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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Cuts and Wounds View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition

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Condition Overview

The skin is the largest organ of the body, and its 3 layers protect pets from bacteria and other germs. Wounds open the gate to infection in both dogs and cats, and a cut blood vessel can cause life threatening bleeding.

Symptoms

Pets get cuts for all kinds of reasons, from car accidents and animal bites to tears from thorns or barbed wire or even running through plate glass windows. Pet owners often cut their pets skin accidentally when trying to self-groom or trim out matted fur. Cats are more prone to cuts than dogs because their skin is thinner.

Causes

Diagnosis

Cuts and wounds can often be hard to see because they are hidden by fur.

Treatment

Deep wounds that cut through the skin into the flesh need stitches within 2 - 4 hours to heal most effectively. Shallow wounds and minor cuts may need only home care, but even those that need medical attention can be helped by first aid. Surface cuts can look more dangerous than they are when they bleed a lot, but they're usually less prone to infection than puncture wounds.

  1. Muzzle your pet - An injured pet may bite you when in pain, so don't try to help without safety restraints. See our video on the Emergency muzzle if you don't have a regular muzzle available. It helps to have one person restrain and gently talk to your pet while the second person performs first aid.
  2. Stop the bleeding - Put direct pressure against the wound with a gauze pad or clean cloth. If the blood soaks through, just add another pad on top and continue the pressure. If you lift the pad, you could disturb the clot.
  3. Control bleeding from the paws - Lacerations to foot pads bleed a lot because paws have a big blood supply. Put a pressure bandage on the paw to control the bleeding. Put a gauze pad against the wound, slip a cotton sock over the foot, and tape a plastic bag on top of the sock. The bags that newspapers come in work well. For pets with small paws, another option is to cover the bandage with a condom. Make sure that whatever covering you choose fits snugly enough to apply pressure to the wound without restricting circulation. You should be able to slip 1 or 2 fingers under the bandage. If your pet starts biting it or seems excessively bothered by it, it may be too tight. Try the 2 - finger test and loosen it if necessary.
  4. Get to the vet if the bleeding will not stop - If heavy bleeding continues for more than 5 minutes, the injury has probably cut a vein or artery. Continue to apply direct pressure and head for your veterinarians office right away. If possible, have a friend drive so that you can keep the necessary continuous pressure.
  5. Trim your pets fur - Once the bleeding has stopped, use blunt scissors or electric clippers to trim the fur around the wound. If you're using scissors, first slip your index and second fingers through the fur and hold them against the wound. Cut the fur so that it is level with your fingers, clipping a 1 inch border all the way around the wound. This will help you judge how serious the wound is and also removes bacteria and potential contaminants in the fur from contact with the wound. If the skin is broken, fill the wound with a water soluble lubricant like K-Y jelly before you clip. Then thoroughly rinse the area with warm water. The trimmed hair sticks to the jelly and washes out.
  6. Clean shallow wounds - Wash shallow cuts (they don't go completely through the skin) with an antiseptic liquid soap like Betadine Skin Cleanser and water or mild soap and water, then pat dry with a clean, soft cloth. You can also use a bit of 3% hydrogen peroxide on a clean cloth to wipe off the area around the wound. Hydrogen peroxide can damage skin cells though, so don't pour or dab it directly on the wound. Use antibiotic cream or antiseptic spray like Bactine to help prevent infection.
  7. Flush out deep woundsCuts and wounds need stitches if they are so deep that they gape open or if they are located near joints, which will put tension on the wound and interfere with healing. Use lukewarm water to flush deep wounds. Flushing helps wash out germs and debris so that you can see how extensive the wound is. Then, wearing disposable medical gloves, use your finger or hand to dislodge any stubborn material. Once the dried blood, fur, or other debris is gone, you can gently wash the area with mild soap and water and pat it dry.

For Puncture wounds like animal bites, call your vet. Your vet will probably want to check the wound that day and may prescribe antibiotics. Keep the injury open until you get to the vets office, to prevent sealing in bacteria that can cause infection. If you can't see your vet for several hours, apply a hot compress. You can use a ready made hot pack wrapped in a towel or a washcloth soaked in hot water. Hold it against the puncture 2 - 5 times a day, 5 minutes on and 5 minutes off, until it cools.

Apply some antibiotic ointment to minor cuts and wounds to help fight infection, but don't medicate deep wounds until after the vet has stitched them closed.

Bandage gaping wounds. You should leave puncture wounds open, but protect gaping wounds with a bandage. Press a gauze pad, a clean towel, or even a sanitary napkin or even a disposable diaper against the wound and secure it in place with an elastic bandage (such as an ACE bandage) and tape. Make sure that the bandage is not too tight by slipping 2 fingers beneath the wrapping. If you don't have an Ace bandage, plastic wrap works well as a temporary measure, especially on body wounds. You will not have to tape it because it sticks to itself. Shoulder wounds are hard to bandage, but a t-shirt slipped onto your pet will give good protection. While your vet is checking the wound, ask for a demonstration of how to protect the area as it heals and also ask for appropriate bandage materials.

Prevention

For most shallow wounds (not penetrating or bite wounds), you can glue the skin together to help speed healing. Veterinary products like Nexaband S/C tissue glue are available from pet supply catalogs. Products like New-Skin Liquid Bandage, available in drugstores, will also work well for minor cuts. You don't need a bandage, and the glue will come off in about a week. Before using it, clean and disinfect the cut thoroughly to avoid sealing in infection. Apply the glue in a thin line to the edges of the cut, then hold them together with your fingers for about 10 seconds, until they bond together.

Support

Clean all wounds once or twice a day. Use a gauze pad with water and Betadine skin cleanser to cleanse the wound, and keep washing until you can see all the edges as well as the bottom of the wound clearly.

If your pet has stitches and there is a lot of blood and crust around the cut, wipe off any drainage and clean the area with a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide on a gauze pad.

Pets who have been bitten or suffered other types of puncture wounds may need oral antibiotics prescribed by a vet, several times a day. The easiest way to pill your dog is to circle the top of his snout with your hand, pressing both sides of the jaw along the gums just behind the large pointed canine teeth. Then use your other hand to push the pill over the hill of the tongue, close his mouth, and gently stroke his throat until he swallows.

With a cat, put her on a tabletop, grasp the scruff of the neck, and gently arch her neck backward - her mouth will fall open. Look for the v-shaped indentation in the center of her tongue. Drop the pill on the V and close her mouth, then offer a treat to distract from the medicine.

Bruising is a sign of broken blood vessels. Applying cold packs wrapped in a cold, wet washcloth for 10 - 30 minutes at a time, several times a day will reduce inflammation and pain, and they are actually more effective than many drugs.

Watch for a fever, swelling, heat, obvious pain, or discharge (especially foul smelling or puss-like) from the wound, which could indicate an infection. Infection can turn into an abscess, which may need to be cleaned out by a veterinarian.

Keep your pet indoors except for bathroom trips. When he goes outside, cover the injury with a temporary bandage. Most wounds heal better if left open to the air, so don't leave the bandage on for more than a couple hours at a time, unless your veterinarian has provided instructions to do otherwise.

Dogs often lick and chew at stitches and sores, which will interfere with healing. Use a foul tasting product like bitter apple on the area around the wound or fit your pet with a collar restraint called an Elizabethan collar. Be sure to remove the collar at feeding time.

Show Sources & Contributors +

Sources

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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