Dogs can easily get cuts or scrapes during vigorous play with fellow dogs or just out and about in nature. While most dog wounds and cuts are no cause for alarm, properly treating them is extremely important. By being prepared you can preempt infection and other complications.
The type of treatment you give to dog wounds and cuts will primarily depend on the cause and severity of the injury. Simple cuts and wounds can be treated and managed at home, serious ones will require the medical expertise of a veterinarian.
Find out in this article which dog’s wounds and cuts you can treat and manage at home. In addition, learn about the different types of dog wounds you may have to deal with and the first aid and treatment options available for each, including natural dog wound cleaning and treatment options.
Types of Dog Wounds
Dog wounds are any form of injury where the skin is damaged. Wounds can be caused by cuts, burns, scrapes and scratches, tears, skin infections, abscesses, breaks, or surgical operations.
The most common causes of dog wounds are bites from other dogs or cuts and grazes during play. Widely though, dog wounds can be caused by sharp sticks in parks or the woods during walks, sharp stones that your dog steps on, traffic accidents, open fractures, and certain skin or under-skin infections.
Generally, dog wounds are classified into 3 categories depending on the level of contamination:
- Clean wounds are those that occur under sterilized conditions like surgical wounds.
- Contaminated wounds are those with dirt or with a small amount of bacteria.
- Infected wounds are those with plenty of bacteria and show signs of deep infection and extensive damage to the skin layers.
But dog wounds can also be classified according to the cause of the wound. Below are 6 of the most common types of dog wounds:
Cuts and Grazes/Scrapes
Cuts and grazes can be minor or large.
Minor cuts and grazes are superficial because only the skin surface is injured. These are easy to treat and cure at home by keeping them clean and dry to prevent infection.
Large cuts and grazes go deeper into the skin layers and the flesh or occupy a large portion of the skin surface. They are often painful and can easily become infected, which is why a vet should attend to them.
Burn wounds in dogs can occur on the paw pads when a dog walks on hot asphalt or concrete during summer. They can also be on the mouth and throat if a dog dips his muzzle in hot food or swallows it scorching.
Dogs may also bear burns from spilled hot liquids or accidental open fires. The severity of burns depends on how deep the damage goes into the dog’s skin and flesh and how extensive the burn area is.
Puncture wounds are those caused by sharp objects that perforate the skin. They can be caused by bites from other dogs or animals or sharp objects on a dog’s way.
While puncture wounds may seem simple at first glance, they can be easily infected because the cause of puncture often leaves germs or bacteria inside the wound. Usually, the closed nature of puncture woods increases the chances of infection because of the dirt or bacteria that remains trapped inside.
Lacerations on the skin are caused mostly by scratches from other dogs during play or from cats. They can be superficial or relatively deep, or be short or long. Fence wires and sticks are also common causes of skin lacerations on dogs.
Degloving wounds are those where a large section of the skin is torn from the underlying tissue, often hanging loosely or falling off the skin. The wounds are so named because they depict the act of removing gloves (Degloving).
Such wounds can be caused by tears from other dogs during play or when a dog jumps and miscalculates its distance, leading to a section of the skin being torn by objects on its path.
Abscess wounds are those that appear when an abscess is broken or drained. An abscess is a pus pocket below the skin surface. It can be caused by pus-forming bacteria and triggered by previous animal bites, puncture injuries from objects like metal or sticks, or previous skin infections.
Wherever they are located on your dog’s body, abscesses are extremely painful and often come with a fever. Abscesses in dogs should receive the specialized care of a vet.
If your dog has any of the above types of wounds, you have an option to treat the wound at home if minor or send your pet to a vet if the wound is a bad one.
But what should you do to give first aid to dog cuts and wounds or treat those that can be managed at home?
What to Do if Your Dog has a Wound?
The first thing you should do if your dog has a cut or wound is to give first aid to stop the bleeding and prevent or control infection.
Follow these steps to give first aid to a dog with a cut or wound.
- Assess the cut or wound to determine the severity of the injury. Ask yourself if it can be treated at home or it needs the immediate care of a vet.
- If the cut or wound is small and not bleeding, clean the wound with water to get rid of any dirt. After that use a salt solution to disinfect it (add a teaspoon of salt to half a cup of water). The water should be boiled to eliminate any bacteria but left to cool.
When you are out in the wild, use Chlorhexidine solution for dogs to disinfect the wound. NEVER use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide).
- With a large wound or one that is bleeding a lot, apply light pressure to the wound using clean gauze to stop the bleeding. Next you should call a vet immediately.
- If the wound is open or some layers of skin are missing, cover it with clean gauze and bandage after cleaning it. NEXT have it attended to by a vet ASAP. Note that old open wounds are better left open as closing them can encourage bacteria growth.
- If the wound has a lodged object, use a pair of sterilized tweezers to remove it if it is not large or deeply lodged.
Note: Cuts and wounds are among emergencies that require you to always have a dog first aid kit. This is because they need sterile dressing items like gauze and bandage as well as antiseptic cleaning solutions, which you can’t easily improvise if out of the house. Check the list of cuts and wounds first aid care items in our article on first aid for dogs.
After giving first aid for dog cuts and wounds, determine if:
- Your dog’s wound is minor and can be managed and treated at home. If that’s the case, see the subsequent sections with details on home care for minor cuts and wounds in dogs. Also check out recommendtions for natural remedies for cleaning and treating wounds at home.
- Your dog’s wound is large, extremely painful, has a large object lodged in it, or is bleeding a lot. Any of these issues requires immediate care from a vet.
Home care for Minor Cuts and Wounds
Remember that this procedure is for minor cuts and wounds. Follow the management of wounds at home until they are fully healed.
Cleaning the Wound
Clean the wound twice daily with salt water:
- Add a teaspoon of salt to boiled but cooled water. Your vet may also advise using an Epsom salt solution.
- Soak cotton pads in the salt solution.
- Use the pads to wipe away dirt from the wound and disinfect it. Use a fresh cotton pad each time.
- Leave the wound open.
Unless your vet recommends it, avoid antiseptics for cleaning minor wounds as this can slow down healing. Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol should be avoided altogether. They kill the healing bacteria and are also painful on your dog’s skin. If an antiseptic must be used, consider Chlorhexidine solution for dogs with a 2% – 4% concentration.
Protecting the Wound
If your dog can reach the wound to lick, use a muzzle to restrict him. Licking on a wound can get it infected with bacteria from your dog’s mouth. In addition you can also use protective socks to stop the dog from reaching the wound with his paws.
Monitoring the Wound for Healing and Infection
Check your dog’s wound every time you clean it for signs of delayed healing or infection. Notice any signs of:
- Increased temperature around the wound.
Bring your pet to the veterinarian for professional care if any of these signs are present, or your dog’s wound has not healed in a few days.
Natural Remedies for Treating Dog Wounds and Cuts
There are natural herbs that have skin-healing properties and can be used to clean and treat your dog’s wounds. These are used as washes, rinses, sprays, or compresses.
As a preliminary precaution, never use natural remedies to clean or treat your dog’s wound without consulting a vet. Any mistakes with natural remedies can have adverse effects on your dog’s skin or compromise the wound healing process.
Here are a few natural remedies for treating dog wounds:
Hydrotherapy or just water on your dog’s wound can work miracles. Simply run cool, clean water on the wound for around 10 minutes. Do this twice daily with a low-pressure hose or under a faucet.
Running water on a wound speeds up the cleansing effect discharge from the wound makes to dispel bacteria and dirt.
Herbs with skin-healing properties can be brewed and sprayed on your dog’s wound as a non-invasive naturally healing remedy.
Below are some of the common herbal rinses for healing dog wounds:
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis) has properties that speed up the wound healing process as well as anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Its antimicrobial properties prevent and control infection on your dog’s wound.
- St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also aids with skin repair through the stimulation of skin collagen production. It is especially effective on wounds with damaged skin.
- German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) & Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis). Both have an anti-inflammatory and soothing effect on a wound and can help ease discomfort.
A study on medicinal plants for topical treatment in dogs found that the 3 herbs above (Calendula, Chamomile, & St. John’s wort) had broad-spectrum antifungal and antibacterial effects and were even effective on antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Also, they had anti-inflammatory and skin-renewing properties that facilitate wound healing.
- Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) leaf and root have allantoin, which stimulates cell growth and repair. As such it is especially effective on suture and puncture wounds as it rinse out any bacteria and aids in healing the wound. It is also great for burns, grazes, cuts, and bites wounds.
- Lavender sprayed on a dog’s wound can ease discomfort and remove itching.
Direction: mix 2 teaspoons of herbs with a cup of boiled water, leave to cool, sieve, and spray on the wound a few times a day.
Essential oils have effective healing properties for treating dog wounds. However, their high concentration can be harmful to a dog’s skin and should be used in a diluted form. The recommended ratio is 10 drops of the essential oil for every tablespoon of the base oil.
Some of the recommended essential oils for the treatment of dog wounds include:
- Calophyllum oil
- Lavender oil
- Helichrysum oil
- Tea tree oil
- Oregano oil
- Witch hazel oil
Apple Cider Vinegar Spray
Apple cider vinegar is an effective first aid option on wounds and has a soothing and healing effect.
You can also use it as a base with other herbal remedies such as calendula, lavender, rosemary, and chamomile.
To make an apple cider vinegar and herbal dog wound spray:
- Place the herb in a glass jar and add organic apple cider vinegar.
- Seal tightly and live it for a month.
- Sieve and transfer to a spray bottle for use on your dog’s wounds or irritated skin.
Other natural options for how to treat dog wounds at home include:
- Willard water
- EMT gel
- Unrefined sea salt
- Pitch pine tree resin
Remember that these remedies should be used on dog wounds only after consultation with your vet or a holistic veterinarian.
Cuts and wounds can happen easily to your dog during play or a walk in the woods. Since broken skin can cause extreme bleeding, pain, and is exposed to infection, dog wounds and cuts should receive immediate first aid care.
Superficial dog wounds and cuts can be treated and managed at home through daily cleaning with a salt solution. Larger and serious wounds that are bleeding a lot, need suturing, or have objects lodged into them should be treated and managed at a vet clinic.
If you opt for natural remedies to treat dog wounds at home, ensure you consult with your vet before proceeding to treat your dog.