Reviewed and updated for accuracy on April 14, 2020, by Jennifer Coates, DVM
Accidents happen. So as a pet parent, knowing how to clean and treat your dog’s minor scrapes or cuts at home can be very helpful. You should also be able to recognize when veterinary attention is needed.
This guide will help you determine when you should go to the vet, what pet first aid supplies you should keep at home, and how to handle minor wounds.
When to Take Your Dog to the Vet
These types of injuries should be treated by a veterinarian and not at home:
Any injury that fully penetrates the skin (a bite wound or deep laceration, for example)
Any injury that involves a large portion of the body (or an especially sensitive area)
An injury where pus is visible or the skin around your dog’s wound is red and puffy
Even minor wounds should be dealt with promptly, before infection has a chance to set in. If you wait too long, infection can spread and your veterinarian will probably need to prescribe antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading even further.
If you have any doubts as to the severity of your pet’s injury, play it safe and make an appointment with your veterinarian. And only attempt wound care at home if you are confident that a pet will not react aggressively to the procedure.
Recruit an assistant to help with restraint, and use a muzzle if necessary.
Supplies Needed for Dog Wound Care
Make sure you have these supplies on hand:
Electric clippers (scissors or disposable razors are okay if handled carefully)
Water-based lubricant like KY jelly (not Vaseline)
Clean towels (paper or cloth)
Antiseptic solution (like 2% chlorhexidine)
Steps for Cleaning and Treating Your Dog’s Wound
1. If the dog is small, place them on a table or counter in front of you. For big dogs, get down on the ground with them.
Have a second person gently restrain the pet and use a muzzle, if necessary.
2. Clip the hair around the area. Skip to Step 3 if the wound is not covered by hair.
Spread the water-based lubricant over the wound and surrounding area. This decreases contamination and makes it easier to remove shaved hair from the wound.
Use electric clippers to shave the hair from around the wound. Scissors or a disposable razor can be used if you are extremely careful to avoid cutting the skin.
Gently wipe the water-based lubricant and hair away with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel.
3. Wash the area with warm water until all visible debris is gone, then pat dry with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel.
4. Apply a non-stinging antiseptic solution to the area. Chlorhexidine is cheap, extremely effective, and readily available. A 2% solution limits tissue irritation, but 4% solutions are also commonly used. Povidone-iodine solution is another good option.
5. Apply an antibacterial ointment to the wound. Triple antibiotic ointments containing bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B are widely available. AVOID any product that contains a corticosteroid like hydrocortisone.
6. Prevent your dog from licking or wiping the ointment off for at least 10 minutes; longer is even better. You can apply a light, loose bandage over the area to prevent licking, but it will need to be monitored and changed frequently.
7. Clean the wound with the antiseptic solution two or three times a day, and apply the antibiotic ointment until the skin is healed.
8. If the wound worsens at any time or fails to resolve within a week, consult a veterinarian.
Dr. Jennifer Coates
Featured Image: iStock.com/andresr