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Open wound care for pets

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When open wounds or cuts in pets expose tissues that are under the skin, veterinary treatment is needed. However, some pet wounds need some care "at the scene."

If a wound is bleeding, you should apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth or bandage material. Do not apply any ointments or chemicals to the wound because they may interfere with healing. The injury should be covered to protect it from further contamination while you take your pet to your veterinarian. If possible, the injury should be raised above the level of the heart to reduce blood flow to the bleeding area.

Most open wounds in pets are contaminated with bacteria and may contain foreign material such as dirt, grit, and hair. Your veterinarian will flush the wound and then repair it. Wounds that have been open for more than 4-6 hours or that are grossly infected often heal best if managed as open wounds, rather than by surgical closure. These wounds are treated using a combination of repeated flushing, bandaging, and antibiotic therapy.

After your vet has treated the wound, follow-up care usually includes cleaning the wound two to three times daily with a mild antiseptic solution or warm water to remove any discharge and to keep the wound edges clean and moist.

Daily bandage changes may be needed if there is a lot of discharge from the wound, as well as to prevent your pet from licking or chewing the area.

Q&A

What can I do for a cut or wound before I see the veterinarian?

If a wound is bleeding, you should apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth or bandage, then cover the wound to protect it from further contamination. 

How are open wounds treated in pets?

Your vet will flush the wound to remove dirt, grit, and hair; and then surgically repair it.  Wounds that have been open for more than a few hours or that are grossly infected may be left open to drain.

What follow-up care do open wounds require?

Follow-up care usually includes cleaning the wound two to three times daily with a mild antiseptic solution or warm water, and changing bandages as needed.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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