The simple method of basic wound care is very useful for quickly assessing the wound, thoroughly cleaning it, and applying a bandage that stays where it should. As a bonus, your dog's wound will heal faster if it's not covered by damp or dirty hair.

You'll need the following supplies from your first aid kit or from around the house.

  • A quiet electric hair clipper (if you're away from home or a power supply, use the scissors and razor blade from your kit; using them, however, will take much longer to clear away the hair).

  • K-Y or similar jelly.

  • Your first aid kit's antiseptic cleaner. If you don't already have a dog first aid kit or supplies, any chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine cleaner will work.

  • A 10 cc oral syringe for flushing and cleaning the wound.

  • A small bowl for diluting the antiseptic cleaner before filling the syringe.

  • Paper towels or a washcloth

  • Gauze pads (smaller size for cleaning the wound; larger size, if necessary, for covering it).

The following basic wound care instructions are brief and easy to follow. Your pet first aid book should have these or similar instructions.

If not, copy these instructions onto a recipe card and add it to your first aid kit for easy reference.

  1. Before you start clipping the hair, cover the wound with K-Y. Glop it on thickly. Completely cover the wound so that any clipped hair does not fall into it.

  2. Clip (or cut and shave) all the hair for one inch (2.5 centimetres) all around the wound. If your dog has long hair, shorten any hair that you think might cover or get stuck in the wound.

  3. Once the hair is clipped, use a gauze pad or two to wipe the jelly and the loose hair out of the wound.

  4. Make a diluted antiseptic cleaning solution by mixing a small amount of the wound cleaner with water. Add only enough to give the water a pale colour.

  5. Using the syringe, gently squirt the solution onto the wound, then blot (don't wipe) it up with the washcloth or paper towels.

  6. Continue cleaning with the syringe and solution until the wound seems clean and you don't see any surface debris.

  7. Soak some gauze pads in the antiseptic solution and gently pat the wound.

  8. Dry your dog's wet fur around the wound so that he doesn't lick the antiseptic solution from the wound.

If the wound is small, you can leave it uncovered; it will heal nicely on its own. Cover larger wounds with gauze pads and tape them to the shaved or clipped skin.

If your dog can't reach the wound, place some antiseptic ointment on it. He'll likely eat the ointment from any wound his tongue can reach.

To ensure fast and complete healing, follow up with a gentle cleaning once or twice a day. Use gauze pads soaked in some fresh, diluted antiseptic solution.

If the wound does not appear to be healing properly (if it feels hot or swollen, or appears to be more painful for your dog that it was at first), call your vet for advice.

As I mentioned earlier, this method of basic wound care is simple and easy to follow. If you're unsure of your abilities, you might want to "practice" on your dog a couple of times. Rather than clipping or shaving the hair, practice on the belly where there is little hair.

If you're still not comfortable with these basic wound care procedures after some practice, or you're unsure about your skill in judging minor and serious wounds, ask your vet if she'll give you some pointers.

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