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While you can take precautions to protect your pup against diseases and illness, accidents happen when we least expect them. Our emergency veterinarians in Halifax offer some information and advice to help you address and care for common dog wounds.

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How to Care for a Dog's Wound

If your dog has a wound, your first step will be to determine what type of wound it is. Wounds generally fall into two categories: open or closed.

  • Open wound: This occurs when the skin breaks and the internal tissues can be seen. It commonly includes animal bites, cuts, and scrapes.
  • Closed wound: The skin doesn't break with this type, but there may be an indication of internal bleeding. Bruises and fractures that don't break the skin fall into this category.

Bruises can be treated by applying a cold compress (ice pack) wrapped in a towel for 10 minutes to reduce the swelling, then continuing to monitor. They should clear up in about two weeks.

If your dog has severe bruising, broken bones or signs of an internal injury, contact your primary veterinarian right away.

While large open wounds or wounds that bleed profusely require immediate veterinary care, minor wounds can usually be cared for at home.

Some of the most commonly seen open dog wounds include:

  • Minor cuts
  • Deep cuts
  • Bite wounds

Dog Wound Care at Home

Before beginning first aid for small open wounds on your dog, you might want to call a veterinarian for direction. Depending on the circumstances, they may advise you to restrain and muzzle your dog. Use caution when administering any first aid; even if your dog isn't one to act aggressively, the sensation of pain may cause them to react negatively. Restraining them can help you avoid scratches or bites while you treat the wound.

Once you have your dog secure, you can follow the steps below for minor cuts, scrapes, and bites:

  1. Stop the bleeding: Place a clean towel or cloth over the wound and apply light pressure. If there is excessive bleeding, contact our team at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital right away for emergency veterinary care.
  2. Clean the wound: If another animal has bitten your dog, the resulting bite mark can sometimes look small and simple. However, this is not the case. Bacteria can be transmitted from the mouth of the other animal into the open wound. If your dog has been bitten, you will need to clean this wound very well.
  3. Remove foreign object with tweezers: Some wounds become embedded with piece of glass, twigs, thorns, etc. This is common in dog paw injury. Wound care requires the use of a magnifying glass to remove all of the debris before disinfecting.
  4. Disinfect the wound: Clean and disinfect the wound using a pet-safe antiseptic solution like chlorhexidine, which is often included in a pre-packaged first-aid kit. Refrain from using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as these can damage the tissue and delay wound healing time.
  5. Apply a bandage: Apply a small amount of antibacterial ointment to the wound and cover it with a piece of sterile gauze and/or sterile bandage.

After 24 hours, you will need to remove the old bandage and clean and redress the wound. You should continue monitoring the wound for signs of bacterial infection, including swelling, continued bleeding or discharge. If you notice these symptoms, you will need to contact our emergency animal hospital right away to have the wound examined.

Once the wound is no longer open, you will no longer need to keep it bandaged. However, you will still need to clean it with warm water and monitor it daily until it is completely healed.

When should you bring your dog to the vet?

In some cases, you will need to bring your dog in for veterinary care to address a larger wound. Some of the signs that indicate that emergency vet care is needed include:

  • Wounds caused by serious injuries
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Signs of infection
  • Eye injuries
  • Exposed muscle or bone
  • Severe burns
  • Open fracture injury (bone broken through the skin)
  • Degloving injury (skin torn from underlying tissue)
  • Penetrating through the layers of tissue into the abdominal or chest cavity
  • Significant pain or distress

If your dog is aggressive, yelping, growling, baring teeth, or trying to escape while you are treating it, contact our emergency veterinary team at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital. Veterinary professionals are trained to manage high-stress situations.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your dog sustained an injury that requires immediate veterinary care? Contact our veterinarians. We are here to help address the medical needs of dogs and cats from Halifax, Dartmouth and across Atlantic Canada.

Dog Wound Care: Complete Guide

Caring for Pets in Atlantic Canada

Our specialists are pleased to accept new patients by referral from primary care veterinarians. Our emergency service welcomes all clients – 24/7/365. 

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