First Aid Basics
Cut and Wound Care
All cuts and wounds need to be evaluated by your veterinarian. Even a small cut or wound can become infected. If the cut or wound is bleeding heavily, seems hot or swollen, or if your dog appears in pain, you should go to the vet immediately. If your dog is in severe pain, he might try to bite you when you approach him. To prevent this, you can make a temporary muzzle by using a towel, scarf, or other soft but sturdy object. Make a loop out of the object, and, standing behind your dog, slip the loop over your dog’s muzzle. Don’t leave the muzzle on for more than you need (not more than 10 minutes), and do not leave your dog unattended while muzzled.
In the case of heavy bleeding, to control the bleeding before your get to the vet, apply a pressure dressing. Put several pieces of sterile gauze on the wound and press them tightly down on the wound with either your hand or with a bandage. The pressure should be enough to slow the blood flow, but not so intense as to cut off circulation. If the area below the pressure dressing becomes swollen, reduce the pressure because you are cutting off your dog’s circulation. In the case of severe bleeding of an extremity where the pressure bandage is not controlling the blood loss, you can put a tourniquet above the wound between the wound and your dog’s heart. You can make almost any item – a t-shirt, sheet or towel – into a tourniquet. It is very important, however, to RELEASE the tourniquet every 10 minutes. If the tourniquet is left on too long, you can cause your dog’s extremity to lose circulation which may require it to be amputated.
Minor Cuts and Wounds
To treat minor cuts and wounds, first clean the wound area with warm water or an antiseptic solution like hydrogen peroxide. Gently pat dry the wound area. Then, apply a first-aid ointment such as Neosporin®. If your dog excessively licks the wound you will need to make him wear an Elizabethan collar to protect the wound. An Elizabethan collar is a protective collar, often shaped like a lampshade, that prevents your dog from being able to reach and lick or bite at wounds or cuts on his body. Elizabethan collars are available at many pet supply stores and from your vet.
To learn about treating bite wounds click here.