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Dog Wound Care 101

Has your charismatic canine had an accident? A dog's sense of fun and curiosity often leads to minor (and sometimes significant) accidents and injuries. In today's post, we share information on general first aid for dog wounds.

Accidents Happen to Dogs Too

Even the most laid-back pouch can have an accident that leads to a cut, graze or another injury that requires care.

That being the case, it's important for pet parents to know how to care for minor dog wounds and injuries at home, and to be able to spot a wound that needs the care of a veterinary professional.

It may sound counterintuitive but many wounds that seem minor can result in serious infections so if you are in doubt about whether you should take your dog to the vet, it's always best to err on the side of caution. Taking your pup to the vet for a wound as soon as it occurs could save your dog a lot of pain, and you a lot of money in the long run.

When Immediate Veterinary Care is Required

While some dog wounds may be cared for by pet parents, there are also wounds that should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Wounds that typically require immediate veterinary care include:

  • Animal bites (these may look small but become infected very very quickly if not treated)
  • Skin that has been torn away from the flesh below (often occurs during dog fights)
  • A wound with a large object lodged in it (ie: a piece of glass or nail)
  • Wounds caused by a car accident or other trauma
  • Injuries around the eyes, head or that lead to breathing difficulties

If your dog is experiencing any of the injuries listed above seek professional veterinary care for your pup as soon as possible. Timely treatment can help to avoid complications and unnecessary pain for your pup.

What to Include In a Doggy First Aid Kit

Having a pet first aid kit on hand, and a little know-how can be helpful if your dog has a minor injury. Below are a few things you should always have on hand in case your dog gets hurt.

  • Soap or cleaning solution
  • Pet antiseptic solution (ie: 2% chlorhexidine)
  • Antimicrobial ointment for suitable for dogs
  • Sterile bandages of different sizes (or a roll to cut to size)
  • Self-adhesive bandage wrap
  • Bandage scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Spray bottle
  • Clean towels or rags

Providing First Aid to Your Injured Dog

Wounds should be cleaned and cared for as soon as possible to reduce the risk of infections. Before beginning first aid on your dog, it may be beneficial to have someone help you restain your pup and be generally supportive.

If you are unsure about what to do, or whether your pet needs veterinary care, remember that when it comes to your animal's health it is always better to err on the side of caution. When in doubt contact your vet, or an emergency vet immediately.

Stay Safe

A scared, anxious or hurt dog may bite while you are trying to help which is why it is typically better to have your dog treated by a team of veterinary professionals. Vets, vet techs and many other staff working in veterinary hospitals have the training and skill to safely deal with hurt and anxious pets. If you are unsure about your ability to apply first aid safely, contact a veterinarian for help determining your best course of action.

Check For Foreign Objects Lodged in The Wound

Look for objects or debris that may be lodged in the wound. This is especially important if the wound is on your dog's paw pad and they may have stepped on something sharp. If you are able to easily remove the object with tweezers, do so gently. If the object is lodged deeply, leave it and call your vet, or an emergency animal hospital immediately.

Clean your Dog's Wound

If the wound is on your dog's paw, you could swish the injured paw around in a clean bowl or bucket of warm water to help rinse out any dirt and debris. If the wound is elsewhere on your dog's body you can place your dog in a sink, bath, or shower and gently run clean water over the wound. You may want to add a small amount of mild baby shampoo, dish soap or hand soap to the water.

Do not use harsh cleaners or apply hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or other caustic cleaning products to your dog’s skin as these can be painful or even cause the wound to take longer to heal.

Control The Bleeding

Provided that there is nothing stuck in the wound apply pressure using a clean towel. While most small wounds will stop bleeding within a couple of minutes, larger wounds are likely to take longer. Bleeding should stop within 10 minutes of applying pressure. If your dog is still bleeding after that time, contact your vet or emergency animal hospital right away.

Bandage Your Dog's Wound

If you have antibacterial ointment on hand you may want to apply a small amount to the area before covering the wound with a piece of sterile gauze or other bandage. Avoid using products that contain hydrocortisone or other corticosteroids. Use a self-adhesive elastic bandage to hold the gauze in place. 

Prevent Your Dog From Licking The Area

If your pooch is trying to lick the wound it may be necessary to have your dog wear an e-collar.

Ongoing Care

Monitor your pup's wound at least twice a day to ensure that infection doesn't set in and healing is proceeding as expected. Clean the wound with water or a pet-safe antiseptic solution twice a day, and contact your vet immediately if the wound becomes inflamed and shows signs of infection.

If you notice increasing redness, swelling, discharge, increasing pain in the area of the wound or a bad odor coming from the wound, contact your vet right away.

Stages Of Wound Healing in Dogs

Inflammation (Starts right away)

The first phase of healing is all about controlling bleeding and getting the immune system working. Without going into too much detail, blood clots are forming and blood vessels are constricting to limit blood loss in the area of the wound.

Debridement (Starts in a couple hours)

Wound fluid, dead tissue, and immunologic cells form pus which is designed to flow as a liquid from the wound and carry debris with it. The cells that were called to the wound in the inflammation phase are now actively working on consuming dead tissue and cleansing the area.

Repair (Starts within a few days)

Collagen begins to fill in the wound to bind the torn tissue together. This will take a couple of weeks to complete. New blood vessels begin to grow into the area from the uninjured blood vessels nearby. The wound edge begins to produce “granulation tissue,” the moist pink tissue that will ultimately fill in the wound.

Maturation (Starts in 2-3 weeks and can take months to years)

Once plenty of collagen has been deposited, the final phase of scarring can form. The scar becomes stronger and stronger over time as new blood vessels and nerves grow in and the tissue reorganizes. The final result will never be as strong as un-injured tissue but should ultimately achieve approximately 80% of the original strength.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog has a wound that requires urgent care, contact Veterinary Specialty Center of Tucson right away. Our emergency vets are available on weekends and holidays to care for your beloved pup.

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Our board-certified critical care specialists and skilled emergency veterinarians are here for you and your pet. If your dog or cat needs emergency care, get in touch with us right away.

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