Wound Care in Dogs and Cats

Pet owners know their pets are prone to cuts, scrapes, and other wounds. However, the frequency with which these injuries occur might surprise you. Wounds can range from a shallow cut to a deep gash that exposes bone or even tendons. They can bleed profusely or not at all. They can be clean (no dirt or debris in the wound) or contaminated (soil, debris, bacteria on the wound). Depending on the extent of skin damage and contamination, wounds can heal quickly or require more extensive care and time to heal completely. In general, it’s always best to have veterinary advice when caring for your pet if you are unsure about anything related to your pet’s wound or its treatment. However, there are some general guidelines for wound care in dogs and cats that are good to know. Read on to learn how to manage your pet’s next cut, abrasion, or laceration so that it heals as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Is Your Pet’s Wound Clean or Contaminated?

Wounds can be either clean or contaminated. Clean wounds are those with little or no contamination: no dirt, grit, bacteria, or other pathogens. Contaminated wounds, on the other hand, have one or more of these pathogens on or around the wound site. Clean wounds are easy to identify since they don’t present as much of a problem. There is no risk of infection or the wound healing poorly. Contaminated wounds are harder to identify since they might not look so different on the surface. Sometimes, the wound might actually look a little redder or swollen (although not necessarily). A contaminated wound, however, is at a much higher risk of developing a bacterial infection. This can lead to the wound healing slowly and requires antibiotics to clear up.

Steps to Take When Your Pet Has a Wound

  • Use a soft gauze pad or paper towel to dab away any obvious debris from the wound. If you know your pet has been in a dirt or sand-filled environment, you might want to use a gentle soap (mild dish soap is fine) and warm water to clean the wound further. 
  • Apply pressure using a clean gauze pad or paper towel to stop any bleeding. If there is significant bleeding, press down hard on the wound until the bleeding stops. If the blood doesn’t stop, seek veterinary attention immediately. 
  • Take appropriate antibiotics (if your vet has prescribed them) and follow your vet’s instructions for dosage and frequency of administration. 
  • Keep the wound clean and bandaged as directed by your vet or until the wound site has completely closed. 
  • If your pet’s wound is on the leg or paw, elevate the limb so that the wound is higher than the level of the heart. This helps reduce swelling, which can occur in wounds due to trauma or infection.

When Wounds Aren’t Healing

If your pet’s wound has been healing for two or three weeks and it’s not looking any better, if it’s more swollen than before, or if it seems to be getting red and puffy, then there is a chance that it’s infected. This can happen even if the wound was clean, to begin with, and even if your pet received antibiotics. In this case, it’s best to visit your vet and have the wound cultured and treated with more antibiotics as needed. Your vet may also clean and debride the wound (remove excess tissue or soiled matter within the wound) to help clear it up.

Tips for Cleaning Wounds in Dogs and Cats

  • For cuts and minor wounds, you can use a clean water and saline solution to clean the wound. This antiseptic, salt-based solution is also gentle enough to be used on wounds that are healing.
  • If your pet has a wound that’s been contaminated by sand, dirt, or other materials, you can use an enzymatic cleaner to help remove the materials from the wound. Your vet can also recommend some specific products that are very effective in cleaning wounds.

When to Seek Veterinary Care for Pet Wounds

If your pet’s wound isn’t responding to home care, if it’s getting worse, or if it’s been a very long time and the wound still hasn’t healed, then veterinary attention is a must. Your vet can examine the wound and direct you on what to do next. Depending on the extent of the wound, your vet will develop an appropriate treatment plan. 

Expert Wound Care for Pets in Tampa

Cuts and wounds are an everyday occurrence for pet parents and their pets. While some wounds will heal quickly and easily with just a little TLC, others will require additional care to heal properly. Wounds can be extremely dangerous to your pets if they are not treated properly. If you notice that your dog or cat has a wound, it is important to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible so that they can be properly treated. If you live in Tampa, trust the veterinary experts at Affordable Pet Hospital for all your pet’s care. Call us at 813-991-9898 or contact us online to schedule an appointment today!