There are times when our pets get into little scrapes: maybe Bruno teased the cat and got a payback scratch. In cases of minor wounds that don’t need a vet’s attention, you can treat them at home to sterilize the spot, ease the pain, and prevent infection. Read further to learn about:
- Spotting wounds that need vet attention
- Antiseptics at home: saline, chlorhexidine, hydrogen peroxide, and turmeric
- Steps to follow for fast recovery
Go to the Vet if…
When does a wound need a vet’s attention? Here are some red flags to guide your judgement.
The main focus is preventing infection, and the bigger a wound is, the greater chances of this happening. If the wound is longer than ½ inch, it might require stitches, so take your pup to the vet. Another sign is the amount of blood: most wounds are going to bleed, but it’s a bad sign if your dog’s wound won’t stop bleeding. This means that the wound is deeper than it may seem.
Detecting the signs of infection can be tricky, as often times, they are just exacerbated signs of any wound. Swelling, for example—and pus, in particular—are signs of infection. Swelling can be a normal part of the healing process, so examine the wound carefully for excessive swelling. If the wound is abnormally red, the skin around it is warm to the touch, you notice an odor, or your dog shows behavior changes—such as loss of appetite or lethargy—then see a vet.
Antiseptic Solutions at Home
If you’ve decided that the wound is minor, you can use some simple solutions at home to clean it safely and effectively.
A saline solution seems to be the winner amongst most veterinarian advice, as not only is it easy and affordable, but it can be made so that it is of a similar osmosity to body tissue. To prepare, mix 1 cup of boiling water with ½ teaspoon of salt and stir until fully dissolved. Important! Let it cool before washing the wound. It’s especially helpful to wash the wound repeatedly. You can use a syringe to do this. Not only does this disinfect the wound, but repeated washing clears away possible debris from the environment. Make sure you make a new solution with each use, as bacteria can collect in the water.
A common skin disinfectant, chlorhexidine is known to kill the types of bacteria and yeast that commonly lead to infections in dog wounds. You can use a 2% or 4% solution, though a lower concentration is the safer route.
Using hydrogen peroxide on dogs is somewhat controversial because if it is too concentrated, it can damage tissues. However, any solution with a high concentration, even a saline one, will cause unnecessary pain. This is why it’s important to create a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution for cleaning a wound. For each part of 3% hydrogen peroxide, use 3 parts water. So for example, you could mix one tablespoon of 3% strength hydrogen peroxide with 3 tablespoons of water, to keep it simple.
Did you know that you can sprinkle turmeric on your dog’s food for internal benefits like treating sore joints and arthritis, aiding digestion, and even detoxifying the liver? In the discussion of wound healing, though, a turmeric paste for topical application can serve as an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing pain and swelling, and also act as a disinfectant. You can create a paste by mixing ¼ cup turmeric and ½ cup of water in a saucepan and stirring on low heat for several minutes until combined. Then allow it to cool and thicken before applying, and store it in the fridge. If you add a bit of raw honey, you can ramp up this mixture’s anti-microbial benefits.
Steps to Cleaning Wounds and Words of Caution
There are a few things you need to do before applying an antiseptic to your dog’s wound.
Shaving or cutting off the fur in the surrounding area is helpful in minimizing the wound’s contact with dirt and making it easier to clean on a regular basis. To do this, first apply a water lubricant—PetMD recommends KY Jelly over Vaseline—then use a razor, electric clipper, or scissors to cut away the hair near the wound. Wipe away the lubricant and hair with a dry cloth, and then apply the antiseptic of your choice.
PetMD also suggests applying an antimicrobial treatment to your dog’s wound in addition to an antiseptic, particularly referencing those that contain bacitracin. Fauna Care First Aid Spray is a good choice, as it uses bacitracin and zinc oxide as its two key ingredients in combating infection and can be applied easily. You also won’t be as likely to run into the trouble of your dog licking off the treatment.
To keep the wound clean, clean debris away and apply the antiseptic and antimicrobial treatment two to three times a day until the wound heals. At all costs, prevent your dog from licking the wound. Even though dog saliva can stifle the growth of some types of bacteria, the friction caused by licking can aggravate a wound’s healing process. There’s also a good chance that your dog’s mouth contains its own host of germs. Use an Elizabethan or E-collar if necessary. Your dog probably won’t thank you for it, but that’s ok.