Our four-legged friends just love to jump, play, and run-- and they have quite a good time doing it! We dog owners enjoy their boundless energy and the excitement that they bring to our lives each and everyday. However, sometimes that energy gets them into trouble and they end up hurting themselves-- although hopefully not too badly.
Depending on the type and severity of the wound, your dog might end up needed stitches. If this is the case, we’ve put together this article to help answer all the questions you might have regarding how to help a dog with an open wound. We’re going to discuss:
- How to deal with an open wound
- How to tell when a wound is bad enough to need stitches
- What you can do to help your dog heal
How To Deal With an Open Wound
How do dogs get open wounds?
Dogs can get open wounds from a variety of different places including bites, lacerations, abrasions, or punctures. Depending on the cause and the severity, you’ll want to take different steps to treat this type of wound.
- Bites. These are never good, for you or you pup. Because they puncture layers of skin, the risk for a bacterial infection is high. If your dog is bit by another dog-- say at a dog park-- hopefully this dog’s owner has been following the rules and has their dog’s rabies vaccines up to date. Regardless, due to the high risk of infection, take your dog to the vet for an examination just to be sure.
If it is from a wild animal, there’s always the possibility that the animal has diseases no matter how small the wound appears-- you’ll want to transport your dog to the vet immediately for analysis.
- Lacerations. These occur when your dog has their skin cut open-- resulting in either a clean cut or a ragged cut. If the cut is clean-- and depending where it is on your dog-- you might be ok treating your dog at home with warm water, clean towels, and antimicrobial treatment.
If the cut is more ragged, you might consider taking your dog into the vet just in case. This is especially recommended if the cut is in a sensitive area such as the face or the abdomen-- as these areas are difficult to treat should they become infected. Depending on what caused the laceration, there is also an increased risk of infection.
- Abrasions. Sometimes dogs like to dig-- and all that time spent on their legs and bellies might lead to some abrasions. These can also occur if your do enjoys jumping over fences and other lawn ornaments. They occur when your dog’s skin is dragged over a rough surface for a repeated period of time. Similar to brush burns, they can be painful and should be cared for properly.
- Punctures. Similar to bites, these can pose a high risk of infection because they penetrate multiple layers of skin. Depending on what type of object punctured their skin, there are various levels of risk of infection. Puncture wounds can also carry the risk of your dog’s wound turning abscess-- so regardless of the object of origination-- it is always advised to seek professional veterinary treatment.
Symptoms of open wounds
If you suspect your dog might be wounded it some way, as a pet parent, it is your responsibility to check them out. Sometimes when dogs are injured they will try to hide it-- but it will be evident in their behavior. Lethargy and lack of engagement are signs something might be wrong with your pup-- as is excessive licking or biting. Be sure to do a thorough check of them-- and move aside long fur as well-- as sometimes wounds are underneath layers of fur. Besides a cut or bloody laceration some other symptoms of open wounds can include:
- Hair loss
- Hair matting around the wound
- Redness and swelling
If you notice any of these problems in your dog-- and you don’t know where the wound came from-- take them to vet to get a check up. If the wound is small-- and just inflamed a little-- then the wound is perhaps already on the mend and in the first stage of healing.
Treatment of open wounds
Depending on the severity of the wound you can treat a small, clean cut at home with water, towels, antimicrobial ointment-- such as Fauna Care Silver Spray-- and a watchful eye. You’ll need to change the dressings and clean your dog’s wound a couple of times a day until the healing process has fully started. Once you’ve notice the inflammation and swelling starting to decrease, new skin should start appear around the wound. You want to keep an open wound moist so that the new skin is encouraged to grow beneath and around it.
As an alternative to antimicrobial ointment, you might want to consider using another option-- such as applying calendula oil with the bandage each time it is changed. All this requires is to fill a jar with dried calendula-- which has antibacterial properties-- and then fill the jar with extra virgin olive oil. This oil in particular has some amazing anti-inflammatory qualities. Apply just like the antimicrobial ointment and keep an eye on the healing process.
If the wound was a bite, puncture, is large, or in a sensitive area, you should seek out your vet for treatment. Because these types of wounds also carry a high risk of of infection and abscess-- and may require stitches-- a trip to the vet is definitely in order.
How To Tell When a Wound Needs Stitches
As we mentioned above, depending on the location, cause, and risk of contamination-- your pup may require stitches to properly close their wound. If the wound was a ragged laceration, the result of a fight, or a severe puncture, the wound might require stitches to close. We recommend that pet parents never attempt to give your dog-- or any animal-- stitches. This should be left to trained medical professionals. If the wound does need stitches you should be at the vet already! There, your vet will prepare the wound by disinfecting it. Some wounds will require debridement, and the vet will remove any infected or dead tissue around the wound.
Depending on the severity, your pup might also needed to be put under general anesthesia to close the wound with sutures. Once the wound has been cleaned and closed, your pup may be ready to travel home with you. Be sure to pick up any antibiotics prescribed by the vet as well.
Some wounds cannot be closed with stitches and will need to remain open to heal properly. If this is the case, the vet will thoroughly clean the wound and wrap a bandage around it. This will need to be changed and cleaned daily until your dog starts to heal. Be on the lookout for the formation of abscess or worsening of the infection-- and make sure you’re tracking the healing progress of your dog.
What You Can Do To Help Heal Your Dog
- Keep the wound clean and moist.
- Change bandage on a regular basis
- If you went to a vet, administer medicine as instructed.
- If there is any drainage-- as long as it is clear and does not smell, allow it to drain.
- Give lots of cuddles and love for your furry friend.
- Do not let your pup lick the wound (if you went to a vet, you may have a cone).
- Be attentive and responsible to your dog while the wound is healing
- Watch the daily progress of the wound, and make sure the inflammation and swelling are going down.
When you take your pup home from the vet they may be a little out of it because of the anesthesia. Allow them to get comfortable and return to their full senses. If your dog’s wound was sutured, be sure to keep the bandage on and allow the wound to heal. Check on it often and be sure to follow any advice given to you by the vet-- including administering any medicine. If necessary, get your pup a cone to prevent any biting or licking of the wound. You will want to schedule a follow up appointment with the vet to remove stitches and to check on the wound healing progress.
If your dog did not require stitches to close their wound, you will need to make sure that the open wound is kept clean and moist, and that bandages are changed on a regular basis. This allows for new skin to grow and promotes healing in the wound. Continue to administer medicine as instructed by the vet. If there is any drainage-- as long as it is clear and does not smell, allow it to drain.
Perhaps most importantly, you can continue to show affection to your dog and make sure they’re as comfortable as possible. Watch the daily progress of the wound, and make sure the inflammation and swelling are going down. Do not let your pup lick the wound-- as uncomfortable as it may be-- make sure they wear their cone properly.
Your dog may not have as much energy as usual, but that is because they may be in pain. Be patient and allow the wound to heal. It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months for a wound to fully heal-- so make sure not to rush the process.
Your dog will eventually get back to their normal behavior and routines-- you’ll be taking them for walks and runs in no time! Just make sure you are attentive and responsible while the wound is healing, and your pup will be happy and healthy and right by your side again.