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Cuts and Scrapes in Dogs and Cats

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Cuts (lacerations) and scrapes (abrasions) in the skin are common in dogs and cats.  Most are minor injuries that heal quickly with minimal treatment, but some are more serious injuries that may require surgery.


Lacerations are cuts in the skin caused by sharp objects, such as broken glass, blades, jagged metal edges, or claws.  Depending on the nature of the sharp object that cuts the skin, the resulting wound can have edges that are clean and well-defined, or jagged and dirty.  Foreign materials such as fur, dirt, or fabric can be driven into the wound, increasing the possibility of secondary infection and delayed healing.


An abrasion is a scrape in the skin caused by abrasive trauma such as intense scratching, sliding against a rough surface, or being dragged by a car or leash.  Mild abrasion results in only superficial oozing, skin crusting, and redness, while severe abrasion can result in loss of the full thickness of the skin and serious damage to underlying tissues.  Foreign materials such as fur, dirt, or gravel can be scraped into the wound, again increasing the possibility of inflammation and secondary infection.


Treatment usually begins with cleaning the wound to remove dirt, debris, crusts, and oozing material.  The fur around the edges of the injured area will need to be clipped, followed by cleaning of the entire area with an antibacterial cleanser.  In some cases, sedative medications or general anesthesia will need to be administered to be able to clean the area thoroughly.


Small or superficial lacerations can sometimes be allowed to heal on their own, but most require surgery to suture the cut edges together.  Older wounds or those with jagged edges may first need to be “cleaned up” by cutting away dead or tattered skin, leaving fresh edges that heal more quickly.  Sutured lacerations tend to heal quicker than lacerations that are left to heal on their own.  However, severely traumatized or dirty wounds may need to be left open, or your veterinarian may need to place a “drain” under the skin to provide a pathway for infected seepage material to leave the body.


Severe abrasions heal slowly by a process known as granulation, during which the damaged skin is gradually replaced by new skin and scar tissue.  This sensitive tissue needs to be protected during healing, which often requires bandaging.


Bandages can be treated with a material that tastes bad (eg, bitter apple) to discourage your pet from licking or chewing the area.  Pets that lick or chew persistently can be fitted with a neck cone (eg, an Elizabethan collar) to physically limit access to the bandaged area.  To prevent infection, antibiotic creams or ointments can be applied directly to the injured area.  Oral antibiotics may also be needed, especially when wounds have been contaminated with foreign material.

 

 

Q&A

What is the difference between a laceration and an abrasion?

A laceration is a cut in the skin caused by sharp objects, whereas an abrasion is a scrape in the skin caused by abrasive trauma.

 

How are these injuries treated?

Treatment begins with cleaning the area to remove dirt, hair, and debris.  Lacerations often require surgery to close the cut with sutures.  Moderate to severe abrasions are usually bandaged to protect them as they heal.

 

How can I keep my pet from licking at the healing wound?

Bandages can be treated with a material that tastes bad (eg, bitter apple) to discourage your pet from licking or chewing the area.  Pets that lick or chew persistently can be fitted with a neck cone (eg, an Elizabethan collar) to physically limit access to the bandaged area.

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