Despite how careful owners may be with their dogs, there is a fairly large chance that the dog may encounter some sharp object, piece of glass or even get into a fight with another dog sometime in their life. Any of these issues can potentially cause some type of injury to the skin and muscle including wounds, cuts, punctures and abrasions. Wounds in dogs can range from slight scratches that just need cleaning and disinfecting through to very deep and serious cuts or wounds that may need suturing or extensive treatment.
The first thing to keep in mind whenever you are treating an injured dog is that typically most dogs have a very high threshold for pain. This means that even a moderate or severe injury to a dog may not seem to be affecting the dog adversely while in reality it can be serious and life threatening. Another major consideration is that animals in pain are going to respond by instinct, not through a logical thought process. Any dog that has a injury should be considered to have the potential to snap or bite at anyone trying to render first aid since it is likely that washing, cleaning and bandaging the wound is going to cause additional pain. For minor cuts and scrapes this isn't as concerning if you are dealing with your own dog, but if you are working with a strange dog always make sure they are completely restrained and that you are safe from being bitten.
It is easy to make a gentle and effective muzzle for any size of dog with fabric, a towel or even a t-shirt. A leash can also be used to make a muzzle if you don't have anything else. The first step is to tie a loose slip knot in the center of the leash or the fabric strip to form a large closed loop. The loop needs to be large enough to easily slip over the dog's muzzle, even if the jaws are open or the dog is panting. Hold either end of the fabric or leash and guide the loop over the muzzle, about half way to the back of the outside edges of the lips but not directly at the stop to prevent eye injury. Gently and quickly tighten the loop using the ends of the fabric or leash and tie a half knot on the top of the muzzle just to keep it from slipping off or allowing the jaw to open at this time. Bring each end down under the jaw, cross over and bring around behind the base of the skull below the ears. Tie this in a bow knot that can quickly be removed should the dog experience any respiratory distress.
The muzzle needs to be loose enough to allow breathing, if the dog is having difficulty in breathing loosen off the knot at the back of the head as well as the one on the top of the muzzle. While the muzzle is on the dog cannot pant so only keep it on the as long as necessary for your protection while treating the dog, then remove it as soon as possible.
One the dog is muzzled, if necessary, take time to check the whole body. This is particularly true if there is a lot of blood or if the dog has been in a fight or accident where there is likely more than one point of injury. If the cut or wound is deep or shallow the first step is to clean the area. Use warm water to flush out dirt, debris and any other materials that may be embedded in the tissue. A 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution can also be used for the initial flushing out of the wound but should not be used after as it can actually prevent the new tissue from forming. For deep cuts you may also need to use scissors to trim the hair around the cuts to keep the area clean. Keep flushing the wound with warm but not hot water and then dry the area with a soft cloth. Don't use Kleenex or paper towels as these can further contaminate the area and are not sterile. Gauze from a first aid kit is a great option if available.
Apply direct pressure to deep wounds or wounds that are bleeding profusely. If you notice a deep wound that isn't bleeding or just seems to be seeping, check to make sure that an object is not embedded in the flesh. If it is and it is small or loose, remove it with tweezers or your fingers. If the object is large or firmly in place, don't attempt to remove it as this can trigger massive blood loss if an artery or vein has been damaged. Instead apply gauze over the wound and stabilize the dog by wrapping the area in towels or blankets to prevent any movement. Immediately get the dog to a vet for proper emergency medical care. Don't put anything in or on the wound in the case of embedded objects unless directed by your vet.
Even minor wounds such as cuts to the pads of the feet will bleed profusely with some dogs, which is the bodies natural way of flushing out the wound. Don't try to stop the bleeding by using tensor or elastic bandages as this can restrict blood flow and lead to tissue death in the area of the injury. Mild pressure and covering the wound to keep it as clean as possible is your first option for treatment.
After treatment of minor cuts and scrapes it is important to observe the area every day to be able to respond to any signs of surface infection or deep tissue infection. Watch for any signs of swelling, redness, foul smelling seepage from the wound or any puss. Dry wounds should be gently washed with warm water and a mild antibacterial soap every day to aid in new tissue formation. Antibacterial cream can be applied if necessary to minor wounds but should not be used on open area that are larger than 1.5cm in diameter. Any signs of infection should be examined by your vet, especially in the case of puncture wounds or wounds that heal over and then swell up. Both these situations are potentially life threatening types of infections that need to be drained and cleaned, often through surgical procedures.
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