Pet First Aid: How to Treat Minor Wounds
Cuts, abrasions, and other skin injuries are common in our pets. Treatment options depend on the cause of the injury, severity and size of the wound, and where it is located on the body. Careful assessment of the wound is important. Many minor injuries can be treated at home using the advice below.
Careful Wound Assessment
It’s important to evaluate the wound closely to determine an appropriate treatment plan. Consider all factors that may impact your pet’s ability to heal - bacterial contamination, the presence of foreign material, continued trauma and infection caused by licking or scratching, or movement at the injured site.
For example, consider a torn paw pad: As the pet walks, the wound is at risk for further tearing and trauma due to increased movement. The wound is also at risk for frequent contamination with dirt and other debris. Appropriate intervention is needed to ensure that this wound has the optimal conditions to heal quickly.
How Can You Help Your Pet?
- Use caution if your pet is distressed or in pain. He may be more likely to accidentally scratch or bite due to the injury. Consult your vet if you’re pet will not let you examine the wound.
- First, stop any bleeding. Apply mild to moderate pressure over the wound, using a clean cloth or dressing. Pressure should be applied for about 10 minutes.
- If the bleeding doesn’t stop, or you notice the blood is pulsating (due to a damaged artery), seek veterinary care immediately.
- Once bleeding is controlled, the next step is to clean the wound. Rinse the wound gently with lukewarm saline solution (Make your own using the recipe below.) Use a clean cloth or gauze to remove discharge and debris.
- Clean and evaluate the wound 1-2 times daily until healing has occurred.
- The wound must stay clean and dry. Don’t allow your pet to go swimming, and keep her indoors as much as possible.
- Don’t allow your pet to lick or scratch at the wound. This can be prevented by using an Elizabethan collar, medical pet shirt, or a light bandage. Clean socks may be used to protect injured paws.
- Use extreme caution when bandaging a pet’s wound! A poorly placed bandage can create more problems than the wound itself! Please seek veterinary advice if you need help with bandaging.
- If using a bandage, the dressing will need to be changed daily until the wound is healing and no discharge is present.
How to Make Saline Solution:
- Boil 2 cups / 500 ml / 1 pint of water.
- Add one teaspoon of table salt, and put it into a clean container while still hot.
- Allow it to cool to room temperature.
- The solution can be stored in the fridge for up to a week in a sealed container.
There are 3 phases of normal wound healing:
1. Inflammation and removal of debris.
2. Production of new tissue.
3. Maturing of new tissue into its final form (skin and scar tissue).
Each stage of wound healing requires different types of care. If not treated appropriately, at any stage, wound healing may be slowed or interrupted. Always consult your vet regarding the best ways to treat your pet’s wound.
When to Visit the Vet
- If there is significant bleeding that can’t be stopped with gentle pressure for 10 minutes.
- An artery is damaged - indicated by pulsating blood.
- If you are suspicious that there may be a foreign body or foreign material in the wound that hasn’t come out with cleaning.
- If there is significant swelling, redness, or pain associated with the wound.
- If there is a bad smell or discharge from the wound.
- If your pet becomes unwell.
Large or deep wounds should be examined by your vet. Often, a sedative or general anesthesia will be necessary to fully evaluate and treat your pet’s wound. This allows your vet to evaluate the severity of the injury, and identify damage to deeper structures (muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and bones). Your vet may need to suture or surgically close the wound. This is meant to bring the skin edges together so healing may be as straightforward and quick as possible. Your pet may be prescribed pain medication or antibiotics if needed.
Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your pet’s wound or another condition?
Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.