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What To Do When Your Dog Has An Open Sore (And It’s Not Healing)

A small black dog with a red bow around his neck sits in a playpen with other dogs.

So your dog is not feeling too great. They’re limping or whining or lethargic, far from the happy-go-lucky pet that you’re used to. And when you go to look for what’s bothering them you find a nasty looking sore.

When your dog has a sore it usually means that they have some underlying skin condition that needs to be addressed by your veterinarian. However, your dog can also get a sore from playing outside and cutting themselves, getting the wound infected with a kind of bacteria.

When your dog has a sore, no matter if it’s in the beginning stages or if it’s been lanced and drained by a professional, you need to know how to properly take care of it.

Below are five steps you need to go through, and often go back to when your dog has an open sore.

  • Evaluate if veterinary care is needed
  • Make the affected area fully visible
  • Get all the debris out
  • Apply an antiseptic solution
  • Tend to the sore every day
A brown and white chihuahua sits in the arms of a person who has an IV in their arm.
Some sores you can't take care of yourself in the beginning, and your vet should take action. 

Evaluate if veterinary care is needed

When your dog has a sore, it’s better safe than sorry to pay the vet a visit, even if it’s something you think is small. 

If the sore is especially serious and doesn’t seem to be getting better days after your dog has gotten injured then you need to go to the vet. 

But not everything is so easy to judge all the time, the wound might look bad but your dog might be acting the same as they always do. Or it could be vice versa, your dog is acting strangely but the wound looks fine.

Here are some behavioral ticks to look out for that will let you know if your dog needs to go to the vet.

  • If your dog is licking constantly at the wound, it’s time to take them. No matter what you might have heard a dog licking their wound doesn’t help it, in fact, it’s going to irritate the sore even more. 
  • If the sore persists after ten days, even after you’ve tended to it. You might have left the sore alone for a while, hoping it would clear up. But once the ten-day mark is over and it still hasn’t improved you need to go. 
  • If your dog is lethargic or limping then the sore has probably progressed past its need for home remedies. If it’s affecting your dog’s ability to walk you need a professional to look at them.
A big brown and tan dog in front of a storefront.
Whether your dog’s fur is curly or straight it’s in your way for wound care. 

Make the area fully visible

The problem with wounds on dogs is that you often can’t get a good look at them because their fur is in the way. And unless you’re one of the few people that has a hairless dog, then you’re going to have to do a little fur maintenance to make this sore clean.

First what you do is clean the area, and the fear, with a water-based lubricant like K-Y jelly. This will help the shaving process. Then with electric clippers, and only electric clippers, get rid of the hair surrounding the sore.

Your dog might not like having the clippers near them, so we suggest you do this with another set of hands if you can. Anyone that can help keep your dog calm.

Once you have the area shaved, they rub over the area with a dry clean towel. This is going to get rid of any excess hair and debris that was lingering in your dog’s fur allowing you full access to assess the sore. 

A shaggy white dog runs down a muddy road.
Infections are the most dangerous thing that could happen to your dog’s wound or sore. 

Get all the debris out

When your dog has a sore, what’s most likely going to happen is that it won’t heal over in the first few days and develop some crust over it.

You’re going to have to drain your pet’s sore, which is detailed down below, but before you attempt that you have to make sure that the wound is clear over the top.

Also, before you even attempt to clean the sore with an antiseptic or cleansing solution you need to make sure that there is no dirt or debris left in it.

If your dog sustained their wound from running outside and getting injured that way, the biggest concern for your pet’s health is going to be if a piece of wood or grass or rock got into the sore and is causing an infection.

And though it might cause your pet pain to look closely at the sore for pieces of debris that might be lodged in there, it’s the most important step on this list, and could be the difference between an easy healing journey and a painful infection. 

A gray pitbull puppy sleeps on the floor underneath a tire.
And now, it’s time to apply medicine to the wound. 

Apply an antiseptic solution

Here is where the healing starts. You can let the sore air out as much as you’d like, but your dog’s sore isn’t going to heal by itself. You need to apply some medicine to it. And your best bet here is an antiseptic solution.

An antiseptic will chase away all the bad germs and bacteria that could possibly build up in your dog’s sore, they are what’s causing the pain. 

The most common antiseptic is hydrogen peroxide which we all have in our medicine cabinets to use on ourselves, but don’t use this on your dog unless your vet gives you explicit permission. It can be irritating to their skin and cause more harm than help.

Instead, purchase some chlorhexidine which you can get bottled or more conveniently made into a spray at your local pet store. Though the first time you apply this to your dog’s sore you might want to dilute it with some water, just in case your dog has a bad reaction. 

A chocolate brown lab looks down quizzically at the floor from the top of a bed.
Ride the balance, and tend to the wound every day but not all day. 

Tend the sore two times a day

Paying too much attention to the sore can irritate it, especially if you’re handling the sore with your hands, without a clean towel.

So you have to balance the handling of your dog’s wound to around two times a day. And no more if possible, but if you see that your dog’s sore has something in it or on it that’s abnormal, take action. 

But during these two scheduled times, you also have to make sure that your dog’s sore is on the path to healing. And one way you can help with this is to make sure that it’s draining of fluid or infection.

Medication prescribed by your veterinarian can help drain the sore naturally, but you can aid in this yourself by applying gentle pressure to the sore if your dog allows it. 

You’ll know if the sore is getting better by the color of the fluid that comes out of it. If it’s more white and clear as time goes on the infection is draining away, if the fluid is yellow, green, or bloody even as the days go on you should take your dog back to the vet. 

A yellow dog sits on the bed with his owner in the sunlight.
Proper wound care is important, staying clean and safe with your supplies is key. 

It’s scary when your pet is injured with a wound that you know little about. Where do you even start with helping them?

Luckily, if you follow these steps and keep up with extra instructions given to you by your veterinarian chances are that your pet will be on the mend in no time. Your dog is a fighter, that might be why they got the sore in the first place, and together you can fight against anything. 

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