What to Expect When Your Pet Has a Wound
There are many reasons why a cat or dog could have a wound. Perhaps, your dog cut herself while playing or when going out for a walk - perhaps she stepped on a piece of glass. Maybe your cat was involved in a fight with another animal, or you simply woke up one day and saw that they were injured. Whatever the cause, the most important thing is that the wound heals quickly without any complications. Keep reading to learn more about wound healing and treatment for dogs and cats.
What should I do if my pet has a wound?
If the wound is not severe, you may be able to treat it at home. Not every scrape or injury requires emergency vet care, which is why it’s advisable to have a first aid kit at home.
If you don’t have one, purchase one or make your own. Some of the supplies you’ll need for treating wounds are:
- Sterile bandages
- Cleansing solution suitable for pets
- Elastic wrapping
- Spray bottle
- Clean towels or rags
Before you begin, make sure that you have someone with you to help restrain your pet while you treat the wound. The area may be sensitive and painful to the treatment that is being applied. So, even if your pet has never shown signs of being aggressive, pain can cause them to react differently and unexpectedly.
Have a plan in mind to keep you safe from bites or scratches while you keep your pet stable and calm so you can treat the wound properly.
If the wound is bleeding, you need to stop the bleeding first by applying a clean towel or cloth over the area applying light pressure. If the bleeding is profuse, you need to take your pet to the veterinary emergency hospital.
Next, clean the wound. Puncture wounds, such as bite wounds, can appear minor, but they are not. They contain bacteria that can cause an infection or abscess. These areas should be thoroughly cleaned with antibacterial soap and warm water. Antiseptic rinses such as betadine or chlorhexidine are also suitable. Do not use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. These products can damage the tissue and delay healing.
Remove foreign objects with tweezers and use a magnifying glass to check the area.
Be sure to check with your vet before applying any topical medications or bandages. Sometimes these materials can cause more harm than good to your pet.
Consider using an E-collar so your pet doesn’t bite or lick at the wound.
Don’t forget to give your pet a treat for being a brave boy or girl!
How do wounds heal?
When your dog or cat is injured, the different layers of the skin can be cut, punctured, scraped, ulcerated, or burned. These layers are the epidermis on the outside, the dermis right below, the subcutis, and the fat and muscle below it.
However, the healing process of any wound starts as soon as the wound is inflicted, and there are four stages involved: inflammation, debridement, repair, and maturation.
1. Inflammation Stage
This phase starts immediately, as soon as the wound has occurred. Blood clots form and blood vessels constrict to limit blood loss in the area of the wound. Also, the immune system begins to address the contaminating bacteria and dead tissue.
2. Debridement Stage
Secondly, the debridement phase, which starts a few hours after the inflammation stage, consists of wound fluid being produced, dead tissue, and immunologic cells forming pus. This is designed to flow like a liquid from the wound and carries debris with it.
Also, the cells are actively working on consuming dead tissue and cleansing the area as part of the healing process.
3. Repair Stage
The third stage is when collagen begins to fill in the wound to bind the torn tissues, and it takes several weeks to complete. Also, new blood vessels start to grow in the area from the uninjured blood vessels nearby.
The edge of the wound will begin to produce granulation tissue, which is a moist pink tissue that will fill in the wound. The affected area will also shrink as part of a process called “wound contraction” so that new skin can form and cover it.
4. Maturation Stage
This is the final stage when scarring occurs. Once plenty of collagen has been deposited after two or three weeks (however, it can take up to months or years, depending on the wound), the scar begins to form and become stronger over time. As new blood vessels and nerves grow, the tissue reorganizes itself.
Of course, the final result is not as strong as the original tissue, but it can achieve up to 80% of the original strength.
My pet had surgery. Will the wound heal quickly?
Surgical incisions with sutures in place do not have an area of the body to fill with granulation tissue. Because the wound margins are already held together, new skin begins to form across the incision within two days.
The four stages of wound healing described above occur much faster because there is no gap in the tissue.
Take into consideration that when you see granulation tissue, it should be moist to allow better blood flow and a proper debridement phase; it may bleed easily. This is a sign of healthy healing.
If you have any questions about a wound your pet has suffered, don’t hesitate and contact your vet. In the case of a more severe injury or if you detect a foul odor or the wound does not stop bleeding, you should go to the vet’s office as soon as possible - there may be more to the situation than what can be seen on the skin’s surface.
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.