One of the great things about dogs is their outgoing and energetic personalities. Unfortunately, those same qualities can sometimes result in our pups getting injured when they do things like try to play with a less-than-friendly dog, run against some thorny bushes, or scratch their paws while trying to dig a hole. When a dog has a minor wound or even a larger wound that your vet has determined should not be sutured closed, you'll need to properly care for it at home to ensure it does not get infected.
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If you are not going to the vet, you'll need to get a full view of the injury before treating it. To do this, petMD says to first apply a water-based lubricant like K-Y Jelly (not Vaseline) to the wound and the surrounding area to keep it clean. Next, shave the area around the wound with electric clippers, and then use a clean, soft towel to remove the lubricant and loose hair.
Gently wash the wound with warm water until all visible debris is gone. Evaluate the wound further to ensure that it is not infected or deep enough to require a vet's care. If it looks minor enough to care for at home, apply a nonstinging, pet-safe antiseptic to the area to sterilize it, such as clorhexidine. If you do not have any of these on hand, Vet Info says you can apply apple cider vinegar with a cotton ball to sores on dogs, but be warned that this might sting.
Once you have thoroughly cleaned and disinfected the sore, apply an antimicrobial ointment like Neosporin. Do not use soaps, shampoos, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, or herbal preparation to clean a wound unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian. These could slow healing or even harm your dog.
Basic dog wound care
When it comes to dog wound care, the most important thing to keep in mind regarding treating a wound at home is that it must stay clean. This means gently cleaning the injury at least once a day in order to remove any crusty or sticky debris. By reducing the potential for reinfection, you will help new tissue to develop so the wound can heal. Clean the wound with either plain warm water or a saline solution made with one teaspoon of salt for every two cups of water.
Do not let your dog mess with the wound. If your pooch insists on licking or chewing on his injury, you will likely need to give him a protective collar to stop this behavior. Elizabethan collars can stop chewing on most areas, but because they are particularly cumbersome, you may choose an inflatable collar instead. These are not quite as restrictive as the traditional cone collars and may not stop the dog from chewing on certain areas like the front paws. If the wound does not heal within a week, take your dog to your vet.
Prevent early closing
It makes sense to think that a dog's wound should heal as soon as possible, but in cases where the dog has a skin ulcer or other abscess that was lanced and drained surgically, VCA Hospitals says you may need to slow the healing process. When these wounds heal too quickly, it can result in increased risk of recurrence. To slow the healing process, gently massage the surrounding skin while cleaning the wound. This will also promote drainage.
There will likely be some discharge or bleeding when you do this. Be sure to let this drain away or remove it with a clean cloth. Pay attention to the color and consistency of the discharge. If it is clear and thin, that is a good sign. If it continues to be bloody, thick, green, or yellow for several days, contact your vet.
Always follow your vet's instructions
Be sure to administer medications as prescribed. If you have any questions about a medication or are concerned about its side effects, call your vet before discontinuing use. Always use antibiotics for as long as the vet prescribed them even if your dog seems to have completely recovered.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.