Wound Care for Dogs

Wound Care for Dogs

Dog wounds develop in different shapes and sizes, for a variety reasons, and can considered be minor to severe in nature. Most dog wounds are general in nature, and can be considered a first-aid situation, while other dog wounds are considered traumatic in nature, and are considered an emergency situation. In order for a dog owner to understand what to do with a wound, they must first understand what kind of wound their dog has sustained, the healing process of dog wounds, and what the treatment options are for different types of wounds.

Signs & Symptoms of Dog Wounds


  • Surface of the dog’s skin is scraped, scratched, and usually some bruising is present.
  • Area of abrasion will most likely have hair loss present.
  • May have some bleeding and oozing at the wounded area.


  • Area of skin is broken or cut open and bleeding.
  • Area of cut can appear clean and well-defined or jagged and dirty.
  • Obvious pain around wounded area.
  • Bleeding at site of laceration.

Puncture/Bite wounds

  • Small holes will appear at wound site, as well as bruising.
  • Bleeding from areas of puncture.
  • Pain associated with wounded area.
  • Redness and swelling may also be present at site of puncture/bite wounds.

Causes of Dog Wounds

Abrasions - Abrasions occur when the superficial layers of a dog’s skin are scraped, causing a minor area of inflammation, surface bleeding, and bruising. The most common cause for this can be your dog scratching or chewing at an area. Your dog can also cause abrasions by jumping fences, fighting, or being dragged by an automobile, or on a leash. In most cases abrasions are minor and can be treated at home, healing uneventfully.

Lacerations - Lacerations occur when your dog’s skin is cut or torn open. Depending on what caused the laceration, the result can be a wound that has clean edges and is well-defined and only superficial in nature, or the wound can have jagged edges and be dirty, affecting several layers of the skin and into the muscle tissue.

Bite Wounds/Puncture Wounds - Objects that pierce the dog’s skin, leaving a small hole on the surface, are considered a puncture wound. When this occurs, bacteria can enter the dog’s wound and cause infection at a rapid rate. Cat bite wounds tend to be small puncture wounds that become infected very quickly. Dog bites can be large punctures involving deep layers of skin and muscle, or they can also appear as gashes - usually around the neck or ear of your dog. Puncture/bite wounds can be very painful, especially if your dog was picked up by the teeth of another animal and shaken. Bite wounds on dogs are easily disguised by their fur and they can develop into an abscess if they are not noticed right away by the dog owner.

Diagnosis of Dog Wounds

Diagnosis begins with a complete history and a physical exam. Your veterinarian will most likely do the following:

  • Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose most dog wounds by sight on a physical exam.
  • Radiographs (X-rays) - Your veterinarian may want to rule out any internal bleeding or fractures that may have occurred during the injury process.
  • Ultrasound - Again this is a diagnostic tool used to rule out any internal injuries as a result of the injury process.

Treatment for Dog Wounds

The first two objectives in dog wound treatment are:

  • Stop the bleeding
  • Prevent infection

There are a few guidelines that are generally followed in wound treatment:

Preparation of the skin for wound treatment.

  1. Cleaning and debridement of the wound.
  2. Irrigation of the wound, if needed, before closure or bandage.
  3. Wound closure
  4. Bandaging

*These steps are followed after the dog has been stabilized if shock has set in, or after the dog has been sedated to provide pain management during the treatment process.

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Your veterinarian or veterinarian technician will most likely do the following:


  1.  Clip the hair around the area and clean the dog’s wound with antiseptic or antibacterial soap and water to remove dirt, debris, and dried, oozing discharge. (You may notice the veterinary technician will put a large glob of KY Jelly right on top of the wound before he/she clips the hair. This is done to protect the area from any additional dirt and hair getting into the wound while clipping.)
  2. Most abrasions will be treated with topical antibiotics over a course 7-10 days. It is not uncommon to also give oral pain medication and oral antibiotics to help combat a major infection from breaking. (If the area is quite painful, your veterinarian may choose to use a mild sedative or general sedation during the clipping and cleaning process.)

Simple, Clean Lacerations

  1. Most lacerations will be treated under some degree of sedation. If the laceration is simple and clean, then the area is clipped and cleaned surgically for closure.
  2. The laceration will most likely be closed using surgical glue, sutures, or staples.
  3. Oral antibiotics and oral pain medication will most likely be prescribed to assist in the healing process.

Complex, Dirty Lacerations

  1. These wounds will require general anesthesia and surgery to repair. 
  2. Under sedation, and after the area is surgically prepared, the edges of the laceration will be trimmed and any dead tissue will be removed.
  3. The wound will be irrigated with antimicrobial solution and the veterinarian will determine whether to close the wound for healing or leave it open for healing.
  4. Not all lacerations can be sutured or stapled. Some will have to heal from the inside out. Wounds that are left open during the healing process generally require repeated bandaging or a drain put in place to allow a pathway for infection to drain out of the tissues.
  5. Management of bandage changes and drains can be done at home if the owner is trained properly, or they can be managed at the hospital on repeat visits to the technician in charge of your case.
  6. Oral antibiotics and oral pain medication will most likely be prescribed to assist in the healing process.

Puncture/Bite Wounds

Your veterinarian or veterinarian technician will clean and clip the area and may make the puncture wounds a bit larger in size to ensure that bacteria does not get trapped inside and cause an abscess to form. 

  1. The puncture holes are then irrigated vigorously with an antiseptic solution and left open to heal from the inside out.
  2. It is common to take a sample of the fluid inside the puncture wounds and send it off to do a culture/sensitivity test. The results of this test will help in determining the best antibiotics to treat or prevent infection.
  3. Oral antibiotics and oral pain medication will most likely be prescribed to assist in the healing process.

(If the wounded area is quite painful, your veterinarian may choose to use a mild sedative or general sedation during the clipping and cleaning process.)

Prevention of Helpful Tips for Dog Wounds

Wounds are painful, be CAUTIOUS when treating your dog’s wound. It is advisable to use a muzzle and get someone to help restrain your dog so you don’t get bitten!

The first two objectives in wound treatment are:

Stop the bleeding

    1. Apply pressure directly to the dog’s wound. Use something that is absorbent and clean. Gauze pads, wash cloths, towels, and sanitary napkins work great.
    2. Apply pressure for 5-10 minutes then secure in place with a bandage.
    3. Check the area around the bandage for swelling. If swelling appears, you need to loosen the bandage or remove it altogether.
    4. Transport your dog to the closest animal hospital for treatment.

Prevent infection

If your dog is not bleeding profusely, you may be able to clean the wounded area before seeking treatment.


    1. You can clean an abrasion by using antibacterial soap and warm water. Gently rub the area removing dirt and debris. Pat the area dry. Be careful not to dislodge any blood clots that have formed, as you will cause the area to bleed again.
    2. Apply a triple antibiotic to the area twice a day and the abrasion should clear in a week or so.
    3. Make sure you dog does not lick or scratch at the area. You may want to put a light bandage over it for protection.

Simple Lacerations, Complex Lacerations, and Puncture/Bite Wounds

  • You may be able to stop or slow the bleeding at home, but it is advisable to take your dog to your veterinarian for treatment.