Dogs lead very active lives, and with an active life comes lots of chances for injuries (both minor and more serious). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; you don’t let the chance of minor injuries stop you from exercising and playing, so why should you let it stop your dog? What can be a bad thing is if your dog gets a minor injury that turns into something major because you didn’t know how to treat it. Here, we’ll talk about three of the most common dog wounds that can be safely taken care of with first aid. These wounds are:
- Cuts/punctures/open wounds
Abrasions are probably the easiest to treat because they entail the least damage. These injuries occur when the surface of the skin is scraped or scratched (abraded) but the tissues underneath are intact and unharmed. In people, this would constitute what we call “brushburns” or “rug burns” and various other scrapes.
The most important thing when treating an abrasion on a dog is making sure that the wound is completely clean and free of hair. Use warm water and gentle soap to clean the area of the abrasion with a soft cloth. If you don’t have a soft cloth, using your hands is fine. Once the area is clean and dry, check to make sure that no fur is in the wound, as its presence can slow healing and increase chances of contamination or infection. After this, apply wound care spray to the area. Fauna Care’s Silver Spray or First Aid Spray are perfect for this, with ingredients that promote healing and help disinfect wounds without killing skin cells or helpful bacteria.
The abrasion does not need to be covered; in fact, keeping the area open promotes faster healing. However, if the abrasion is on a paw pad, then it should be covered for the first few days, and the bandages should be changed at least once every twenty-four hours.
Cuts, Punctures, and Open Wounds
With any open wound, the first thing to do is to look for debris and dirt in and around it. If there are only small debris, simply washing the wound should be enough to clean it, but if there are larger pieces, or pieces that seem to be embedded deep in the flesh, then you should take your pet to a vet as soon as possible. As with abrasions, wash the wound with warm water and a gentle soap before drying. Apply a wound care spray to the area and leave uncovered to heal.
With open wounds, it’s important to check them often for accumulated debris or dried fluids in the surrounding areas. This should be done at least once a day, and especially after your dog has gone for a walk or spent time outside. If you notice anything, whether dirt, debris, dried fluids, or clumped fur, wash the area again and reapply the wound spray.
Even if you’re careful with your electric and heated appliances, accidents can happen, and your dog may end up with burns. If they’re minor, they can be treated at home. You’ll know the degree of the burn by how it looks: with first degree burns, the skin is intact while second and third degree burns mean the skin is broken and burned through. Obviously, second and third degree burns should get immediate vet attention.
Restrain your dog and cool the wound with a gentle stream of cool water from a faucet or shower of some sort. Then apply a cold compress for twenty minutes (a bag of frozen vegetables, an ice pack, etc. wrapped in a towel or paper towels is good). After that, wrap the wound in a bandage and contact a vet for further instructions. A wound spray could be applied to the area, but again, contact your vet first.
When Should You Seek Professional Vet Help?
- For deep cuts and punctures: There may be debris in the wound that you cannot see or clean out on your own. Surgical removal may be necessary
- For any injury beyond a minor abrasion on a paw pad: The skin and flesh of paw pads is different than that on any other part of the dog. It is specifically much more sensitive with more nerve endings, thicker and tougher to withstand all of the daily pressure of standing, walking, and playing, and they contain the only sweat glands on your dog’s body. A vet will know how to clean and repair a paw pad wound in the safest and least invasive way, ensuring that your furry friend will be up on their feet as quickly as possible.
- For any wound that becomes infected: If it starts to swell, leak pus/other fluids, or seems to be bothering your dog more, you should get them to a vet as soon as possible. The vet will clean and drain the wound and probably give you antibiotics to administer to your dog until the infection has cleared up. Detailed instructions for caring for a post-surgical wound in dogs can be found here.
Other Common Dog Issues/Injuries
Obviously, minor and common wounds like these aren’t the only injuries that dogs experience. Depending on where you live, you may have other issues. On the East Coast (especially the Northeast), areas with large deer populations have issues with even larger tick populations. These nasty little insects can cause a whole host of diseases and issues, including lyme disease (not to mention the fact that they’re awful little vampires who will latch on to pets to drink their blood, thus spreading the disease).
When you take your dog for a walk, or if they go outside at all, check them for ticks as soon as you get home. Ticks will look like tiny black or brown dots with small, protruding legs, although one variety of tick has a white body with a small black head.
If you find a tick before it can latch on to your dog, simply pull it off. If the tick has latched on without burrowing its head in, then you can still pull it off, though you will need to use a bit more force. Tweezers are good for this, because the ticks are so small, but fingers are okay if you can’t get ahold of any.
If the tick’s head is burrowed into the skin, then it has probably started to feed, in which case you must make sure that the head is fully removed with the rest of the body. (Yes, it’s gross, but the tick’s head can stay lodged under the skin even if you pull the body off.) If the tick was missed after an initial check, it will grow in size as it feeds, swelling from a small dot to a bit smaller than a blueberry. Again, removal at this stage makes it crucial to get the head out as well, as it will be firmly burrowed into the skin. If the head is left in, the bite area can easily become infected, and the head alone is very difficult to remove.
To remove the tick, grasp it firmly by the head, as close to the skin of your dog as possible. Pull the tick slowly out without any kind of twisting motion. Do not try to burn the tick off with matches or any other kind of method to get the tick to “back out” and move, as these don’t work and can hurt your dog.
Once the tick has been removed, place it in a container of rubbing alcohol to kill it. Do not squish the tick, as doing so is both gross and dangerous; the tick will explode with any of the blood it has consumed, and it can still spread disease if it was a carrier.
Most importantly, you will need to clean the area where the tick bit your dog to prevent any kind of secondary infection. Gently wash it with water and apply an antibiotic or a wound care spray to the area, and keep an eye on your dog for symptoms of lyme disease in the following days/weeks.
Lyme Disease (from Ticks)
Lyme disease is spread by deer ticks (hard, white-bodied ticks), and while the disease often doesn’t manifest symptoms in dogs, it can be very serious. If your dog has been bitten by multiple ticks in a short amount of time, it’s best to take them to the vet to ensure that they are not ill. For more information on lyme disease, including symptoms, prevention, and treatment, this page from petMD gives detailed accounts and options.
It can be stressful when a pet gets hurt, but with the proper materials and proper care, you can ensure their safety and comfort so that they can heal as quickly as possible.