Our pets are our whole world and as much as we would like to always protect them from danger, there are those unfortunate times where our fluffy friends fall into trouble. The stress of these moments are only amplified when we suspect their injuries may be infected, but there is no need to panic.
In this article we’ll cover:
- How a cut becomes infected
- What an infected cut looks like
- How to treat an infection
- When to call the vet
- How to prevent reinfection/further injury
How Does a Cut Get Infected?
Infections occur when viruses or bacteria enter the body through mucous membranes or broken skin. Bacterial infections occur in flesh wounds and have the potential to spread throughout the body.
A dog’s cut can become infected through exposure to:
- Dirty water or mud
What Does an Infected Cut Look Like?
Many symptoms of an infected cut are the same for dogs as they are for humans. However, there are some symptoms unique to dogs to be on the lookout for.
Signs of infection include:
- Redness, swelling, and tenderness around the wound
- Dog seems tired or inactive, uninterested in walking or playing
- Dog is uninterested in food
- Dog vomits or has diarrhea
- Fur around the cut is matted or falling out
- Dog is overgrooming the wound
- An abscess appears
- Dog has a fever (The average canine temperature is around 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit. Any higher and you should call the vet immediately.)
- There is visible discharge, pus, or other fluid coming from the cut
How to Treat an Infected Wound
Sometimes we can’t get to the vet right away and have to make do at home. To treat your pet’s wound, you’ll need some supplies. It’s nice to have these things gathered in one spot for ease of retrieval in case of emergencies.
- Scissors or clippers
- Warm water
- Clean towels
- Water based lubricant like K-Y Jelly
- Non-stinging antiseptic
- Antimicrobial ointment
- Bandages (optional)
- Cone collar (optional)
- An extra pair of hands (optional but very helpful)
Start by finding the cut on your dog’s body. Depending on where it is (and the size of your dog), you may need to get onto the ground or lift the dog onto a higher surface. If you have a helper handy, have them hold the dog steady.
Once you’ve found the wound site, get out your scissors and lubricant. Long hair can get in the way of your first aid and can even heighten the risk of reinfection. Trim away any excess hair around the injury then spread a small dollop of lubricant around the wound, smoothing away any remaining hair. This will prevent the spread of contamination. Be careful not to aggravate the wound while cutting.
Next, dip a towel in warm water and wipe the wound until it is clean. If there is any active bleeding, use another clean towel to apply firm pressure. Areas like a dog’s nose, ears, and face are likely to bleed more than others.
During this step you can also utilize a saline solution. Saline is a common tool in medicine and helps sanitize injuries. You can make your own saline solution at home by combining 500 mL of water with 5 mL of salt.
When the cut is clean, apply a non-stinging antiseptic. Do not use soaps, shampoos, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, herbal preparations, tea tree oil, or any non-veterinarian recommended products to clean your dog’s wound. These products could aggravate your dog’s injury or could even be toxic. Fauna Care offers veterinarian approved antiseptic solutions that are easy to apply and will keep your dog’s cuts clean.
Following the antiseptic, dab on some antimicrobial ointment, preferably a triple antibiotic ointment containing bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B. If possible, use a product that has been approved for use on animals. Do not use ointments with corticosteroids as these may irritate your dog’s wound or cause other health problems.
After treatment, it is important to stay with your dog for at least ten minutes to ensure they don’t decide to lick their wound and reverse all your hard work. Alternatively, you could cover the wound with a clean, loose bandage or place a cone, sometimes called an Elizabethan collar or E-collar, around your dog’s neck.
In the following days or until you can visit the vet, make sure to clean the cut 2-3 times per day. If your dog seems to be in pain, never give them human pain medication. Instead of providing relief, it could make them even more sick.
If the wound worsens, contact your vet immediately.
When Should You Call the Vet?
As soon as you suspect your dog may have an infection, it is important to call your vet and schedule an appointment. If your dog experiences an injury such as a bite or cut on a vulnerable part of their body, such as the stomach or neck, call the vet ASAP as these injuries could be life threatening.
At the vet, they will take a sample from the infected wound to confirm the diagnosis and identify the cause of infection. By identifying what bacteria caused the infection, the vet can prescribe the proper dose and variety of antibiotics for your pup. They may also provide anti-inflammatory medication and a collar.
If a vet places a drain around your dog’s wound, it is important to follow the care instructions your vet provides. This typically means keeping the area around the drain free of discharge, crust, or blood by wiping the area clean several times a day and applying antiseptic.
If an infection goes untreated, it could mean your pup going through some serious discomfort, pain, and, in a worst case scenario, they could die. That’s why it is important to be vigilant after your pet has experienced any sort of injury. Better yet, you can prevent your pet from being injured in the first place or at least prevent reinfection.
We can’t always prevent our pets from being injured, but there are some everyday actions we can take in order to protect them the very best we can.
This means spaying and neutering our animals, brushing their teeth regularly, making sure they don’t chew on or carry dangerous objects, and keeping them out of hazardous situations. It also means following any vet instructions to prevent reinfection while our pets are healing, such as cleaning wounds using special solutions, administering medication, or restricting our dog’s activity.
Our dogs are our family and like any family member, it’s our duty to watch out for their health and do our best to care for them. We can hope that they will never experience even a minor bruise or scrape, but it’s never a bad idea to follow the Boy Scout motto and be prepared!