Wound Care and Treatment for Dogs
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.
Debridement means removing dying tissue and any remaining foreign matter
using tissue forceps (tweezers) and scissors or a scalpel. Debridement requires
experience to determine the difference between normal and devitalized tissue,
and instruments to control hemorrhage and close the wound. Accordingly, wounds
that require debridement and closure should be treated by a veterinarian.
Fresh lacerations on the lips, face, eyelids, and ears are best sutured or stapled to
prevent infection, minimize scarring, and speed recovery. Lacerations longer
than half an inch (1.25 cm) on the body and extremities probably should be
closed, but small lacerations may not need to be. Small V-shaped lacerations
heal best if they are closed.
Puncture wounds are caused by bites and pointed objects. Animal bites, in
particular, are heavily contaminated with bacteria. Bleeding may occur. There
may also be bruising, particularly if the dog was picked up in the teeth of a
bigger dog and shaken. Puncture wounds are often concealed by the dog’s coat
and may be easily overlooked until an abscess develops a few days later.
Treatment of a puncture wound requires a veterinarian. It involves
surgically enlarging the skin opening to provide drainage, after which the area
is irrigated with a dilute antiseptic surgical solution. These wounds should
not be closed.