If you don't want to have to run to the veterinarian for every little cut and scrape on your dog, learning how to clean a dog wound will come in handy at some point.
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All dogs are bound to get cut during their life, and if you know how to clean the wound, bandage it and care for it until it heals, you'll save hundreds of dollars in veterinary expenses.
It will also save your dog a lot of stress and anxiety. Your pooch will be much more relaxed having you tend to his injuries at home than he would if you had to drag him into the vet's office.
To prepare, all pet owners should have a first aid kit for their furry friend. You can purchase pre-assembled pet first aid kits, or you could buy the items separately and make your own. Either way, there a few must have items that every dog first aid kit will include.
How to Clean a Dog Wound
Gather First Aid Supplies
When you're just learning how to clean a dog wound, you'll need a few particular first aid supplies next to you, such as:
- Water based lubricant (NOT Vaseline)
- Clippers, scissors or a razor
- Antiseptic solution (like Pet MD)
- Clean towels
- Antimicrobial ointment (like Farnam)
- Antiseptic solution (like Durvet)
- Warm water
These things should all be included in your canine first aid kit, but if you don't have a kit you'll need to purchase them separately. You should also keep a small bottle of water in your kit, just in case your pup has an accident during a power outage or outdoors where your water supply may be far away.
Know When to Make a Vet Appointment
There are instances when you should not clean and treat a dog's wound on your own. For example, if your pet has been bitten by another animal, he needs to see a veterinarian. He may need other treatment that you aren't aware of, and things like rabies vaccine and so forth.
It's best that your dog is seen by a veterinarian no matter how minor the bite wound. If the wound is deep, it will require stitches to heal properly. The rule of thumb is that if the incision only goes through the skin and the very top layer of flesh, you can feel safe treating it at home. If it goes deeper into the flesh, it's better to have it checked at the vet's office.
If the wound is anywhere near a dog's eye, you should take him to the vet to have his eyes checked. Eye injuries can be very subtle in the beginning. A small scratch on your pet's eyeball could lead to an infection in just a few short days.
Finally, you'll want to make sure your dog sees a veterinarian if the wound will not stop bleeding after 20 minutes. In a minute I'll explain how to put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. If your dog's blood isn't clotting within 20 minutes, there may be an underlying issue that his vet will need to address.
How to Clean a Dog Wound
Note: Sometimes, you may need another person to help you restrain your pet, to relax the dog and keep him calm while you're tending to your pup's injury.
1. Stop the bleeding
After your dog gets cut, if the wound is bleeding, you'll need to apply pressure until it stops. To do this, using a clean towel, wrap the wound and gently squeeze to apply pressure. Hold it there, and the bleeding should stop within 10 minutes. However, if it doesn't stop bleeding in 20 minutes, you need to call a vet.
2. Position the dog
Let's assume the bleeding stopped and you can continue with cleaning the dog's wound. If your pup is small, pick him up and put him on a table so you can access the wound easier. If he's a large breed, you'll have to get down on the floor with him.
3. Remove the fur
Apply a small amount of water based lubricant around the wound. This will make removing the fur around the cut easier and help to reduce the risk of contamination. As I demonstrate in my video, a small pair of clippers is a great tool to keep in your canine first aid kit. If you can get a pair specifically designed to run quietly, that will be less scary for your dog.
If you don't have clippers, you can use a pair of scissors or a razor to remove the fur around the wound. Clippers are the best choice because they virtually eliminate the risk of further injury to your dog. It is very easy to cut your pet with scissors or a razor, so be very careful and go slowly if you're using one of these tools to remove the fur.
4. Rinse the wound
Once you've trimmed all the fur around the wound, use the cloth to wipe away the lubricant and all the hair that is stuck in it. Now, rinse the wound with the warm water until all signs of debris are gone. Pat it dry very gently with the cloth.
5. Treat the dog wound
Now that you've cleaned the wound, you're going to need to treat it. Apply a non-stinging antiseptic solution. Chlorhexidine is a great choice, and I recommend purchasing 2% instead of 4%, as it is a little bit gentler. You can pick up a bottle on Amazon to keep in your pet first aid kit for less than $15. Chlorhexidine is affordable and won't sting your dog when you apply it to the wound. It kills the bacteria and yeast that could cause infection.
6. Apply antiseptic ointment
After you've applied the antiseptic solution to the dog's wound, you'll need to rub on a little antimicrobial ointment (again, you can pickup a tube for less than $3 on Amazon).
7. Keep the dog still for a bit
After ointment has been applied, your dog's natural reaction is going to be to lick the ointment off, so you'll need to sit with the dog for at least 10 minutes to prevent that. If you can't keep your dog from licking the wound and irritating it further, you may need to cover it with gauze and medical tape or a bandage.
You should clean a dog wound 2-3 times per day for the first 3 days and then once a day after that until it begins to heal. Check the wound multiple times each day for signs of infection, swelling, rashes, etc. If you notice any excessive redness, swelling or discharge, you need to take the dog to see the vet immediately.
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