Home Remedy for Open Sores on Dogs

By Karen S. Johnson

Most dogs get an occasional sore or wound. Its source may be mysterious, such as a “hot spot” from allergies or constant licking; or perhaps you witnessed him step on a sharp object during your daily walk. You can stave off some problems with early attention to the sore. While you should never hesitate to consult your veterinarian, knowing how to clean the wound and apply traditional or alternative treatments may prevent costly veterinarian bills. If your dog gets a puncture wound or is bitten by another animal, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Cleanliness Is Key

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Your home remedy may be as simple as giving the sore a good cleaning and disinfecting twice a day until it heals. Cut away hair around the sore if necessary. Moisten the area with a water-based lubricant -- not petroleum jelly -- before clipping. Use scissors or a razor if that’s all you have. Enlist help for hard-to-reach areas or with a large or fearful dog. Rinse the sore with warm water and apply your disinfectant. Good choices include chlorhexidine and povidone iodine, available from most pharmacy retailers. Dilute the povidone iodine to the color of tea before applying. Your dog will likely appreciate an application using a warm washcloth.

Alternative Disinfectants

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After cleaning the sore, put one or two drops of lavender essential oil on a cotton ball and apply it directly to the sore for a safe and effective disinfectant. Melaleuca oil, commonly known as tea tree oil, can cause toxicity in dogs in large doses, so don’t use it without consulting a veterinarian experienced in essential oils. For herbal disinfectants, soak calendula flower petals in water to make a tea, or combine a half-teaspoon of calendula tincture and an equal amount of salt to a pint of warm water. Spray or dab your tea or tincture mix on the sore. You can also purchase calendula ointment. Apply antiseptic twice a day until the sore heals. Contrary to some beliefs, hydrogen peroxide has nominal value as an antiseptic and can damage skin tissues.

Topical Antibiotics

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For extra protection, apply a broad-spectrum antibiotic to the sore; good choices include any with bacitracin, neomycin, or polymyxin B. Your typical triple antibiotic cream contains all three, and it is safe for dogs. Put a small drop on your fingertip and apply gently. Frankincense oil is effective against infections -- apply a drop or two on a cotton ball to dab directly onto the sore. Aloe vera and goldenseal are effective herbal antibiotics. If you have goldenseal tincture, combine a half-teaspoon with an equal amount of salt in 1 pint of water, or make an herbal tea. Apply your antibiotic of choice twice a day until the sore heals.

Cautions

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Cleaning and applying your treatment of choice allows you to inspect the sore for changes; if it is draining, hot to the touch or red -- or if you detect a fever or behavior changes -- contact your veterinarian immediately. If possible, leave the sore uncovered. You may need to get a plastic cone, called an Elizabethan collar, to put around your dog's head to prevent him from licking and scratching the wound. Try small socks on paw wounds; dress your dog in a soft T-shirt for sores on his body. If the sore doesn’t heal within a week, consult your veterinarian.