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Pet Wound Care for the Do-It-Yourselfer

You probably don’t rush to the doctor every time you get a paper-cut, and likewise your pet probably doesn’t need to make a trip in to see us at West Park Animal Hospital for every scrape. In many situations, at-home pet wound care is an appropriate action as long as you are comfortable.

Read on to learn about pet wound care basics and when to throw in the towel.

At-Home Pet Wound Care

Pets can experience all sorts of scrapes and cuts. You may notice right away when it happens or it can take a little while. Pets who have a wound will often exhibit symptoms of some kind, though, such as bleeding, swelling, hair loss, limping, or pain.

Home pet wound care is often dictated by what you can accomplish safely. Some animals are very willing to allow their owners to handle the injured area, while others become upset very quickly.

If you find a wound on your pet, and your pet will allow it, take a few minutes to:

Stop bleeding – If there is active bleeding, it is important to get this stopped. Apply direct pressure with a clean cloth or piece of gauze. This can take up to 5 minutes if the bleeding is severe.

Assess the situation – While there may be an obvious wound grabbing your attention, it is very wise to take a look at the rest of your pet. A trauma that has caused one wound very likely could have caused another. Assess your pet’s overall well-being and inspect closely for additional injuries.

Clean the area – If there is a cut or scrape, and bleeding is minimal, you will want to clean the area. While they are popular choices, alcohol or hydrogen peroxide damage healing tissue and are not recommended. Instead be sure to keep a commercial antiseptic solution containing povidone iodine and chlorhexidine in your home. Dilute according to the directions and flush the area with a syringe. You may gently dab with a clean cloth or gauze if appropriate. If you do not have an antiseptic solution available, clean water is the next best choice.

While you may wish to place a light bandage over an area temporarily, especially if your pet has some bleeding, it is usually best to not bandage wounds in pets. An improperly placed bandage can impede the circulation or cause additional wounds. A cone-style Elizabethan collar is typically the best way to prevent a pet from licking or bothering a healing area.

For most wounds, topical ointments, such as triple antibiotic ointment, won’t hurt, but are often unhelpful as pets tend not to leave them on very long. Never apply an ointment containing a steroid such as hydrocortisone to a wound without veterinary supervision.

Knowing When to Say When

Sometimes it is the safer choice to give us a call and have us treat your pet’s wound. It is best to have the area treated by a veterinarian if:

  • Your pet will not allow you to safely examine and clean the area
  • There is excessive bleeding that does not stop within 5 minutes of applying pressure
  • The wound is deep
  • The wound is long enough to require stitches
  • There is obvious discharge or pus
  • Your pet seems very uncomfortable or in pain
  • There is no obvious healing after several days

These types of wounds may need antibiotics, surgery, or other therapies to heal properly.

Even when we treat a wound at our hospital, good home care is essential. Being sure that your pet can’t lick at the area is very important. Be sure to come back for rechecks, bandage changes, and suture removal appointments as directed. If your pet has a bandage that becomes soiled, slips, or chafes, let us know right away.

The body is an amazing thing. It is incredible what our pets are able to do in terms of healing. Often, keeping an injury clean and free from irritation is all they need to get back to normal. If not, though, don’t ever hesitate to ask for our help.

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