home care for dogs with lacerations

Home Care for a Dog with a Laceration

A laceration is a wound produced by the tearing of body tissue. The edges can be smooth, jagged or irregular depending on the initiating factor.

Lacerations are one of the most common reasons dogs go to veterinary emergency rooms. They can be a minor skin problem or a very significant major problem.

Depending on the underlying cause, depth and force of the trauma, there can be damage to underlying soft tissues and structures. Muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels can be damaged. Penetration into the chest or abdominal cavity can even occur as a result of the trauma that produced the laceration.

Minor trauma may only produce skin damage. Deeper or more forceful trauma can cause severe damage to the underlying structures that could even be life-threatening. The traumas that most commonly lead to lacerations are usually associated with contamination from debris, dirt, and bacteria.

Below are answers to some common questions pet owners ask when their dogs suffer lacerations. This information will focus on what you can do for your dog at home.

What Causes a Laceration on a Dog?

Laceration can be caused by a variety of traumatic events. The most common causes of lacerations in dogs include getting cut on glass or sharp objects in the yard (especially rough wires around fencing), jumping through a glass window, bite wounds and injuries that break the skin as a result of being hit by a car. Some dogs come in bleeding with a laceration and their owners never know what happened.

Home Treatment for a Dog with Laceration

Specific treatment of a laceration depends on the degree and depth of injury, in addition to associated or secondary injuries. It is very difficult to give advice here without knowing the full extent of the injury. The best thing to do is to take your dog to your veterinarian to help you determine the extent of the injury.

If you cannot take your dog to your veterinarian – you can do the following:

4. If you place the bandage on a leg, make sure it is not too tight. Check the toes every few hours for swelling. If you see swelling – remove or loosen the bandage.

5. Observe your dog. For minor injuries, your dog should be otherwise acting normal – eating and drinking okay, no vomiting or diarrhea, normal urine and bowel movements. If your dog is vomiting, having diarrhea, acting lethargic, or if your dog won’t eat or appears to be having difficulty breathing – please see your veterinarian.

6. Keep your dog from bothering the wound or bandage. One way to do this is to cover it. Or, if your dog is bothering the bandage, you can prevent him from getting to it by using an e-collar. (An e-collar is a cone-shaped object that goes around the neck of a pet to prevent him from licking or chewing.) For more information, go to: “E-collars in Dogs”. You can also cover some wounds on the chest or abdomen with a t-shirt. Small dogs can often be dressed in toddler t-shirts. Simply place your dog’s head through the head opening and the front legs through the armholes of the shirt. This can work well to cover wounds on the sides of the body that a bandage cannot easily cover.

7. If you see drainage coming through the bandage – change it. Examine the wound. If no drainage is coming through – the bandage should be examined and changed in 8 hours. If the wound looks clean, dry and closed, you may be able to leave the bandage off. Make sure your dog can’t lick at the wound.

8. Change the bandage as needed. This may be once to 3 times daily until it looks like the wound is healing.

9. Signs of wound infection are swelling, pain, redness, foul odor, and discharge – especially bloody or yellow discharge.

10. If possible, take your dog’s temperature twice a day. Normal temperature in a dog is approximately 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog’s temperature is over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, contact your veterinarian.

This is important! If you notice any of the following signs, SEE YOUR VETERINARIAN:

When Is a Dog’s Laceration an Emergency?

A laceration is always an emergency and should always be examined by a veterinarian. Even small cuts can be deep and can penetrate important structures that require sutures or additional treatment.

For more details or related topics, go to Laceration in Dogs and Bite Wounds in Dogs.

Disclaimer: Advice given in the Home Care series of articles is not meant to replace veterinary care. When your pet has a problem, it is always best to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. But in some cases, it is not always possible to seek veterinary care. You could be traveling, it could be after hours and there are no 24-hour clinics near you, or maybe you simply can’t afford it. Whatever the reason, when your pet has a problem, you need answers. Most vets will not give you any information over the phone – they will tell you to bring your pet in for an office visit. So, when these difficult situations arise, many pet owners don’t know what to do – and they end up doing the wrong thing because they don’t have sound veterinary advice. When your pet has a problem and you can’t see your vet, the information in this series of articles can help guide you so that you will not inadvertently cause harm to your pet. However, this information is not a replacement for veterinary care.