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6 Dog Wound Infection Symptoms Every Owner Should Know

a black lab sitting on a wooden floor looking up at the camera

Dogs are playful creatures who enjoy their time outdoors-- they especially love romping and rolling with other dogs! But sometimes accidents happen, and your dog can get a cut or bite that breaks the skin. This can range anywhere from a scratch to a full blown wound that needs to be seen by a vet.

dog lying on the floor
It’s bound to happen at some point in your pup’s life-- they’re going to get a bite or a cut!

Sometimes wounds can heal on their own, but other times there might be a risk of an infection. How do you know when you can let the wound heal-- perhaps with some help from Fauna Care silver spray-- and when you need to bring your pup to the vet? In this article we’re going to talk about:

  • Levels of Risks with Infections
  • 6 Signs and Symptoms of Infections
  • What Pet Parents Should Do if There is an Infection

Know Your Level of Risk for Infections

If the wound is small and clean...

Dogs are curious creatures-- and highly social animals-- which means they are always looking to sniff out the next adventure and are probably going to do so with other dogs. Because of this, it’s inevitable that from time to time they might get a cut or scratch along the way. Not all wounds require an immediate trip to the vet, however, including smaller cuts that are less than inch long and have clean edges. In that case, you can:

  • Clean the area. Make sure you use a clean wash cloth and warm soapy water. Gently clean the cut and make sure to get the surrounding fur as well.
  • Apply ointment. It’s also a good idea to put down some antibiotic ointment such as Fauna Care silver spray to create a barrier between the cut and everything else.
  • Apply a cone or bandage. If your pet likes to lick their wounds, make sure to get a cone-- also known as an Elizabethan collar-- to prevent this. You can also lightly wrap your pup’s wound with a bandage.
  • Change the bandage. Wounds need oxygen to heal, so make sure you change the bandage regularly and allow the cut to “breathe.”

These are easy wound remedies that you can take care of at home-- provided that the wound is small and there does not appear to be jagged edges to it. Your dog will then go through the process of wound healing, which can last for a couple of weeks. Dogs wounds heal similar to humans’ and will go through four phases:

  • Inflammation
  • Debridement
  • Repair
  • Maturation

After this-- assuming there is no infection-- you dog should be back to normal and ready to go for walks and play at the dog park again.

happy dog
Different wounds come with different levels of risk for infection-- make sure you know the difference!

If the wound is not small or easy to clean...

But sometimes things just don’t go as easily as we want them to. In the scenario above, your dog gets a small cut that easy to see and clean. It should heal quickly and there is a low risk of infection. However, sometimes dogs get wounds that are a little trickier to treat, and come with a higher risk of possible infection.

  • Bite wounds. All bite wounds should be evaluated by a vet-- regardless if the dog was bitten by a stranger or another one of your own dogs. This is especially true if the bite came from a wild animal like a raccoon, squirrel, or snake. Bite wounds come from teeth, and teeth are full of bacteria. There is also a rabies risk if it was a wild animal, and there could be more trauma going on below the bite mark that untrained eyes cannot see.
  • Unknown source of the wound. If your dog comes in from the yard or dog park and has a wound that you don’t know how it got there-- this should be taken for closer observation at the vet. Sometimes sticks or other sharp objects can become embedded within their skin, causing an increased risk of infection.
  • Large wounds. If you dog was in a fight with another dog and sustained some larger wounds-- as well as bite marks-- you’ll need to get them to the vet ASAP. If the wounds appear in the chest or abdomen, this is another signal that this might be more serious than it looks and could possibly come with an infection down the road.

Knowing the difference between the types wounds your dog might receive is very important for pet parents. There are low level risk cuts that are small and clean-- but there are also large, irregular ones that may or may not also include bites-- these pose a much higher risk of infection.

small puppy
Make sure you know the six signs that an infection is manifesting in your dog’s wound-- you want them to be back to happy and healthy as quickly as possible!

6 Signs of an Infection

If your dog sustained a high risk for infection injury, every owner should be aware of some symptoms that the wound has started to become infected. If you think your dog has an abscess wound be prepared to look for these signs:

1. Painful lump on the skin

When an infection is in its first stages, a fluid-filled lump will form on the skin. You may not even notice it at first due to long or thick fur that covers it. Sometimes owners do not notice it until it breaks, and the fluid seeps out. Dogs hide their symptoms well, and if they do have an abscess forming, the only clue might be a drastic change in their behavior.

2. Limping

If you dog was injured near or on one of their limbs, they may start to display some limping. Keep in mind wounds are painful for dogs as well as humans, and they will continue to try and keep up with their normal walks and play-- albeit with a limp. This type of behavior usually means there is something else going on-- such as a possible infection.

3. Redness or hair loss

If you notice that your dog’s fur is starting to thin or fall out entirely near the wound or bite location, this may be signs of a worsening infection. If you part the fur and observe redness, swelling, or even a crust where the wound is-- you should be prepared to call the vet.

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4. Excessive grooming or foul odor

Sometimes dogs like to try and self-medicate by licking their wounds. Unfortunately, this usually just makes things worse. If you’ve started to notice an excessive amount of grooming and even chewing in the area of the wound, it’s time to do some further investigation. If you happen to notice a bad odor emanating from the sore spot as well, there’s a pretty good chance an infection is already there.

5. Sore or discharge

This goes hand in hand with finding a fluid-filled abscess and over-grooming. A sore or an open wound is usually the place where dogs try to groom the problem away. Pay close attention to their grooming habits after they sustained a bite or large cut. Discharge is almost always a sign that there is an infection as well.


6. Lethargy and lack of appetite

As pet parents, were know our dogs’ behaviors inside and out. So when something feels off, or they’re acting out of the ordinary-- it’s probably a clue that something’s going on that warrants a closer look. If your pup suddenly has no interest in food or playing with their favorite toy, take another look at their wound just to make sure everything is ok. Lethargy and loss of appetite are usually signs of a fever in dogs as well-- which means their body is fighting an infection.

What Dog Owners Can Do

If your dog has exhibited any of these six signs-- chances are they have an infection. But what’s your next move? If you were lucky enough to notice an abscess lump early on, you probably took your pup to the vet where they were able to draw a sample from it. This is an easy way to confirm infection-- but only if you’re able to notice the fluid-filled lump under there skin.

Priority number one for a pet parent is to get their dog to the vet immediately. There they’ll be give antibiotics to begin fighting the infection. Sometimes the abscesses require surgical drainage to prevent them from spreading the infection.

If the wound was in one of the extremities, it is possible that antibiotics and home care will be enough to stave off further spread of the infection-- and eventually eliminate it. After some rest and relaxation, your dog should start to show signs that their immune system is fighting the infection. Make sure to attend any follow up visits to your vet that they recommend, and keep you pup on those antibiotics until the vet gives the all clear.

It can be a scary situation when your dog gets bit or injured-- but now you know the risk associated with different kinds of wounds. When your dog comes home with a high risk wound, be on the lookout for any of those six signs that it could be infected!

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