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How to Care for Pet Wounds

An injured or wounded pet can be a very scary thing. But, with the right care and a bit of rest, your buddy can be on the mend and start getting back to their favorite activities in no time.

Common injuries for dogs and cats

Your pet’s lifestyle — for example, whether they’re indoor or outdoor, and whether they’re around other animals — will determine the types of injuries that could happen. Their breed and medical history may also determine their risk.

However, even the most well-supervised pets can have injuries and accidents. So, if something happens to your furry friend, don’t beat yourself up. The most important thing is getting them treated, and preventing it from happening again in the future.

Some of the most common injuries we see are:

  • Sprains and strains during play.
  • Cuts and scrapes, which may happen in many different ways. For example, when running through bushes with thorns, or stepping on glass during a walk.
  • Burns. These may happen if your cat walks over a hot stove or your dog walks on a hot sidewalk, for example.
  • Bites from other dogs or cats. This is most common at dog parks, or with cats who roam outside.
  • Falls from furniture, which can result in bruises or even bone fractures.
  • Being hit by a car.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. But, no matter what the cause, a veterinary visit and full physical exam can determine the best course of treatment to help your pal heal as quickly as possible.

Treatment for dog and cat wounds

As you can imagine, the treatment plan will vary greatly depending on the nature of your pet’s wound. After all, a broken bone requires very different therapy than a minor sprain.

Your veterinarian will begin with a physical exam. You might wonder why a full physical is necessary with an obvious wound. The thing is, sometimes it’s so easy to focus on the main injury, that other issues may get missed. For example, if your dog has been hit by a car and their leg is painful, it’s also important to listen to their lungs and feel their abdomen, to be sure there are no internal injuries in addition to the painful leg.

After a physical exam, your trusted vet will customize a treatment plan to maximize your pet’s healing and prevent complications. While the plan will vary based on your pet’s needs, here are some common treatments that are done for many different types of wounds:

  • Thorough cleaning.
  • Medications for pain.
  • Antibiotics for open wounds at risk of infection.
  • Topical creams, ointments, or sprays.
  • Stabilizing the wound for healing: This could mean stitches for a cut, or a splint or cast for certain types of fractures.
  • Protecting the wound: Usually, this involves a soft bandage. It may also include an Elizabethan collar to prevent your pet from licking and further irritating the wound.

For medications: Finish everything as prescribed, otherwise an infection could become more difficult to treat. And *never* give human medications or home remedies without first checking with your vet, as some can be harmful to pets.

Caring for a wound at home

If your dog or cat has an open wound that’s been treated by a vet, the most important things you can do are keeping the area clean, and not letting your pet make it worse. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Follow all of your vet’s instructions for cleaning the area.
  • If there’s a drain in place, allow the wound’s fluid to drain, and then use a warm, wet cloth to gently wipe up the material and prevent the drain from getting clogged.
  • Use an Elizabethan collar as instructed so your pet can’t lick the wound and make it worse, and can’t remove stitches or drains.
  • Follow-up with your vet on time, whether for drain or stitch removal, or a recheck exam. Even short delays can be bad for your pet and make the whole healing process take longer.

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Caring for a bandage at home

  • Follow all of your vet’s instructions for bandage changes.
  • Inform your vet right away if the bandage slips, gets wet, has a funny smell, or anything else out of the ordinary.
  • Use an Elizabethan collar if recommended — that way, your pet can’t remove the bandage prematurely. 

Injury and wound prevention

Unfortunately, not all injuries can be prevented. But there are some basic precautions you can take to keep the risk as low as possible:

  • Keep your dog or cat indoors, and don’t allow them to roam free outside.
    • For dogs, when outside, keep them on a leash or within a fenced yard. For dog parks, get to know the other dogs and pet parents there, and be sure you feel safe with the environment before letting your dog off-leash.
    • Cats are a bit trickier to supervise outside, since they can jump fences. However, cats can be leash-trained or walked in pet strollers, and may benefit from a “catio” (an enclosed outdoor play area) if you have a home conducive to building one.
  • Know your pet’s whereabouts while cooking, or using things like power tools or paper shredders.
  • If you find that sharp objects or hot cement are a concern during walks, try using hiking booties for dogs.
  • If your pet has difficulty jumping on and off furniture, provide them with steps.

General care for a furry friend with a wound

For most traumatic injuries and wounds, you’ll want to let your pet rest as much as possible until they’re healed, unless instructed otherwise. Be sure to follow care instructions closely, too.

It’s never fun to watch your furry best friend deal with a wound, and sometimes bandage changes can be a nuisance. However, by following instructions and providing the care your dog or cat needs, you’ll avoid complications and help them heal faster and get back to their normal selves.

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