How to Clean a Dog's Bite Wound to Avoid Infection

If a dog has a bite wound, take it to the vet as soon as possible.
If a dog has a bite wound, take it to the vet as soon as possible. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

There's a good chance that at some point in a dog's life, he or she will sustain a dog bite in a scuffle with another dog. Most dog bites are not disfiguring, but bite wounds are very prone to infection because the bacteria in the biting dog's mouth is essentially injected into the dog's puncture wound. A visit to the veterinarian for an examination and a prescription for antibiotics are necessary in all cases of a dog with a dog bite, but proper care following the dog fight will limit the dog's chances of developing a serious and painful infection.

Things You'll Need

  • Anti-bacterial soap
  • Betadine
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Sterile wound wash saline
  • Sterile gauze (rolled)
  • Reusable ice pack
  • Muzzle
  • Shower, bathtub or sink and clean container to transport water
  • Clean towel
  • Elizabethan collar (aka lampshade collar)

Muzzle the injured dog. Even a docile, friendly dog can act aggressively when in pain. Muzzling a dog will ensure that the dog doesn't hurt his or her caretakers.

Apply pressure to the wound site with clean paper towels to stop the bleeding. If the bleeding will not stop, if the bite wound is on the face or if the skin is torn or ripped, use rolled gauze to wrap the wound and immediately transport the injured dog to an emergency veterinary clinic for treatment.

Trim the fur away from the site of the bite wound to allow a good view of the dog bite and proper airflow. This is a good opportunity to carefully check the dog for any other more minor bites, scratches or injuries.

Escort the dog to a bath tub, shower or sink when the bleeding has stopped.

Wash the wound for a period of two full minutes with an antibacterial soap.

Flush the wound thoroughly for an additional two minutes to help flush away bacteria, soap and fur trimmings. Allow the water to run into the wound. In the absence of a tub or shower, use a clean container to pour water over the wound and place a towel under the dog to catch the water.

Dry the dog with a clean towel.

Flush the wound again with a bottled wound wash saline (available in the first aid section of most drug stores). Aim the stream of saline directly into the wound.

Pour an antiseptic solution such as Betadine over and into the dog's wound. When Betadine is not present, hydrogen peroxide will work for the initial cleaning. Position the dog so that the Betadine flows into the wound. After this step, the wound should not be directly touched or contacted.

Wipe up any Betadine drips using sterile gauze or a clean paper towel. Leave a sterile disinfected 1-inch perimeter. Allow the Betadine in this 1-inch perimeter to air dry.

Apply a generous dab of antibiotic ointment into the dog's bite wound with sterile gauze.

Cover the wound with two or three layers of rolled gauze to avoid contamination if the wound is on a foot or limb. Only use minimal layers of rolled gauze to preserve air flow to the wound site. Bite wounds on the torso, head and neck should be left uncovered when possible. If the dog is licking at the wound, cover the site with gauze until an Elizabethan collar (a.k.a. lampshade collar or e-collar) is available.

Steps 5 through 12 must be repeated three times a day to avoid infection until the wound is healed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Swelling is very common with bite wounds and puncture wounds in dogs. To help lessen the swelling, apply an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Applying an ice pack just before performing three-times-daily cleanings, as the wound can essentially swell shut, trapping bacteria inside.
  • Obtain proof of rabies vaccinations from the owner of the other dog who was involved in the dog fight. Without proof of a rabies vaccination, special and potentially expensive treatment may be required.
  • Always keep your pet's rabies vaccinations current to avoid placing your pet at risk of serious illness in the case of a dog fight or other bite injury incident.
  • Always visit a veterinarian for an exam and antibiotics following a dog bite incident. In 9 out of 10 times, the dog bite will get infected. Once an infection is present, it's more painful for the dog, healing time is extended and it becomes more expensive to treat and heal the dog's wound. Save money, time and pain by visiting the veterinarian early on.
  • Dogs who are bitten by an unfamiliar dog or a wild animal are at risk of acquiring an illness like rabies. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention.

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