Dog Wound Care: How to Clean and Treat Dog Wounds at Home

Rhiannon Koehler, DVM
By Rhiannon Koehler, DVM on Mar. 18, 2024
dog getting paw wrapped with bandage

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In This Article

What Is a Dog Wound?

Lacerations, scrapes, punctures, burns, bites, bruises, and surgical incisions—these are just a few of the types of dog wounds your canine companion might experience in their lifetime.

While you should always seek veterinary attention for a major dog injury, dog wound care at home is possible for minor injuries. And preparation is key for giving your dog the care they’ll need.

What Is a Dog Wound?

A dog wound is any injury to a dog’s body. Major dog wounds include an open fracture, a large laceration, and any wound that is cause for concern. If you notice wounds in the mouth, are concerned about internal damage, or the wound is more than a minor cut or scrape, seek veterinary attention immediately.

In this article, we’ll focus on wounds that involve a break in the dog’s skin, and specifically on how to manage simple dog wounds such as scratches, abrasions, or small cuts.

Supplies for Treating a Dog Wound at Home

We recommend having a dog first-aid kit prepared for when accidents happen. Dog wound care items you should have in the kit include:

1. Wound Spray (Pet-Safe)

Use a pet-safe wound spray to help flush and decontaminate the wound.

2. Antimicrobial Wipes (Pet-Safe)

You can use these pet-safe wipes to help clean minor skin injuries. These wipes help prevent bacterial and fungal infection.

3. Wound Ointment (Pet-Safe)

Medical-grade honey ointments have strong antibacterial properties that may help your pet’s wound heal.

4. Topical Cream for Inflammation

An enzymatic cream with hydrocortisone aids in the treatment of inflammatory pet wounds such as hot spots. This will reduce itching and inflammation.

5. Styptic Powder 

Applying this powder to minor cuts or broken nails will help stop bleeding. This is especially helpful if you accidentally snip your dog’s nail too short and cut into the quick (the sensitive flesh beneath the nail). Benzocaine, included in this product, is a topical anesthetic. It reduces pain and itchiness by helping to numb the area.

6. Gauze Pads

Once cleaned, gauze pads can be applied over the dog wound to help keep it clean as it heals.

7. Bandage Scissors (Blunt-Tipped Scissors)

Bandage scissors are useful for cutting bandages into an appropriate size, as well as removing the bandage without cutting your pet.

8. Rubber or Latex Gloves

It’s important that your hands stay clean while you are taking care of your pet. Rubber or latex gloves also protect your pet from debris or contaminants on your hands.

9. Clippers

Fur should be shaved away from around the wound, using dog safe clippers, to help keep the area clean. This will also help with adherence of the bandage.

10. Vet Wrap Bandage

For wounds on the limbs, this vet wrap bandage should be the outer layer, offering additional stability and safeguarding against further injury or contamination.

11. Recovery Cone

It’s common for dogs to try to lick at wounds and bandages. Therefore, it’s a good idea to always have a recovery cone handy, especially if you can’t get to a vet right away for a skin issue.

Dog Wound Care at Home: Step-by-Step Guidance

Follow these steps to treat and clean your dog’s wound at home:

  1. Assess the severity of the injury. For minor cuts and scrapes, move on to Step 2 below. For anything more serious, seek veterinary attention.

  2. Put on your disposable gloves to keep your hands clean and protect your pet from contaminants on your hands.

  3. Use clippers or scissors to clip the fur away from the area. If any hair gets in the wound, be sure to wipe it away while cleaning the wound.

  4. Clean the area, washing away debris. You can first clean the wound with water to clear away most dirt and debris. After you’ve washed out the wound with water, use wound spray and wound wipes to finish cleaning the wound.

  5. Use styptic powder to help stop bleeding from minor cuts or torn nails.

  6. Apply a small amount of wound ointment to the area. Medical-grade honey ointments have strong antibacterial properties that may help your pet’s wound heal. Inflammation relief creams, which are enzymatic creams with hydrocortisone, may be more useful for inflammatory pet wounds like hot spots.

  7. Dress the wound.

    • For wounds on the neck, chest, or abdomen, place an adhesive wound dressing. You can use medical tape to help keep the adhesive pad in place if it’s not sticking well.

    • If a wound on the leg or tail is severe enough to require bandaging, consider seeking veterinary attention. It’s very easy to wrap a limb or tail too tightly, which could be dangerous for your pet.

  8.  Put the recovery cone on your dog if the wound is somewhere they can lick or bite.

  9. For bandaged dog wounds, change the bandage and clean the wound daily for the first three days. This will allow you to monitor the wound for signs of infection. Then you can move to every two to three days.

If you’re questioning whether the wound is deep enough to require stitches, contact your veterinarian immediately for guidance.

For unbandaged wounds, follow the same schedule for cleaning. If you note signs of infection or that the wound doesn’t appear to be healing, seek veterinary attention. If you need to cut the bandage, use the bandage scissors instead of normal scissors to avoid cutting your pet’s skin.

If your dog has a bandage around their leg for a wound you are monitoring at home with the advice of a veterinarian, be aware of the following signs that the bandage is too tight:

  • Swelling beneath the bandage

  • Increased space between the toes due to swelling

  • Discoloration or a purplish tint to the skin beneath the bandage

  • The dog chewing or licking at the bandage or lower limb

  • Limping or lameness

If you notice these signs, contact your veterinarian. If the wound requires veterinary attention, be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully. 

When Is a Dog Wound a Vet Emergency?

You should visit an emergency veterinarian if the dog wound is:

  • From a serious injury, such as being hit by a car or a gunshot

  • Bleeding uncontrollably

  • Potentially infected (inflamed/red, producing pus, swollen)

  • Involving the eye

  • Deep enough to expose muscle or bone

  • A severe burn (e.g., house fire burns or fireworks injuries)

  • An open fracture injury (a bone break with skin puncture)

  • A degloving injury (skin torn from underlying tissue)

  • Penetrating through the layers of tissue into the abdominal or chest cavity

  • Causing significant pain or distress

If you’re questioning whether the wound is deep enough to require stitches, contact your veterinarian immediately for guidance.

For the following types of wounds, we recommend discussing the injury with your vet before performing any at-home care:

  • A minor burn (e.g., touched a burner, burned a paw pad on hot pavement)

  • Wound near the eye, nose, ears, mouth, genitals, or anus

  • Bites from other animals

  • A recurrent injury, such as a hot spot that got better and then came back

Seek veterinary attention if your dog is unable to handle at-home wound care. This includes if they’re trying to bite you, yelping or growling, baring teeth, or constantly trying to escape your help. In situations like these, a veterinarian will be better suited to address your dog’s needs.

Rhiannon Koehler, DVM


Rhiannon Koehler, DVM


Dr. Rhiannon Koehler is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Public...

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