Heal Those Pesky Small Wounds!

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Most Common Wounds in Dogs - Abrasions, Punctures, and Sprains

a white lab against a white background

Our dogs, especially the big ones, are our little soldiers. They are incredibly strong with an ability to endure the adventures we take them on (or they take themselves on). Occasionally, our loving beasts get into scrapes. Here’s everything you need to know about:

  • Lacerations and abrasions
  • Bites and punctures
  • Torn nails
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Sprains and strains
  • Bone fractures

If you know or suspect that your dog is suffering from any of these, injuries, it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately. There is not much you can do without consulting a professional.

Lacerations and abrasions

Also known as cuts and scrapes, these injuries are common in dogs and cats. Minor cuts and scrapes usually heal on their own or with little treatment, but deeper wounds could require surgery to heal. They may be caused by your pet stepping on objects like broken glass, sharp blades, jagged metal, or the claws of other animals.

wrapping dog's wound with bandage gauze
Cleaning and disinfecting your dog’s wound can reduce the risk of infection if you can’t go to the vet immediately. Image courtesy of CesarsWay.com

Depending on what caused the wound, it will look different and result in different risks. The edges of the wound could be clean and straight or rough. If the object that caused the wound is dirty then the wound could have debris in it (dirt, metal, fabric) which could result in infection. If you can’t get to the vet immediately, clean the dog’s wound.

Bites and punctures

If you notice your dog has a puncture wound, a small deep wound, it could have been caused by fighting with other animals. Aside from fights, this type of wound can be caused by stepping on a nail, stick, or other sharp objects. This wound is more common if your dog has a wide range to run free on, or if you take them on frequent hikes or walks through wooded areas. Unlike our last type of wound, bites and punctures will carry debris into the wound, healing over to trap bacteria in there. If this happens, the wound becomes infected and forms an abscess.

dog bites another dog's tail
Animal bites are the most easily infected type of wound on this list

Abscesses are common in wounds from cat-fights, as their teeth are very thin and sharp. There are plenty of bacteria in the mouths of cats or other nasty creatures your outdoor cat may battle with, and this bacteria ends up in the bite-wounds. They seal over quickly and a pus-pocket may develop over the wound which will eventually rupture several days later. Here is what you can do immediately for various forms of puncture wounds.

Torn nails

Your dog’s nails can be torn if they get caught on something like a rock or a log. It is a minor injury compared to the previous ones on our list, but it can be quite painful and may bleed. The nail of a canine is composed of the hard outer shell made of brittle keratin, and a living, inner bundle of blood vessels and nerves called the quick.

paw with torn nail rests on human hand
A torn nail can be very painful for a dog, but one of the more easily treatable injuries

There are typically five nails on the front feet and four on the back feet. Dew nails, the nails found higher up on the front foot, are more susceptible to being torn due to their position. A torn nail can also occur during trimming or clipping if your dog makes a sudden jerking movement. The treatment of a torn nail can be done at home, depending on the nature and severity of the injury.

Insect bites and stings

Bites on your dog from fleas, ticks, spiders, or bees, can sometimes cause certain reactions in pets. This type of injury can be a very small annoyance or lead to a serious condition. Be sure that you apply flea and tick repellant to your dog regularly, especially during the warm months and if you and your dog are active in grassy or wooded areas. Some dogs are allergic to flea bites, and the reaction occurs with severe itching on the rump of the animal.

dog biting & itching skin on rump
A dog allergic to flea bites can be seen excessively itching its rump. Image courtesy of AnimalClinicAtThorndale.com

Signs of a reaction to insect bites are swelling, redness, or hives. A more serious reaction will lead to inflamed skin, vomiting, difficulties in breathing, or even death. Ticks burrow into your dog’s skin and remain, swelling as they fill with blood. It is recommended to check your dog over thoroughly for any bumps. Part the fur carefully and remove the tick.

Sprains and strains

This injury is just as common in humans as they arein dogs. Sprains and strains involve the soft-tissue, such as joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. They are most common in large, highly active dogs. When your dog moves their legs, the muscles contract and relax. This moves the tendons that connect the muscle to the bone. Ligaments are bands of tough, fibrous tissue that connects bone to bone.

dog with cast on arm
Sprains are most common in large, active dogs. Image courtesy of PetWave.com

Strains and sprains may sound similar, but affect different parts of a dog’s anatomy. Strains affect the tendon and occur if your dog stretches too far when playing if they jump, slip, or fall. They are most common in the hips.

Sprains affect the ligaments and may cause joint damage. A dog that commonly takes a hard fall, such as jumping down from things, is susceptible to a sprain. They are most common in the wrist and knee. There is not much you can do before you contact your vet besides restricting your pet’s movement.


Fractures are bone injuries that occur only when your dog has suffered a heavier blow, either from a large fall or being hit by a car or other large. The most severe type of fracture is one that is visible through the skin, putting the dog at high risk of infection. If you cannot see it through the skin, it is easy to mistake a fracture for a sprain or strain as they cause similar signs and symptoms, like whining and limping. Bone fractures are more common in younger dogs whose bones are still forming or older dogs whose bones have gone brittle.  

dog in open mountain range
Fractures are serious injuries and your dog should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible

The bone is composed of an outer and inner layer. The hard outer layer, or cortex, is surrounded by the periosteum, a fibrous capsule filled with blood vessels and nerves. The periosteum contains osteoblasts, cells involved in fracture repair. If you suspect your dog has a broken bone or fracture, do not try and set the fracture.

Now that you know common causes and signs of these common and potentially serious injuries, you will be more prepared if they happen to your pet. It is important that you are careful with any animal you suspect of suffering from an injury as they can be scared and in pain, and therefore dangerous. You should contact a veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent any permanent damage to the dog.

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