In every pet owner’s life, there will come a moment when you have to decide between cleaning a dog wound at home or taking your pet to the vet. All dogs get injured eventually: playing with other dogs can result in a scrape, sidewalks can cause abrasions, elements in nature like twigs or sharp rocks can cut your pup, and all sorts of other accidents can happen. Here, we share tips for cleaning a dog wound at home, perfect for those occasions when your pup has a small injury that only requires basic first aid.
Dog Wound Care: Vet or At Home
With a little preparation and a lot of caution, you can treat small cuts, wounds, abrasions, and hot spots at home. However, it’s important to know when to visit the vet for professional dog wound care–and we always recommend erring on the side of caution and going to the vet to be safe. If cleaning a dog wound grosses you out, or you don’t feel confident in your skills, call your vet.
If it is a puncture wound or a wound with jagged edges, head straight to the vet. This is especially important if the puncture was caused by a bite from another animal. These types of wounds often require additional care like antibiotics.
Wounds that cover a big section of your dog’s body require veterinary attention. This means, for example, if your dog has a small abrasion on the pad of his foot from skidding to a stop on concrete, you can treat it at home. If his entire abdomen is abraded from a full-body skid, call the vet.
Small cuts, scrapes, and abrasions that you would treat for yourself at home are generally safe to treat at home on your dog. If it’s a wound you would pursue additional care for, do the same for your dog. And, as always, if you’re unsure, or if you’re simply not confident in providing the care your dog might need, head to the vet.
How to Clean a Dog Wound at Home
While we always advocate for erring on the side of caution, there are a lot of cuts, scrapes, and abrasions you can care for at home with the right tools. In many cases, simple dog wounds can be treated quickly and effectively with your own first aid kit. Here’s how to clean a dog wound at home:
First, help your dog calm down. A scared, injured dog–even one who loves you–can bite in fear. Ask another person to help restrain your dog gently, if necessary. If you can’t calm your dog enough for handling, consider a muzzle or call your vet. Once your dog is calm, assess the wound.
Then, stop any bleeding. For minor cuts, press a clean towel lightly against the wound. If that treatment doesn’t stop the bleeding, it’s time to seek veterinary assistance.
Once the bleeding has stopped, clean the wound with warm water. As you carefully wash the wound, remove any debris with tweezers. After the wound is clean and free from debris, pat it dry with a clean towel or a paper towel.
Next, disinfect the wound with diluted betadine or chlorhexidine. Never use hydrogen peroxide because it can damage the surrounding tissue and actually slow the healing process. Skip rubbing alcohol, too. It stings!
After the wound has been disinfected, apply a topical triple antibiotic ointment containing bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B. Let it soak in for about ten minutes, then cover with a loose bandage.
Continue to clean and treat the wound at least once a day. If you notice it isn’t healing well or quickly, it’s time to visit the vet.
Lastly, keep your dog from licking the site until it heals. This can be difficult! Consider tube socks for paw or leg injuries, t-shirts to cover tummy or back, or a cone of shame–whatever it takes to keep that wound clean and lick-free.
Preparing for Future Accidents
Accidents happen. Dogs are playful, active, and often rambunctious. All dogs will experience some minor cuts, scrapes, and abrasions. Prepare yourself for future accidents by planning ahead.
First, create a fully-stocked first aid kit for your dog to prepare yourself for future accidents or minor emergencies. All the tools you need for cleaning a dog wound should be on hand and easily accessible. Don’t forget to periodically check your kit to replenish items and to double-check expiration dates.
To further help you be prepared for future accidents, conduct regular body scans on your dog to find wounds when they are small and new. Small cuts and scrapes are easier to treat if found right away, and by catching wounds quickly, you can get ahead of any potential infection.
Finally, consider taking a pet first aid course. This will help you better understand the process of proper dog wound cleaning and when a wound requires professional care. Ask your vet for course recommendations or search online for a web-based course.
Cleaning a dog wound at home can be safe and effective if you have the right tools on hand. Knowing when to head to the vet and when to treat wounds at home can also save you a ton of time and money. Accidents happen, especially with playful dogs and dogs who spend time outdoors; knowing what to do when the inevitable cut or scrape happens should give you peace of mind.
Do you have a pet first aid kit? Have you ever had to treat a minor wound on your dog? We’d love to know what’s worked for you in the comments!
A body scan is one of the five vital stats that we encourage you to monitor. Join us in our Pet Health 5 movement and together we can start tracking our pet’s health. It’s super easy! We’ll send you a reminder on the 5th of each month with a checklist of what to do and how to do it. All you need to do is take the time to check your dog’s health stats and log them.
Pet health and dog health is an important aspect of helping our dogs live long and happy lives. You can start today by conducting a body scan of your dog and signing up for Pet Health 5.