Using Dog First Aid for Wounds Improves Your Dog's Survival Chances

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

puppy with bandage on a front leg

Bleeding Wounds

Review Basic Wound Care if you need information on treating minor wounds.

Your priority with first aid for wounds is to stop the bleeding. Before you begin, you need to muzzle your dog to protect yourself from injury. Learn how to handle your dog if you don't know how.

To stop the bleeding, you need to apply direct pressure to the dog first aid for wounds using a sterile gauze pad or a clean cloth. (Replace any pads you use from your dog first aid kit so you'll always have them on hand.) Check the wound first for anything that might cause further damage, like a small piece of glass or a sliver of wood.

Do not keep lifting the gauze or cloth to see if the bleeding has stopped.

If you lift it, you will likely break up the clot that has been forming to stop the bleeding.

If the pad becomes blood-soaked, do not remove it and replace it with a fresh one.

This also removes any clotting factor in the first pad.

Place an extra pad on top of the first one. Continue to add gauze pads until you stop the bleeding.

If the bleeding does not stop with pressure, elevate the wound, if possible. This slows the blood flow to the wound area, allowing the clotting factor to build up at the wound site and form a clot.

If the bleeding is severe — especially if you see spurting blood — you will need to apply direct pressure to the artery supplying the wound area.

You'll find the pressure points in these three areas: the femoral artery is located in the groin (on the inside of the thigh), to stop bleeding from a leg wound. To stop bleeding on a front leg, apply pressure to the brachial artery, which is in the inside part of the upper front leg. The caudal artery is at the base of the tail, on the underside, if there is a tail wound.

Bite Wounds

If your dog has a bite wound, clip or shave the hairs from the puncture area (see

  • on the upper inside (the armpit) of the front legs

  • on the upper inside of the hind legs

  • on the underside of the tail.

Practice finding these arteries on your dog now, so that you'll know where they are in an emergency. Bite wounds are tricky, as the force of the bite tends to create a puncture which tears muscle, and also risks an abscess.

Avoid using a tourniquet. If you must use one (as a last resort) to control the bleeding, you must loosen it every few minutes to restore blood circulation to that limb.

Prevent Contamination and Infection

Whenever you administer dog first aid for wounds, keep in mind that you want to avoid contaminating the wound, which could cause later infection.

When you have stopped the bleeding, apply a sterile dressing to the open wound to protect it and to prevent contamination. Do not use cotton batting on an open wound, as the cotton fibers will stick to the wound, becoming possible sources of contamination.

If the wound is large and deep, do not probe or clean it. If you see something in a deep wound, or something protrudes from it, do not try to remove it. Doing so may cause more damage and start the bleeding again.

For a serious wound, apply a simple dressing and contact your veterinarian or the emergency animal clinic as quickly as possible for instructions.

(see Basic Wound Care for directions to do this).

Wash the wound with a lot of soap and water. If you want, after washing use some hydrogen peroxide from your dog first aid kit for its added disinfectant properties.

Have your vet examine any bite wound, even ones that look minor. There may be damage to tissues under the skin that isn't evident.


Providing prompt and effective dog first aid for wounds could keep your dog from bleeding to death.

  • First, muzzle and restrain your dog.
  • Check for small sharp objects that may cause more damage.
  • Stop the bleeding with direct pressure to the wound. Do not keep checking that you have stopped the bleeding. Do not remove soaked pads; simply add clean pads on top of the soaked ones.
  • Elevate the wound to slow the blood flow if pressure alone does not stop the bleeding.
  • Apply pressure to the artery causing severe bleeding. Use a tourniquet only as a last resort, and loosen it every few minutes to restore blood circulation to the damaged limb.
  • Prevent contamination by applying a sterile dressing. If the wound is deep or large, or if anything protrudes from the wound, simply cover it and contact your vet for instructions.
  • For bite wounds, shave or clip the hairs from around the wound, then wash it with lots of soap and water. Apply hydrogen peroxide if you have some. Then transport your dog to the vet so she can examine the wound.

By providing dog first aid for wounds that are serious, even life-threatening, you'll give your dog a very good chance of recovering and living his full life at your side.

Dog First Aid for Wounds to Dog First Aid