Wound Care and Treatment for Dogs
The two most important goals in treating wounds are to stop the
bleeding and to prevent infection. Wounds are painful, so be prepared to
restrain and muzzle the dog before treating the
The most effective and safest method for controlling bleeding is to apply
pressure directly to the wound. Take several sterile gauze squares (or, in an
emergency, use any clean cloth such as a thickly folded pad of clothing) and
place over the wound. Apply direct pressure for 5 to 10 minutes. Leave the
dressing in place and bandage snugly. If material for bandaging is not
available, hold the pack in place until help arrives.
Watch for signs of swelling of the limb below the pressure pack. This
indicates impaired circulation. If you see these signs, the bandage must be
loosened or removed. Consider adding more bulk to the pack and apply a second
bandage over the first. Transport the dog to a veterinary hospital.
Nearly all animal wounds are contaminated with dirt and bacteria. Proper
care and handling will reduce the risk of tetanus and prevent many infections.
Before handling a wound, make sure your hands and instruments are clean. The
five steps in wound care are:
- Wound irrigation
- Wound closure
Remove the original pressure dressing and cleanse the area around the wound
with a surgical scrub solution. The most commonly used solutions are Betadine
(povidone-iodine) and Nolvasan (chlorhexidine diacetate). Both products are extremely
irritating to exposed tissue in the concentrations provided in the stock
solutions (Betadine 10 percent, chlorhexidine 2 percent), so be very careful
that the solution does not get in the wound while scrubbing the skin around it.
Dilute the solution to weak tea color for Betadine or pale blue color for
Three-percent hydrogen peroxide, often recommended as a wound cleanser, has
little value as an antiseptic and is extremely toxic to tissues.
After the scrub, start at the edges of the wound and clip the dog’s coat
back far enough to prevent any long hairs from getting into the wound.
The purpose of irrigation is to remove dirt and bacteria. The gentlest and
most effective method of wound cleansing is by lavage, which involves
irrigating the wound with large amounts of fluid until the tissues are clean
and glistening. Do not vigorously cleanse the wound using a brush or gauze pad
because this causes bleeding and traumatizes the exposed tissue.
Tap water is an acceptable and convenient irrigating solution. Tap water has
a negligible bacterial count and is known to cause less tissue reaction than
sterile or distilled water.
The effectiveness of the irrigation is related to the volume and pressure of
the fluid used. A bulb syringe is a low-pressure system. It is least effective
and requires more fluid to achieve satisfactory irrigation. A large plastic
syringe removes a moderate amount of dirt and bacteria. A home Water Pik unit
(used by people to clean their teeth) or a commercial lavage
unit that provides a high-pressure stream of fluid is the most effective.