If you have a pet, you’ve probably been witness to them injuring themselves in some capacity at some point. Wounds, especially superficial skin wounds, are very common in pets.
They can get in a fight with another pet or animal outside, they can get their skin caught on something sharp and not realize it, they can scratch themselves to the point of causing a wound, and they can develop an abscess or have a bad skin reaction to something they came into contact with.
Even though the best thing to do when you notice a wound on your pet is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, we understand you may not be able to get them in right away and you want to be able to do something to help the wound heal and prevent an infection from developing. In this article, we’ll discuss here how to clean a wound, what to watch for, and when to take your pet to the veterinarian.
It’s important to note that wound management at home is mainly for mild, superficial wounds. If your pet has a deep bite wound, or a large gash that is deeper than just the superficial skin, you need to take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you can.
Cleaning A Wound
When cleaning a wound on your pet, the first thing you should do is rinse it with lukewarm, running water. This is to make sure you remove any debris or particles that may stick to the wound, causing greater inflammation. This is also to help prevent infection as it can help wash away any bacteria that may be in the area. If you have or are able to get chlorhexidine solution (2% is best), you can then wash the wound gently with this as well. This will help to kill any bacteria that may be surrounding the wound.
Do not clean with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide does more damage than good, and can further damage the already damaged and exposed skin tissue.
You can then dry the area around the wound by patting it dry with a clean towel. You can do this directly on the wound as well if it isn’t causing your pet too much discomfort, or you can just let it air dry. If the wound is particularly dirty or gets debris stuck to it again, you can continue cleansing it daily for 3-5 days.
If the wound is on a dog, you can apply some Neosporin (triple antibiotic ointment) on and around the wound, but make sure your dog doesn’t just lick it off. Offering food or a tasty treat would be a good distraction to discourage them from noticing you have put anything on their body they may want to lick off. You can reapply the triple antibiotic ointment daily for 3-5 days. (If the wound is on a cat, do not apply Neosporin, as they will definitely groom it off and it can make them sick if they ingest even just a little bit of it.)
It is ideal that you also try to get a cone or E-collar to put around their neck to prevent them from licking or chewing at the wound. As the wound begins to heal, it can feel tingly and itchy, but if your pet is allowed to chew or pick at it, this will delay healing and increase the risk of infection developing.
Signs to Watch For & When to Go to the Vet
As the wound heals, the skin should begin to look more normal after 3-5 days. Your pet should feel comfortable and not be bothering it too much, though it may feel a little itchy to them. If your pet is really bothering the wound, if it’s not looking better within 3-5 days, if it starts to swell up, or if the skin begins looking a blue-purple or grey color, these are signs it isn’t healing appropriately and you should take your pet to the veterinarian. Sometimes a course of oral antibiotics is all that is needed, while other times the wound may need to surgical intervention to promote healing.
Leslie Brooks graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. After graduation she did a one-year intensive rotating clinical internship, with rotations in various specialties. She has been working in small animal clinical medicine ever since and ran her own house call practice for three years. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, son, and cat named Callie. She spends much of her free time volunteering in the community, from Meals on Wheels to working with pets of the homeless and vulnerable. She also loves to travel and read.