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Dog Wound First Aid


Wounds can be scary.

Luckily for you, they often look worse than they actually are. Wounds are a big part of the daily life in veterinary hospitals and come in different shapes, sizes and severity levels.

They come as deep, shallow, bleeding, dry, clean, dirty, wet, infected, big or small. I believe it’s important for you understand this.

In this lesson, you’ll learn the different types of wounds and how you take care of them,

In order to get a better understanding of the first aid procedures, it’s important to know the difference between certain types of wounds and the complications that may arise from them.

Let’s dig a little deeper into that.

Types of dog wounds

Dirty wounds 

Dirty wounds can be divided into 3 categories:

Wounds with a lot of dirt in them. Think about wounds that are contaminated by sand, mud, etc.

Wounds that are likely to contain a lot of bacteria. Think about bite wounds, wounds contaminated by feces, manure,..

Wounds that have been in contact with chemicals such as oil, detergents, acid,…

Dirty wounds require extensive cleaning, which can be very difficult. To prevent complications, the treatment of dirty wounds may include the usage of antibiotics.

However, when your dog suffers from severe dirty wounds you should seek medical care from your local veterinarian.

Clean wounds 

They can be caused by running into a foreign object. More often than not, clean wounds are typically quite easy to take care for. Of course they also need cleaning and it’s important to keep an eye on it until it’s fully healed.

Deep wounds 

These type of wounds are very serious because they may cause severe internal damage. Seek immediate veterinary care if you notice that your dog’s wound is very deep or if your dog shows clinical signs such as vomiting, abdominal pain, shortness of breath or fatigue.

Shallow wounds 

These wounds are often not severe and you can actually see how deep they are. Usually these wounds can be treated at home with the right medical equipment. However, if you are unsure about the condition of the wound, you should seek veterinary care.

Bleeding wounds 

Some wounds can easily bleed a lot, especially when a major blood vessel is broken or damaged. You know that a major blood vessel is broken when the blood is being “pumped out” with a lot of pressure.


In case your dog is bleeding severely, apply firm pressure on the wound to reduce the amount of blood loss and contact your veterinarian immediately!

Dry wounds 

Some wounds may bleed very little or not at all. Therefore they can be difficult to detect. You should examine your dog for dry wounds, especially if it has been attacked by another animal.

Origin of dog wounds 

Dog bite wounds

You know that feeling when you’re on a nice walk, and suddenly a strange, unleashed dog shows up? Yeah, we’ve all been there.

You may be afraid that it’s aggressive and it may bite. Well, bite wounds are arguably the most common wounds that occur in dogs, and potentially the most severe ones as well.

They are especially prone to infections and complications if not treated correctly, because they often contain a lot of bacteria.

Bite wounds come in a few different categories:

Rupture – This is when the external damage is relatively small, but the damage under the skin is quite severe. There may be even organ damage!

Non-penetrating wounds – Also known as blunt force trauma.

Open wounds – This is the breakage of tissue.

Unfortunately, the saliva of animals contains a huge variety of bacteria, and perhaps viruses, which can grow and multiply inside the broken tissue. These are so called “dirty wounds”. Some bite wounds require antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian.

He or she will assess the severity of the wound prior to antibiotic treatment.

Bite wounds can be quite complicated because the skin is flexible and moveable, but the tissue under it isn’t. This means that the damage under the skin may not be in the same place as the bite wound itself.

Pockets of air under the skin are the ideal place for bacteria to thrive in. This complicates the decision on whether to stitch the wound or not.

Severe bleeding may occur as well, depending on the location of the wound.

Important: Remember to properly assess the damage in and around the wound. Even if it doesn’t look severe from the outside, great internal damage may be present under the skin, even if the wound is not deep.

Abrasive wounds

Abrasive wounds are caused by friction. More often than not, this friction is with the ground. When your dog is pulled or dragged by another moving object, such as a car or bicycle, friction wounds are very likely to occur. 

Abrasive wounds also occur under the dog’s paws, after extensive running on hard surfaces. Concrete and asphalt are known to cause severe friction damage under the dog’s paws. These wounds are also called road rash. Road rash in dogs is usually quite severe and the road rash wounds are very dirty. 

Those wounds often require medical treatment.

Rupture of the skin

Rupture wounds often occur while playing or walking in the forest. Skin rupture wounds are often caused by running into foreign objects such as sticks and rocks.

They are usually are not very severe, meaning that in most cases they are shallow, clean and are not bleeding a lot. However, complications can come when a foreign body is trapped inside the skin. This could be, for example, a piece of stick which broke off on impact.

These little pieces can cause infections and need further examination or medical treatment.

Important: If your dog ran into a stick, and there is a piece of stick inside the skin, do NOT attempt to remove it yourself. You should seek help from your nearest veterinarian.

Improper removal of foreign bodies can do more harm than good!

Dog wound first aid treatment

I want to remind you that your own safety is the main priority.

Dogs are animals with very basic instincts, no matter how domesticated or well-trained they are. You probably heard of the “Fight or Flight” response, which applies to pretty much every single living being, including humans.

The “Fight or Flight” instinct kicks in when a living being is in some kind of distress and dictates how it will react. You must keep in mind that your dog has the ability to bite you. Even though he doesn’t want to, it’s just a basic instinct.

With that being said, it’s highly advised that you restrain your dog. A good way to ensure your own safety is to use a muzzle. If you don’t have one, the dog’s leash can be used as well.

Now, the first thing you need to do is make an assessment of the wound.

Wounds with heavy bleeding or where fat, bones or muscle tissue is visible:

Step 1: Try to stop or reduce the bleeding by applying firm pressure on the wound.

Step 2: Protect the wound from foreign objects which may be contaminated by dirt and bacteria. You can do so by applying a wet, sterile compress on the affected area.

Step 3: Check the dog’s vital signs and prepare to give a shock treatment. (This comes later in the full program)

Step 4: Seek veterinary help as soon as possible. Call to your nearest vet and tell them you’re on the way.

Follow their instructions!

Don’t try to clean the wound yourself, unless otherwise advised by your vet.

Wounds that didn’t go through muscle tissue:

Step 1: Stop the bleeding by applying firm pressure on the wound.

Step 2: Hydrate the wound.

Step 3: Clean the wounds as instructed below.

Step 4: Apply a sterile compress. Check the wound often and seek veterinary help if in doubt.

Note: Do not use bandages to cover the wound. Bandages are not suitable as they trap moisture and heat. That’s the perfect situation for bacteria to grow and multiply.

Open wound on dog not bleeding

Sometimes it may happen that your dog suffered an open wound, but there is no blood present. More often than not, it's the top layer of the skin which is broken, but the wound doesn't go into the muscle tissue. These wounds are usually not very dangerous, unless it is a dirty wound. If you dog got bit, you should see a vet and he or she is likely to prescribe some antibiotics. 

If it's a clean wound, and the wound is not too big, you can treat it at home. 

How to clean a dog wound

You have to clean the wound before you can start treating it. This means that you have to trim the hair around it as short as possible.

Note: This is not the time to save some hair. Be very generous when removing hair. Don’t worry, it will grow back soon!

The reason for clipping the hair is self-explanatory. It’s simply to prevent dirt and bacteria from getting close to the wound, causing complications.

To cut the hair around the wound, you can use a hair clipper or beard trimmer. Never use razor blades!

Hydrating and cleaning the wound

Proper hydration of the wound is very import. You can hydrate and wash the wound by holding it under running water. The water should be hand-temperature, as this makes it more comfortable for the dog.

Especially dirty wounds require proper cleaning. Bear in mind that a clean wound is the start of a good healing process! To wash the wound, you can also use saline (NaCI), preferably under pressure (from a syringe for example) to easily clean out and get rid of debris.

Important: Wounds should always be dry. After hydrating and cleaning a wound, it should be dried properly!

Dog wound aftercare

Elisabeth’s collar

It’s important that you dog doesn’t lick the wound.

A dog’s tongue contains a lot of bacteria and they can cause complications when they come in contact with the wound.

Depending on the size and severity, the wound should heal within 10-12 days.

Elisabeth’s collars are fairly cheap and you can find them from your local veterinary clinic. It’s good to always have one laying around at home!


A variety of creams are available to help the healing process of your dog’s wound. They can be used daily by applying a thin layer on top of the wound.

You’ll find more information about these creams from your local veterinary office.

Treating dog wounds naturally

In case your dog is injured but the wound is not bad, you can treat dog wounds naturally. There are a variety of organic products available to help speed up the healing process. One of my favorite ones is called Abilar. This is a product made out of tree wax. It can be used for humans as well, so it's definitely a good investment!

Alternatively, you can use honey to cover the dog's wound. Apply honey on the dog's wound 2-3 times per day, the honey will work it's magic. Make sure though, that you have pure, organic honey. Cheap honey is often filled with artificial flavors and added sugar, which is not very good for the wounds. 

Treating dog wounds naturally should only be done when you are 100% that the dog's wound won't get infected. If you are in any doubt, give a quick call to the vet. 

Dog licking wound?

It's a natural instinct. Dogs tend to lick areas that are painful of uncomfortable. As you probably know, a dog's mouth is full of bacteria which, if they enter a wound, can cause complications. These complication can lead to infections, inflammations and even necrosis. 

So what should you do when your dog is licking the wound? Simple, just apply a bandage. If the dog is persistent and takes off the bandages, use an Elisabeth's collar until the wound is healed. 

Infected dog wound

When a dog wound is not taken care of correctly, severe complication can arise. When bacteria enter the wound and start to multiply, the dog's body starts to fight against the bacteria. This process is called inflammation and should be treated immediately. 

So how to you recognize an infected dog would?


When a wound swells up, turns red or hurts, it’s likely to be inflamed. Simply put, an inflammation is the response of the body’s immune system. The immune system tries to get rid of bacteria, viruses, chemicals or other objects which entered the body.

The most common signs of inflammation are:

Overall clinical signs like fever, anorexia, vomiting, etc.


Excretion (often yellow-white puss),



Necrosis in dog wounds 

Necrosis is the process where living body cells are dying off. This means that the body is rejecting the cells by cutting off the blood supply.

Inflammations, trauma and chemicals often cause this condition and severe cases may lead to amputation.

You can identify necrosis by following events:

The tissue starts to detach from the lower tissue

There is no blood circulation

The tissue turns grey or black

Both complications require identification as soon as possible! When you see any signs of inflammation or necrosis you should contact your vet immediately!

Dog wounds frequently asked questions

You probably know by now, that I do my research before writing any type of content. This lesson was no different!

Here are the most common question people enter into Google:

How to heal a dog wound fast at home

Although we covered this in detail throughout this lesson, I find it a good thing to address. "How to heal a dog wound fast at home" is searched on average 360 times per month. So, healing a dog wound fast is quite simple, though complex. For the dog's body to heal fast, it needs to be healthy. It needs to have all the required nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, in order to work at its best. 

It's really no different than humans! So in order to make your dog heal faster, you need to provide a few thing: 

Proper nutrition - Your dog only gets the right nutrition when you feed him the right diet. High quality dog food usually contains most nutrients so keep your dog's immune system working properly. Ask for advise from your vet or a reputable pet supply store. 

Rest - Resting is extremely important. Especially when your dog suffered a severe injury. 

Supplements & Creams - Additionally, you can add some supplements to your dog's diet if that is agreed with your vet. Use honey and Abilar together with the medicines prescribed by the vet (if applicable).

How to treat a puncture wound on a dog at home

"How to treat a puncture wound on a dog at home" is asked 260 times per month. What are all those people doing with their dogs? No, I'm kidding. Accidents happen of course!

Now, dog puncture wounds should be inspected by the vet. Especially if the wound comes from a contaminated object. Generally speaking, if the puncture wound is very small, you can disinfect the wound and keep a close eye on it for a couple of days. If the wound shows any sign of inflammation you should go to the vet asap. 

Even though the puncture wound may seem clean, bacteria may be multiplying under the skin or in the muscle tissue. It may take a few days before your dog shows any symptoms of pain or discomfort.  

How to tell if a dog wound is infected or healing

This is a good question. If the dog's wound is healing, it starts to look pink-ish and it may be itchy. The clinical signs of infection, and therefore inflammation are quite easy to recognize. The wound starts to swell, look red, is painful and discretion may be present. 

Can I use betadine on my dog?

The search term "can I use betadine on my dog" is entered roughly 400 times per month. And the answer is: Yes, you can use betadine for your dog. In fact, it is widely used by veterinarians. The reason why betadine is so popular is because it doesn't have any side effects. Betadine usually does quite a good job disinfecting wounds. 

Keep in mind though, that if your dog suffered severe injuries, your vet may prescribe different products to help your dog. 

What is the average cost of dog stitches?

The average cost of dog stitches is influences by so many factors. Therefore it's hard to give an estimate, because it different for every situation. Generally speaking, small to medium sized wounds can cost up to $500 or more, depending on additional procedures and checkups. If your dog needed sedation, this also adds up to the costs. 

If you are worried about the cost of dog stiches, it's best to consider some kind of dog health insurance. 

That was it for today! 

This lesson about wounds came to and end! See you in the next lesson, where we'll cover dental problems. 

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