How to Treat a Gash on a Dog

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Wounds can happen at any time, so preparation is important.
Wounds can happen at any time, so preparation is important. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Dogs can be just as accident-prone as their human companions, and it's important to be prepared for any emergency medical situation that could arise. Cuts and gashes can happen when simply playing in the backyard or going for a walk on a nature trail. Serious wounds can also occur because of a bite from another dog or animal, and it's vital to know how to deal with these wounds as soon as they happen for the safety and continued health of your pet.

Things You'll Need

  • Sterile bandages
  • Gauze pads
  • Scissors
  • Soap
  • Water
  • Disinfectant such as Betadine
  • Bulb syringe

Determine how bad the wound is. If it is a surface gash, it's can most likely be treated at home. If the would is deep and penetrates through the layers of skin or into the muscle, perform emergency care and then get the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Stop the bleeding. Use clean or -- if available -- sterile bandages with no loose fibers that can stick in the wound. In emergency situations, T-shirt material can be effective and keep fibers from clotting the wounds. Apply firm, direct pressure to the wound for at least five minutes. This will allow the blood time to clot, and should be able to stop the bleeding in most gashes. If the bleeding does not stop, continue applying pressure while transporting the dog to a veterinary facility.

Clean your hands. Wash with soap and water to help keep from introducing new bacteria and dirt to the wound.

Clean the wound. For dogs with long fur, this can be made easier by cutting the fur away from the wound, allowing for better access to the gash as well as getting rid of dirt and other contaminants in the fur. Wash the wound area thoroughly with soap and water.

Apply a disinfectant to kill any bacteria in and around the wound. Be sure to cleanse the entire area, not just the wound itself. Common and effective types of disinfectants are Betadine and Nolvasan, which are designed to kill bacteria while not harming the delicate, exposed tissues.

Irrigate the wound. This is done simply by running water over the exposed tissues repeatedly until everything is cleaned out of the wound. The movement of the water is key in washing the wound clean. Regular tap water can be used, drawn into a clean bulb syringe and sprayed into the wound, starting at one end and proceeding to the other. Repeat until there are no visible irritants.

Determine whether the wound needs to be bandaged. Areas such as the feet and legs can typically be bandaged easily by placing a sterile gauze pad over the wound and wrapping it with medical tape. Some gashes, such as those on the neck and shoulders, are difficult and impractical to bandage. Consult with a veterinarian to determine if these wounds should be stitched by a professional or allowed to heal on their own.

If the wound is bandaged, change the bandage daily and watch for any signs of infection. If the wound is not bandaged, keep the dog from licking the open area, as this can result in the development of infection. Check the wound regularly for any discolored pus or heat, both of which may indicate infection. If any of these signs are present, seek veterinary help immediately.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember that your dog is in pain. Dogs that are normally mild-mannered can become likely to bite when injured, so having assistance in restraining the dog while cleaning and bandaging wounds can be helpful.
  • A follow-up call to the veterinarian is always advised; the veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics just in case infection begins to develop. Be sure to use all prescribed medication, even if the wound has healed over.
  • Always have the phone numbers for both your regular veterinarian and an emergency 24-hour care facility programmed into your cell phone.
  • Even the smallest wounds can become infected. Change dressings regularly, and examine the wound throughout the healing process. Any bad smells or discolored flesh can mean a potentially dangerous infection.

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