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How to Treat Open Wounds on Dogs

| Updated September 26, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • Muzzle

  • Leash

  • Warm water

  • Tweezers

  • Scissors

  • Antibiotic ointment

  • Gauze

  • Blanket

Often our curious pets find themselves in less than safe situations. Even well behaved, trained dogs can encounter danger that leads to injury. After an injury from a fight or being hit by a vehicle, a dog may be left with an open wound that needs attention right away. Although the minutes following an accident can be stressful and chaotic, being knowledgeable and prepared can help you save an injured dog’s life.

Assure safety. Even a mild-mannered and well-behaved dog may lash out when injured. Before approaching an injured dog, make sure dangers such as other animals or whatever may have injured the dog are no longer present. Use a muzzle, if available (or make one out of gauze), to prevent reactive, self-defense biting from the injured dog. Since injured animals may attempt to run away, leash or confine the dog without making him feel trapped or threatened.

Assess and clean wound. Determine if the dog has a minor abrasion (skin-deep scratch without tissue damage) or a more serious, deeper wound. If possible, wash your hands before addressing the wound. Remove debris and dirt by flushing with warm water; use a tweezers to remove any particles such as shards of glass or small stones. After flushing, attempt to clip any hair surrounding the wound. Apply an antibiotic ointment to infection-prone wounds such as bites.

Apply pressure. Use clean gauze or fabric to wrap the wound to help slow the bleeding. It is important not to remove the gauze to check the wound, as doing so will slow the clotting process that is needed to stop bleeding. Apply a tourniquet to any area with severe blood loss. Apply the tourniquet between the wound and the heart, making sure to not cut off circulation completely. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends loosening “the tourniquet for 20 seconds every 15-20 minutes.” In situations where a tourniquet is needed, contact a veterinarian or emergency veterinary service immediately.

Watch for shock. Following a traumatic event such as a severe injury, a dog may go into shock. Symptoms of shock include shallow, rapid breathing, pale gums, a dazed expression or weakness. In the case of shock or if the dog is unconscious, keep the dog warm and restrained and seek veterinary care immediately. If he is unconscious, keep his head level with his body.


  • Keep a dog first aid kit in your home and vehicle for emergencies. Kits should include a rectal thermometer, nail clippers, scissors, tweezers, a blanket, gauze, antibiotic ointment and Betadine, hydrogen peroxide and water.


  • First aid should be used as triage only. You should always consult a veterinarian after an injury.