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Wounds: First Aid

Date Published: 12/31/1994
Date Reviewed/Revised: 07/10/2018

A wound is any break in the continuity of the tissues of the body, either external or internal. Injured pets can act in unusual and unpredictable ways. When dealing with an injured pet, remember to protect yourself from being bitten by using a muzzle or heavy towel as needed to gently restrain your pet.

Many wounds will require pain control and sedation or general anesthesia for cleaning and closure once your pet has been evaluated by a veterinarian. Some wounds, like those inflicted by another animal, can become worse before they get better as dead tissue is removed by the body’s immune system. This process can take many days or weeks and may require repeated bandaging, repeated surgeries or skin grafting for severe wounds.

What to Do

Deep Wounds (generally those that are bleeding or have exposed muscle, fat, or bone)

  • Stop the bleeding using direct pressure. 
  • Do not attempt to clean the wound unless instructed to do so by a veterinarian. 
  • Protect the wound from contamination by applying a water or saline-soaked compress. Do not remove it until instructed to do so by a veterinarian.  
  • Immobilize the wound to prevent further damage.  
  • Provide shock care if necessary.  
  • Obtain professional veterinary care. Transport the animal with the affected area facing up.

Superficial Wounds (wounds that do not penetrate all the way through the skin)

  • Stop the bleeding. Clean and bandage the wound as instructed in bandaging.

What NOT to Do

  • Do not apply materials (other than those mentioned) to the wound unless specifically instructed  to by your veterinarian.
  • Do not look under the bandage to see if the bleeding has stopped.