This advice does not substitute a proper consultation with a veterinarian and is intended only as a guide. We recommend you follow all advice as given by your veterinarian and contact them immediately with any concerns. You must follow medications as dispensed by your veterinary clinic and monitor your pet closely during their recovery period noting any changes and contacting your veterinary clinic as needed.
Cats and dogs are susceptible to everyday minor injuries including cuts, bruises, scrapes and burst abscesses that are not life threatening and will heal with treatment, more major wounds that cause severe blood loss may require sutures, surgery, drains and more intensive care.
What to watch for:
Fresh wounds will show some or all of the following:
- Missing hair
- Cut, scraped or torn skin
- Tenderness or pain
If a wound is not seen when it is fresh, it can become infected. In addition to swelling and tenderness, you may observe the following:
- Discharge such as pus from the wound
- Fever or lethargy in your pet
If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound, it may take 5 to 10 minutes for bleeding to stop. Once it does, tape the gauze in place, removing it may remove the clot and bleeding will restart.
Check for other wounds.
If there is no bleeding and the cut or scrape appears minor, try cleaning the wound. Use an antiseptic solution or saline to gently clean around the wound and pour the solution over the wound; however if the wound is long or deep or if it is a puncture wound clean around the edges but do not pour on the wound itself, leave this to the veterinarian.
Your veterinarian will carefully examine the wound, and check for others, they will then clip the hair around the wound and clean it. Sedation and radiographs may also be required as may sutures or a drain dependent on the wound. The basic goals of treatment are to prevent infection and speed healing, this can be done by:
- Small scrapes and cuts often require nothing more than a through cleaning and a suture or stable to hold the edges together.
- Long/deep cuts require careful cleaning to be sure there is no debris in the wound and careful examination to determine the extent of the damage. If the wound is less than 12 hours old and not heavily contaminated it will probably be sutured or closed.
- Puncture wounds, especially from animal bites, often have extensive damage under the skin that is not visible on initial exam. After removing any possible foreign materials, these wounds have to be thoroughly probed and then carefully cleaned with large volumes of antiseptic solution. Sometimes these wounds must be opened surgically to treat damage deep in the tissues.
- Meanwhile, puncture wounds and/or wounds that are over 12 hours old, contaminated or showing signs of infection, abscessed, or missing large amounts of skin are usually not sutured. Instead they are covered with bandages until such time as the wound is healed or the wound is healthy enough that sutures will actually help the wound rather than trap infection inside.
- Large or deep wounds, contaminated wounds, or multiple puncture wounds often require the placement of a penrose drain, this is a soft rubber tubing that allows excess, contaminated fluids to drain out keeping a small opening available for flushing the wound.
- Your veterinarian will give your pet medication for infection and possibly for pain which you will need to continue at home following veterinary instructions.
The most important thing you can do once your pet is home is provide good nursing care for the next 1-2 weeks. This may include:
- Keeping your pet from licking, chewing or scratching at the wounds – this may require the use of an Elizabethan collar.
- Keeping bandages clean and dry and changing them as directed by your veterinarian.
- Giving any medication as prescribed.
- Penrose drains are removed 3-5days after placement.
- Sutures are removed 10-14days after being placed.
- Antibiotics are generally given for 7-10days.
- Pain medication if used is usually for 5-7days.
- Bandages may be left on for as little as 24 hours up to several weeks, bandage changing may be daily to start with longer intervals between changes later in the healing process.