How can I tell if my pet's wound needs veterinarian attention? 

If your pet's wound is deep, includes bite marks, has a deep puncture hole, has become infected, or your pet show signs of pain, then your pet needs veterinary attention.

How do veterinarians treat wounds in pets? 

Depending on the type of wound, your pet may need antibiotics, stitches, surgical debridement, or a Penrose drain.

How do I care for my pet's wound at home? 

Apply pressure to stop bleeding from your pet's wound, then clean it with antibacterial soap and rinse well. Light ointment and bandaging may be needed as well as an e-collar to prevent your pet from licking the wound.

Pets often suffer from cuts and scrapes and minor injuries that can usually be treated at home. However, because most pets are covered with thick fur coats, it can be difficult to see if the injury is serious.

When inspecting a wound on your pet, exercise caution. When in pain, any pet may bite, even if they are usually very docile. Wrap your pet in a towel or a muzzle to be safe.

When Your Pet's Wound Needs Vet Attention

Sometimes when your pet is wounded, it's obvious that they need veterinary attention right away. However, cats and dogs are notoriously stoic, so it's possible for their injuries to seem minor when they are actually quite serious. Some things to look for when assessing your pet's condition are:

  • A Puncture Wound. These wounds require vet attention because they get infected more easily.
  • Bite Marks. If your pet has been bitten by another animal, they will probably need a prescription for antibiotics.
  • Signs of Pain. If your pet appears to be in pain, the wound is likely to be more serious than it appears on the surface.

  • Length of Cut. If the wound is longer than 1/2 inch, your pet probably needs stitches.
  • Lethargy. If your pet is lethargic or appears unwell in addition to their wound, your vet may have to perform an examination to determine the extent of your pet's injury.
  • Bleeding. A pet wound that doesn't stop bleeding after applying pressure for over 15 minutes requires veterinary attention.

Your vet will carefully examine your pet, assess their wounds, and look for any other injuries. For examination purposes, your pet's hair may be removed. X-rays could also be required for some wounds. Some sedation may be necessary to keep your pet calm during the examination.

Veterinary Wound Care

The goal of wound care is to prevent infection from taking hold and spreading while permitting the wound to heal. Different approaches are needed to achieve these objectives for various types of wounds. To treat the wounds properly and without exacerbating your pet's agony, sedation or anesthesia is typically required. Various wounds and their treatments include:

  • Long and Deep Cuts. Cuts that are long and deep require careful cleaning. If the wound is not heavily contaminated and 12 hours or less old, it will probably be stitched close.
  • Puncture Wounds. Puncture wounds are probed to assess the extent of the damage under the skin. Foreign materials are removed and the wound is cleaned with an antiseptic solution. Surgery may be required. Puncture wounds may be left open with bandages to heal.
  • Large, Contaminated Wounds. Large, deep, contaminated wounds sometimes require surgical debridement (removal of dead tissue) or a Penrose drain, which allows contaminated tissue and fluid to drain out through a soft rubber tube. Antiseptic solution is flushed into the wound as it drains. 
  • Abscesses. Abscesses are painful pockets of infected puss that must be lanced, drained, and cleaned under anesthesia or heavy sedation.

When your pet is ready to go home, your vet will provide instructions about how to clean and change your pet's bandages as well as any antibiotics or pain medications your pet may need.

If there's a drain in place, let the fluid drain from the wound before using a warm, moist towel to gently clean up the debris and avoid clogging the drain. To prevent your pet from licking the wound and making it worse or from removing sutures or drains, use an Elizabethan collar.

If your veterinarian has to remove a drain or stitch or do a recheck examination, do so promptly. Even brief delays might harm your pet and lengthen the recovery process.

At-Home Care for Minor Pet Wounds

Minor wounds such as small cuts and scrapes may be treated at home and observed for signs of infection. The following steps can prevent infection in your pet's wound:

  1. Apply pressure to wounds that are bleeding.
  2. When the bleeding stops, clean the surface of the wound gently with antibacterial hand soap and warm water.
  3. Rinse the wound well.
  4. Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment. Too much ointment can trap moisture and delay wound healing. 
  5. Wrap the wound lightly and keep it dry.
  6. Prevent your pet from licking the wound.
  7. Check the wound daily for signs of infection.

If the wound develops signs of infection such as redness, swelling, odor, discharge, or heat at the wound site, take your pet to their veterinarian's office as soon as possible.

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