How to Know If a Dog Wound Is Bad Enough to Go to a Vet?

By Heather Vecchioni

Dog wounds are often deceptive—what looks like a small, unassuming injury on the outside, can actually be quite deep and extensive underneath. If your dog has suffered a wound, whether from a dog bite or a lacerating foreign object, it may heal on its own; however, there is a very good chance that it will become infected and require treatment from a veterinarian. There are a few symptoms your dog—and the wound—will display if it needs to be addressed by a doctor.

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Step 1

Observe any bleeding. While most wounds will bleed a bit, they will typically resolve with only a small amount of blood loss. However, if the wound will not stop bleeding or it appears to be releasing a large amount of blood, rush your dog to the veterinarian, as it may be a life-threatening situation.

Step 2

Note any swelling around the wound. Swelling can occur below the wound, as fluids will travel to a low area. The fluid may be pus and the swelling can either feel hard or soft. If any swelling occurs, you should have a vet take a look at it, since it is probably infected.

Step 3

Smell for any odor. The presence of a foul scent is a strong indicator that the wound is infected and requires antibiotics and perhaps further treatment, such as skin debridement and thorough cleaning.

Step 4

Look at the wound and around it for any redness. This change in color of the skin over or around the wound is usually a sign of infection. In addition, if the wound or skin around it feels warm to the touch, the dog should see a veterinarian for infection treatment.

Step 5

Measure the length of the wound. If the wound is over ½-inch long, it will likely require sutures, which should be placed by a veterinarian.

Step 6

Watch your dog for any behavioral changes. If the canine displays a change in its appetite, seems depressed or lethargic, has an elevated temperature or a decrease in its appetite, it should be examined by a vet. Not only is an infected wound possible, but the dog could be anemic and at risk for becoming septic—an infection that occurs within the entire body.