It’s bad enough your dog sustained a wound-- whether by playing, by accident, or through an encounter with another animal-- but sometimes it can seem like that wound just won’t heal. We all know how curious and playful dogs can be, so wounds of one type or another are bound to happen. Depending on the severity and the location of the cut, you-- as a responsible pet parent-- have already either treated the wound at home, or taken your pup to the vet. But now it seems that this wound just won’t heal, so what is your next move as a dog mom or dad?
We’ve put together this article to lay out exactly what you should do if it seems like your dog’s wound just won’t heal, including:
- Types of wounds and how they heal
- How to treat them
- Signs your dog is on the mend
Types of Wounds
The Bad Ones
There are many different ways a dog can sustain a wound, but there are three ways vets determine the level of severity:
- Cause. This could be a puncture from teeth or a foreign object, or an abrasion or laceration from claws of another animal or an accident.
- Location. If you dog sustains a laceration to the eye or the abdomen, it is definitely more serious than just a cut on their leg or thigh.
- Level of Contamination. Depending on the cause of the wound, there can be a low to high risk of infection. A low risk infection comes from a clean laceration and a high risk of infection could come from a bite or a puncture from an unknown object.
The bad wounds are the ones that meet the above criteria in the most severe way-- they come from teeth or a foreign object, they are in a sensitive or vital place like the abdomen, and they cut is jagged or a puncture wound-- in all probability leading to infection and a long healing process.
If you dog has sustained a wound like this, it is imperative that you take them to the vet immediately, and not attempt to treat your dog at home. These types of wounds are at a high risk of contamination, and should not be treated by anyone other than a vet.
The Not So Bad Ones
These types of wounds are the ones that range anywhere from a simple scrape on the paw, to a clean cut that does not have jagged edges. Wounds such as these run a low risk of infection and can even be treated at home. It is important to know to how to treat wounds, however, and if you have any apprehension, you should probably just bring your pup to the vet where they can ensure the proper care is given.
Wound Healing Stages
Dog’s wounds-- just like people’s-- heal in four stages:
This is the first stage of how a dog’s wound begins to heal. Although it can be unsightly, the swollen area and red skin are common symptoms of an inflamed wound. This is completely normal and necessary in order for your dog’s wound to heal properly.
However, if you start to notice a smell or a discharge, this is an indication that the wound is becoming infected. Do not leave this to heal on its own-- as it won’t. By not addressing contamination when it starts, you risk prolonging the the healing process of the wound.
The white blood cells surrounding the inflamed wound will then start to work on cleaning the area of bacteria on the cellular level. This occurs naturally and should remove the problem areas on their own. However, if you notice that some of the tissue surrounding the wound is beginning to appear dark or leathery, this is not a good sign.
This means that some of the skin is starting to decay, and you will have to have this removed surgically. If this skin is not removed, your dog’s wound will not heal and if any infection is present, it could spread.
Wounds begin to heal when healthy skin is being generated. This means a scab might be developing and this is a good sign. In addition to a scab, the wounded area is usually still pink and may be slightly raised up from the rest of the skin. Keep these new layers of skin healthy and infection-free with Fauna Care’s First Aid Spray or Silver Spray. Both go on easily to allow wounds to heal without the risk of contamination as well as keeping them moist.
This is the final stage of wound healing, and after this you should be in the clear with regards to the possibility of infection. A thick scab will form over the cut and will eventually reduce to a scar. The wound has been closed and healed.
How to Treat Wounds
If you’ve noticed that your dog has sustained an injury, it’s usually because it’s bloody and your dog is whimpering in pain. No one wants to see their dog in pain! Observe where the wound is and it’s appearance, and if you determine that this is a clean cut with a low risk of infection, there is a way for you to treat it at home. Wounds don’t often heal well on their own, so if your dog’s wound isn’t healing, consider trying this method of treatment.
- Water-based lubricant (such as KY Jelly)
- Electric clippers or scissors
- Warm water
- Clean towels
- Antiseptic solution (such as Chlorhexidine)
- Antimicrobial ointment (such as Fauna Care)
- Cover the wound with the water-based lubricant so that it completely covered. Make sure to get the surround area of fur as well.
- Use the electric clippers to gently remove the hair surrounding the wound and use caution not to rip or tear at the skin
- Wipe the area clean with a warm towel
- Apply an antiseptic solution to the wound
- Then apply the antimicrobial ointment and allow to dry. Do not let your dog lick the wound.
- Continue to treat the wound with antimicrobial solution two to three times per day until the wound is healed.
At the Vet
If your dog unfortunately received a more serious injury-- one that is larger, in a sensitive area, or is a high risk of contamination-- you will need to have them treated at the vet. Depending on the stage of the wound-- and whether it looks infected-- the vet will begin to suture the wound to start the healing process. This is called a closed wound, and is usually done when there is no sign of infection present.
If the wound has not begun to heal itself and is showing signs of infection, the vet will immediately begin to remove any tissue that is decaying via a debridement procedure. This type of wound must be left to heal as an open wound-- meaning that it will not be sutured and should be allowed to drain. A topical ointment will be applied, and if possible, a bandage to cover it as well. Your vet will prescribe pain medication and antibiotics too.
Once your dog is home from the vet, you will still need to help their wound heal. If it is an open wound, you will need to:
- Clean the wound to remove any crusty debris, keep infection away, and allow for new skin to grow
- Make sure your pup receives all the medication prescribed by your vet, and do not stop administering until told to do so.
- Do not allow your dog to lick their wound. This can only extend the healing process and could be a reason why your dog’s wound isn’t healing.
- If there is an abscess, do not let the wound close too early. Allow it to drain and make sure it stays moist and open. As long as the discharge does not smell and is not colored, it means that the wound is healing as best as it can.
Signs Your Dog is On the Mend
When your dog’s wound has started to heal, you should notice that the deep red color of inflammation has subsided to a more pink color. This means that the wound is reaching the fourth stage of wound healing-- maturation. If the wound was an open one, this means that the discharge should have stopped, and the skin around the cut is beginning to scab and heal.
It is crucial that you prevent your dog from licking the scab of the healing wound-- the bacteria in their tongue could start the infection process all over again. The best method for this is either a cone or a cape. While your dog definitely won’t like it-- they will appreciate that their would is healing and that they will be in less pain because of it.
Even though it may last a couple of weeks, your dog’s behavior should start to change for the good once the healing process truly kicks in. It can be frustrating to know your pup is in pain and might be uncomfortable wearing a cone-- but you can rest assured you’re doing all you can to help heal them. If you’ve had a couple of setbacks with the healing process, it’s easy to feel like you’ve failed your pup-- but that’s not the case at all!
Sometimes it takes a while for these things to heal-- a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Once you’re sure that the wound is well on it’s way to healing, you’ll start to see the personality of your dog returning as well. They’re feeling less pain and less discomfort as the wound heals-- and being dogs-- will try to show you their appreciation in the best way they know how, licks and tail wags!
No matter the cause of your dog’s wound, it’s important you get them the proper treatment as quickly as possible. Depending the severity, the wound can be treated satisfactorily from home, or might need a trip to the vet instead. Wound healing is a process, and with rest and attention, your dog should be back to normal in no time.