Simple First Aid to Treat Your Dog's Cuts and Small Wounds at Home

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

I realize that there are some wounds that a lot of dog families are not willing to take care of at home.

If it is the middle of the night, however, and you do not have access to an emergency vet, if the roads are iced over and you cannot travel, or if you are without a car and there is no one available, are you willing to just let your dog suffer?

I would not be willing to. If you are not, find out what to do.

Grab Your First Aid Kit!

It is vital that you have a simple first aid kit at home at all times. (Read this article and get all of the supplies before you ever need them.)

In order to treat any cuts or small wounds that your dog might get the kit should include some sterile bandages, some tape, a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide and another of betadine or chlorhexidine, disinfecting solutions that will clean any wound.

If you already have a good first aid kit for people at home, you can use that, but you should also have elastic wrapping that he will not tear off and a pair of bandage scissors used with dogs. These scissors will not allow you to damage your dog when they wiggle around as you are bandaging their wound. Buy them at your local pharmacy when you are purchasing betadine.

Once you have your first aid kit out and before you get started, please try to get someone to help you hold the dog and use a muzzle. (I use the one listed here since it is inexpensive and vital when treating wounds—almost all dogs will bite when in pain. Buy the appropriate size for your dog and keep it on hand in your first aid kit.)

Even a dog that would not normally bite will be upset and may bite during wound cleaning. If you do not have your muzzle yet look at the video below and apply the next best thing before starting.

First Aid for Your Dog's Wound

There are a few simple steps taking care of a wound but it all depends on whether the dog is bleeding. If they are bleeding you need to deal with that first. Bleeding from a bite wound is a lot less serious than bleeding from running into a glass door or jumping out of a window, stepping on glass or metal, etc. Here are the basic techniques that every dog owner should know for taking care of dog injuries at home:

  1. Try to stop the bleeding by applying pressure. Put something on top of the wound and put pressure on it to allow the small vessels to clot and stop seeping blood. If the wound is small you can use a gauze square but if it is large just grab a clean towel. The wound is not clean yet and it is not a big deal if you use something from around the house.
  2. Stop more serious bleeding. If the bleeding from your dog´s wound is really bad, there might be a "pumper", and blood will shoot out every time their heart beats. This is common if the wound is deep, like a cut foot. It will do no good to apply pressure to this wound since it will still bleed. Go into your first aid kit and grab a pair of forceps, reach down into the wound and grab the tip of the vessel and clamp it shut. This is not easy, but keep trying. If you are not able to stop the bleeding the dog might bleed out and die. If the bleeder will not stop and you cannot clamp it you will have to do whatever you can to get them to a veterinary emergency clinic.
  3. Clean the wound. A bite wound can be quite small but since a tooth "injects" bacteria under the skin it will be dirty and infected. “Road rash” will be a lot larger and may look worse but is actually a lot cleaner. You can use the betadine from your first aid kit to clean around the wound but to actually clean it you can use plain tap water. (Use the large syringe in your first aid kit. Fill it up with water and spray the wound to flush it any bacteria.) Tap water is less irritating than most of the things we used to pour into the wound. If there is any gravel, twigs, or other material in the wound now is the time to take them out.
  4. Disinfect the wound. Your first aid kit should include some dilute betadine or a mild chlorhexidine that you can use to clean wounds. Never clean a dogs wound with hydrogen peroxide. It will damage the tissue and cause the wound to heal even slower.
  5. Apply a temporary bandage. This is not a regular bandage with tape and a roll of elastic. A gauze square will work fine on most wounds. Put a small amount of KY to top of the wound to keep any hair from falling in and then just put your temporary bandage on top of it. You do not need to tape up the wound or wrap the foot at this point. Just cover it up so it will not get even dirtier as you are working around it.
  6. Clip the hair around the wound. This is really important to help keep the wound clean. Use your scissors (be careful!) to clip the long hair around the wound and collect the hair so it doesn’t get the wound dirty. Wash your hands to remove all of the hair before finishing.
  7. Remove the temporary bandage, clean off the lubricant, and clean it again if you need to. As long as the wound is clean at this point, you can go ahead and finish.
  8. Close the wound if possible. If you are doing this at home you obviously cannot suture the wound; if you have cleaned it and flushed it with water go ahead and pull the edges together before bandaging, if this is even possible. (Butterfly bandages work great on a small cut.)
  9. Clean open wounds again. Open wounds are more likely to become infected. If the wound is still open clean it again with some water and use a gauze pad to gently scrub the tissue before disinfecting.
  10. Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment. You should have a small tube in your first aid kit. This layer should be thin, just enough to keep more bacteria from entering the wound. Cover it up immediately so that the dog does not just lick it off. (If the wound is somewhere that cannot be covered and you are worried that the dog is going to lick the antibiotic off, it is better to use coconut oil since if he does lick it will not hurt him.)
  11. Put on a final bandage. If the cut is on your dog´s side or back, a square bandage will do. If it is on one of the limbs you can put on a square bandage and then put an elastic bandage on top to hold it in place. If you do use a roll bandage on the limbs you need to make sure the toes are visible when you are finished. The toes on a normal dog are parallel and close together. Check the foot every hour to make sure that the toes look exactly the same as when you started (compare the toes to the foot that is not bandaged if you need to remember what normal looks like). If there is any swelling you need to take the bandage off and wrap it a lot looser. If you do not you can cause your dog to lose their leg.

If you have done a good job cleaning the wound your dog might be okay with simple first aid. A small cut will be healed up within about a week, but if it is a larger case of road rash expect it to take longer.

Will My Dog Need Anitbiotics and Pain Meds?

Wounds that are very dirty (like a bite wound) will probably need antibiotics if not flushed immediately. If the wound needs to be sutured, or it is a large open wound that will become infected, take them into your veterinarian as soon as possible to start antibiotic therapy.

If the wound is severely inflamed or is swollen with pus, your dog has an infection and should be put on antibiotics. Take them in to see your regular vet at that time. Your vet will also need to determine if your dog needs pain meds, based on the severity of the wound.

Should My Dog's Wound Be Closed or Left Open?

A small simple wound may be closed after cleaning. Small wounds that are sutured heal quickly and produce very little scar tissue. If you have cleaned up your dogs wound well, you can try to appose the edges and apply a bandage that will allow it to close and heal even quicker. Some wounds, especially on tissue like that of the nose and footpad, cannot be closed with sutures and are sealed with a surgical adhesive that is similar to super glue.

If your dog has jumped through a glass window and has numerous small wounds that are bleeding, closing them after cleaning is sometimes the best alternative, but if you can apply some pressure and bandage the wounds it is better. As super glue is working it gets hot and really hurts; don’t be surprised if he tries to get away or bite. Only do this if absolutely necessary.

Do not use this super glue technique on a bite wound. Bite wounds are dirty and you will be trapping the bacteria and it will cause an abscess; no matter how bad it looks it must heal from the inside/out.

Do not use super glue to close wounds after road rash, do not use it on lacerations that are dirty, do not use it if there is any chance the wound might be infected. These wounds should be left open.

Cleaning Up

When you are finished there will be a mess. Hydrogen peroxide breaks up the red blood cells and makes cleaning up a lot easier.

Your dog will probably do best to remove any bandage. Most pet superstores sell plastic collars that will keep your dog from reaching their bandage. If you are not able to bandage your dog´s wound, an Elizabethan collar will also prevent your dog from licking on the wound. Dog saliva will not make a wound heal faster.

Check the wound daily to make sure that it is not infected or in need of further treatment. Your dog will appreciate your efforts.

Questions & Answers

Question: My dog has a deep cut in his skin. It didn’t hurt the muscle, and it’s a centimeter wide. What is the best treatment for this?

Answer: The best thing you can do for a deep cut, even if it does not sever any muscles, is take your dog to your regular vet and have the skin closed with sutures.

Question: My dog has bite punctures on his legs. I tried to pick him up so I could clean them, but he growled and tried to bite me. One of the punctures is very deep. I don’t have the money for an emergency vet check. What can I do?

Answer: Bite wounds are very dirty. The wounds will need to be cleaned thoroughly. The vet will sedate your dog, put a muzzle on him so that he cannot bite, and then flush each wound before putting your dog on antibiotics.

If you cannot take your dog to a vet the only thing you can do is to clean each wound with povidone iodine. You will need to muzzle your dog first. If you cannot muzzle him so that you do not get bit, there is not another option.

Question: My dog had surgery and was licking the wound. Instead of putting a cone on, I bought a band-aid type bandage and put it on her thinking it would help. I didn’t realize how sticky it would be, and I can’t get it off without seriously hurting her. Is there anything I can use to help with the removal? Or will it fall off by itself in time?

Answer: It will eventually fall off, but the wound underneath the bandage can be pretty severely infected by that time. When someone brings in a dog with a stuck bandage, I usually moisten it with hydrogen peroxide. You can also use betadine as it is less stressful if the dog has an open wound.

Do not use alcohol. It will sting, and your dog might get upset and bite.

Question: My miniature pincher had a small growth on his shoulder, I noticed it was gone but there is an oozing hole there now. Can I put cortisone cream on it?

Answer: The reason I do not put cortisone cream on a dogs wound is that they lick it. Those creams are not meant to be consumed.

A much better thing to do is to clean it with povidone iodine. I also treat most small wounds with coconut oil to increase healing time.

Question: My dog has been knuckling, and has worn a hole into his foot above the toe, and has gotten it infected. What can I do? I'm on a fixed income, and cannot afford vet bills now that I am disabled.

Answer: Cleaning it up should be no problem. You can use a mild product like povidone iodine. I do not recommend you put any antibiotic cream on the spot since dogs usually just lick it off, but if it is still inflamed some virgin coconut oil might help.

If your dog is knuckling over though, he may have a neurological problem or be suffering from an orthopedic disease. I realize it is going to be difficult to get him in for an exam, but you need to try to get him to your regular vet for an exam as soon as you can.

Question: My dog has two wounds around the neck, how should I clean them?

Answer: It depends if they are scratches, deep lacerations, bite wounds, etc. If they are bites, they should just be cleaned and left open to heal by secondary intention. If the wound is deep, like a laceration from a knife, it can be cleaned up as described in the article, but will need to be sutured closed by your regular vet.

Question: My dog has a small puncture wound. I cleaned it and put on antibiotic cream. Will my dog be ok without going to a vet?

Answer: A small puncture wound is usually fine if you cleaned up and left it open so that an abscess does not form. Keep an eye on it, but you should have nothing to worry about.

If your dog has a large wound that requires stitches, however, he will need to be seen by the vet.

Question: My dog was hit by a car, and she has a scrape on her head above her eye that looks like road rash. It's not deep, but I'm really worried but can't make it to the vet. What should I do?

Answer: Road rash cannot be closed up, so the best thing you can do is clean it up. Use povidone iodine or chlorhexidine, make a lather as you scrub and clean with plenty of water.

Be careful! This hurts, and some dogs will bite.

Even if you cannot make it to the vet at this time, take her in as soon as possible for a thorough physical exam.

Question: Can I put super glue on my dog's bite wound if I clean it? I don’t have the money for a visit to the emergency vet.

Answer: If you close the wound up with super glue, it will probably become infected and then break apart, leaving an even bigger wound.

If you cannot take your dog to the emergency vet the best thing to do is to clean the wound and then leave it open to heal. This is called "healing by secondary intention." It is more likely to leave a scar, which is why people do not want their wounds to heal up that way, but dogs do not usually care about scars, so that might be the best option.

Question: My dog lost a toenail that got caught up while playing with a neighbor. Will the nail grow back? We cleaned the area with water, stopped the bleeding, placed a small amount of bacitracin in the area and used sterile gauze to bandage it. Is this sufficient?

Answer: You did a good job cleaning it up, but you should still monitor it for the next few weeks and treat it if it becomes infected. You can use an over-the-counter iodine solution (that you can purchase at a neighborhood drug store) to keep it clean.

Yes, the nail will grow back. Just keep it from becoming infected in the meantime.

Question: Can I use NewSkin on my dog?

Answer: As it sets it tends to burn. If your dog is very mild it can be used in place of sutures but you may end up getting bitten.

The problem with sutures is secodary infections. If the wound is not very clean, the bacteria multiply, the wound breaks open, and you are dealing with a problem even worse than before. It is often better to let a small wound stay open and heal naturally.

Question: My dog jumped into a lake when he got loose. Unfortunately, there were branches so I couldn't jump in to get him. He eventually got out but he had a cut on his head. He's not bleeding but has blood on the wound. Do I have to worry?

Answer: It is impossible for me to judge how deep the wound is over the internet. I would recommend following the directions in the article. If you clean the wound and it is deep you may need to take him to your regular veterinarian. It does not sound like an emergency so please do not worry.

© 2012 Dr Mark

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 24, 2020:

scoobydoo12--if the wound is small pressure is usually enough, and if it is simple and cannot be licked a thin layer of triple antibiotic ointment is good, but if you are worried about the dog licking it coconut oil is better.

[email protected] on August 23, 2020:

My toy yorkie has a scratch on his face (top nose) it's not deep it only bleed for a few minutes what can I put on his nose to take care of the wound

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 06, 2020:

Ankit-you need to consult a local vet. I cannot tell you what needs to be done without seeing the puppy.

Ankit on August 06, 2020:

I have 1 paralysed puppy

what yo do ..?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 03, 2020:

Kiran--if the stitches broke down the wound is infected. The only alternative is to let is heal by second intention, which means to leave it open and just let it close naturally. Most wounds do okay if kept clean but you should talk to the vet that did the sutures and ask if your dog should be on antibiotics.

Kiran R T on August 02, 2020:

Sir my dog has small wound on his left side of his stomach about cms and our vet applied a stitches on it but now he was looses his stitches and the skin had opened so now what can I do

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 19, 2020:

Mavis, being stung in the the face or throat is different than stung on the foot. Where? Swelling needs to be taken down,usually with benadryl, warm compresses sometimes.

mavis webster on July 18, 2020:

my dog has been stung what do i do

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on May 22, 2020:

Breana, if no instructions are given, the person picking up the dog just needs to stand there and ask what to do. Asking someone later is not the answer.

When a wound is not stitched up immediately, it often fails because the tissue is weak. The only thing to do now is let the wound heal by second intention. There will be a scar, the hair will not grow in to cover it (depending on how big it is). The dog may need to be on antibiotics for a secondary infection, and perhaps daily cleaning of the open wound.

BreAna on May 17, 2020:

My friends Weiner dog has a bite wound under the belly and back leg. She took to vet and they stitched it. The stitches didn't hold so she took her back and had it stitched yet again. When my friend picked her up from vet it was wrapped up. No instructions were given. So a day later we tried to unwrap her to find they did not hold once again. What can we do now?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 11, 2020:

Anita, if it is just an abrasion, and does not need to be sutured, you can trim his nails, clean it with sterile water, and then use coconut oil to promote healing. (Do not use antibiotic cream. He will lick it off and he will be sick.)

If it is a laceration you will need to take him to your vet for it to be stitched up.

Anita on April 09, 2020:

My Weiner dog was wearing a sweater and it dug into his leg and the skin looks like it open and I can't afford to take too a vet he's 17 yr old and blind so what home remedies can I use for him to fix it

Sue on March 29, 2020:

How long during the day should i leave a bandage on my pet's foot? It doesn't seem to be healing like it should. I have a antibiotic with steroids in it from my vet. And have been using it for 5 days now.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 20, 2020:

Ramone, if your dog has a deep cut cleaning it is not enough. it will need stitches so take your dog to your vet.

Ramone on March 16, 2020:

My dog was cut by glass and it’s a deep cut what should I do, I cleaned and raped it but don’t know what to do Next

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 14, 2019:

Ally, if the cut is not serious enough to take to your vet, clean it as described in the article.

Ally on October 12, 2019:

My dog was mistakenly cut by sizzers what should I do

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 05, 2019:

Rupesh--follow the instructions in the article. If a dog is bitten you DO NOT want to close the wound.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 05, 2019:

Priyanka--I cannot suggest medicine without even looking at your dogs wound. It needs to be cleaned, and if you have a vet locally it needs to be looked at and possibly put on antibiotics. I do not know how bad it is.

Priyanka on June 05, 2019:

As i was taking him on vehicle he tried jumping and got wound so please suggest me some medicine.

Rupesh on June 04, 2019:

What I do when another dog bites my own Dog ?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 20, 2019:

Kathy, can you call the vet that did the surgery? He or she may want to see your dog. That is best.

If you cannot, just keep your dog from licking and chewing the incision and making it worse. An elizabethan collar (a cone) is best. You can get one from a pet store.

If there is something sticking out, you will need to take him to an emergency vet to have it sutured.

Kathy on April 20, 2019:

My dog got neutered and he licked his stitches and tore one open what should i do

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 27, 2019:

Jen, I do not understand your comment about not being able to take your dog to the vet because he is big. Your regular vet might want to look into his weight loss.

If the skin is just peeling, that is nothing to worry about. if it is coming off and exposing the tissue underneath, that indicates a deep infection. He will need to be on antibiotics if that is the case.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 27, 2019:

Mike, if your dog is walking fine it could just be scar tissue, which does appear grayish. If he is limping he should see your regular vet.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 27, 2019:

Norma, this is not something to do at home. Contact the vet that did the surgery immediately.

Jen on March 26, 2019:

Hello my dog got into a fight and he has a deep circular open wound on his ear. The surrounding area's skin are peeling off. I applied betadine to disinfect the wound. He is still skinny even though he eats a lot. What should i do ? I cant take him to a vet since he is very big and we cant give him a bath . Thank you

Norma on March 26, 2019:

My Chih had C-section this past Saturday but I noticed an open cut to the side of the surgery and can see fatty tissue. it's a lil over an inch. There is fluid coming out of it. Wat can I use to close

Mike on March 25, 2019:

My dog cut his paw pad and it was healing fine but now it's starting i turn gray. Is that normal?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 24, 2019:

Hi Mark, you did not mention if the opening was very large or small. It is very hard to blame the emergency vet because they usually have to close a wound as fast as possible and staples are a lot faster. Your regular vets technique may have been better, but at this point you are talking about an old wound, and no suture may hold if the tissue is already friable.

As I mentioned, I do not know how big this is. If it is small, I would just let it heal by secondary intention and plan on the dog having a scar there. If it is very large, the vet may try another suture technique to pull the subcutaneous tissue together, but do not be surprised if it falls apart again.

All you can do is keep it clean, keep the dog from licking it and rubbing it on the carpet, and apply the medication as directed.

Mark Du Ree on March 23, 2019:

My dog had a lump on her hip removed 12 days ago. 3 days later, the stitches tore thru and I took her to the emergency vet, who stapled her up. The following Monday, I took her to her regular vet who was very unhappy with the emergency Vet’s shoddy work. He had us bring her in the next morning to remove the staples and re-work the stitching. I took her in again yesterday because she had a bit of oozing, and they glued some of it again. This morning, her wound opened up again. I hesitate to take her to emergency again because of the not so good job they did last weekend. She is on clindamycin already, but I did go ahead and put a little curaseb (chlorhexidine and antifungal) on it, gently. Then I put some ointment (triple antibiotic with bacitracin etc). Her vet said to bring her in again Monday if it broke open again, and he’d try a spiderweb type of suture technique. Is there anything else you suggest in the meantime?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 23, 2019:

Sarah, wounds on the pads can get pretty dirty so need to be cleaned several times a day, not closed up. If you cannot take her to the vet then keep on cleaning it and monitoring healing. If it is not closing, however, you may need to take her in.

Sarah on February 19, 2019:

My dog is 6 months old she cut her paw pad on a piece of glass outside it’s down pretty deep and the cut is towards the edge of her pad but it stopped bleeding by the first day (two days ago) I’ve been cleaning it with cold water and a wound cleaner for dogs I got from oetsmart, I’ve been putting gauz pads and a self adhesive wrap everyday I repeat this Process I’m not in the position to take her to the vet but the wound seems to be looking okay, should I use clear skin glueand go ahead and glue it up or should I let it heal on it’s own and keep doing what I’m doing?

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 06, 2019:

You can get over this problem by applying an Elizabethan collar. If you do not, or are not able, to use on, contact your local vet.

Swati Kochhar on February 03, 2019:

My dog is very hyper and had a minor scratch on his head. I clean the thing and apply ointment but he scratches it everytime and makes it worse. Doesnt let me tie protection collar or anything. Wound is becoming severe. Please advise i am worried.

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on July 20, 2012:

Great article on cleaning wounds. Our dog had a large lump on his neck and it was caused from a grass seed, It took the vets 4 hours as it was right on his jugular vein.

It was terrible and he also burnt his paws running around the pool on real hot day. I wrote an article about being aware of this problem. thanks again from another dog lover

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 29, 2012:

Or that!

DoItForHer on June 29, 2012:

I just rub some dirt in it.

wetnosedogs from Alabama on June 28, 2012:

Thanks for great tips that we can have on hand should we ever need them.

Sharing this important hub.

umairjamal from Islamabad, Pakistan. on June 28, 2012:

Dog is looking injured

Michelle Liew from Singapore on June 28, 2012:

The worst wound I encountered was hen my dog had a cancerous lump that old not heal. Great info, Thanks for the tips!

How to Care For Dog Wounds

Do you know how to take care for dog wounds? You should know as an owner of a pet because this simple first aid can save your puppy’s life. Because ,dogs are prone to get often injured in their course of life. This is because they like to run, fight, and play. Other than that, they are very enthusiastic as well as adventurous animal. And when they get injured, we need to treat them, take care of them, and if the injury is vital, then we need to take them to the veterinarian.

Before starting, I want to mention one thing that we are going to talk about first aid, not any permanent treatment. You should consult a veterinarian quickly after the first aid. So without further talk, let’s get started.

One small bruise is usually nothing to worry about, but large, multiple or unexplained bruises should always be checked by a vet. Large bruises can be very painful, and multiple, unexplained bruises can be a sign of a bleeding problem.

Crush injuries

Crush injuries (when a pet is crushed under or in something) may not break the skin, but can cause hidden damage. Crush injuries are a very serious type of injury - seek vet help straight away if your pet has been crushed (even if you can’t see any wounds).

Bites from Dogs

One of the most common animal bite suffered by puppies, are from other dogs. Dogs may bite to guard their territory or resources, out of fear or protection, or due to prey aggression. Neighborhood dogs, stray or feral dogs, and coyotes can cause tremendous damage and kill your puppy.

Dog bites can be very serious. When the canine teeth puncture the skin, they can rip and tear the muscle beneath when the attacker shakes his head. Think of the damage puppy teeth do when the baby dog grabs and shakes a stuffed toy—and multiply that by two or three times to imagine what happens to the fragile puppy body.

Internal organs can be bruised or torn, bones can fracture, and eyes can pop out of the socket. The shaking may literally “rattle his brains” and result in personality/emotional changes in the same way that “shaken baby syndrome” can damage the developing infant’s brain.

All animal bite wounds need veterinary attention. But first aid can help prevent infection (it takes bacteria about an hour before it causes problems). With severe bite wounds, first aid may be necessary to save your puppy’s life and keep him alive in order to get to the vet for professional care.

Natural Remedies for Cleaning Dog Wounds

Help your dog heal quickly and cleanly using these natural remedies for cleaning dog wounds.


1. Clean cuts, abrasions, or wounds with skin-soothing herbal teas or an herb-vinegar rinse.

2. Spray or apply skin-healing hydrosols, essential oil blends, salves, or other topical products that stimulate cell growth, fight infection, and speed repair.

3. Give your dog enzymes and other supplements that help heal wounds from the inside.

4. Keep natural first-aid products on hand to treat bites, cuts, scrapes, and other wounds as soon as they occur.

Your dog just had surgery, stepped on broken glass, caught her tail in a door, has a puncture wound, got bit or scratched, tangled with barbed wire, or has an abrasion that came from who knows where. You want the wound to heal quickly without bleeding, pain, or infection. The following strategies help with cleaning dog wounds.

Topical Remedies for Cleaning Dog Wounds

Herbal Tea Rinses

Any wound can be cleaned and encouraged to mend with a strongly brewed herbal tea, which can be applied as a spray, rinse, wash, or compress.

Herbs known for their skin-healing properties include comfrey (Symphytum officinale) leaf and root, St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) blossoms, calendula (Calendula officinalis) blossoms, broad- or narrow-leaved plantain (Plantago spp.) leaves, and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) leaves and blossoms. Most herbal supply companies and natural foods markets sell dried herbs that can be used for wound treatment, or you can plant your own. Comfrey and lavender are easy-to-grow perennials, calendula is a self-seeding annual, and plantain and St. John’s wort grow wild in much of the U.S.

Comfrey is important to wound-healing because it contains allantoin, a cell growth stimulant. The plant used to be called “knit bone” because it helps heal broken bones when applied topically. Comfrey works so quickly that it should not be applied to sutures that will have to be removed or to puncture wounds in which bacteria might be trapped by rapidly healing skin, but it is highly effective on scrapes, burns, cuts, insect or spider bites, and other injuries.

Teas containing soothing anti-inflammatory herbs like German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), or lavender help reduce itching and discomfort when sprayed or applied topically.

To brew an herbal tea for wound cleansing or treatment, use 2 teaspoons dried herb or 2 tablespoons fresh herb per cup of boiling water. Cover and let the tea steep until cool. Strain, refrigerate, and apply as needed, up to several times per day.

Vinegar Rinse

Apple cider vinegar has long been used for first aid. Applied to cuts, wounds, dull fur, skin infections, calluses, and itchy areas, vinegar soothes skin, improves the coat, aids healing, and helps repel fleas and ticks.

For an old-fashioned skin tonic, try this simple blend of herbs in vinegar. Combine fresh or dried rosemary leaves, calendula blossoms, rose petals, juniper berries, lavender stalks or flowers, lemon peel, orange peel, sage, cinnamon, cloves, and/or chamomile blossoms, in any combination. Arrange herbs loosely in a glass jar (fill only one-third full with dried herbs) and cover with raw (unpasteurized) organic cider vinegar. Seal tightly and leave the jar in a warm place, in or out of the sun, for a month or longer.

Strain, transfer to storage bottles, and keep in a cool, dark place. Shake well before using to improve coat condition, rinse wounds, heal sores, repel insects, and soothe irritated skin. For dogs with white or very light coats, substitute plain white vinegar.

Willard Water

Willard water concentrate can be added to water, herbal tea, or hydrosols at the rate of 1 teaspoon per quart to help the liquid penetrate and speed the healing of burns, cuts, wounds, and other injuries.

Unrefined Sea Salt

Mineral-rich unrefined sea salt can be added to any tea that will be used to treat wounds.

Lightly salted and strained chamomile tea makes an excellent eye wash. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt per cup of tea.

To make an effective spray for any skin disorder, cut, or wound, combine 4 cups of any herbal tea, such as those described above, with ¾ cup aloe vera juice or gel and ½ cup unrefined sea salt.

Even plain salt water is a wound-healing treatment. Years ago in my dog’s obedience class, a female German Shepherd Dog suffered from a sore that wouldn’t heal despite repeated trips to the veterinarian over several months. When her owner applied a solution of 2 tablespoons unrefined sea salt in ½ cup water, the sore improved the same day and healed within a week.


Hydrosols are the “flower waters” produced along with essential oils during steam distillation. Hydrosols contain trace amounts of essential oil as well as all of the distilled plant’s water-soluble components. As a result, hydrosols are like a strong herbal tea combined with very dilute essential oils, making them safe for topical application even on young puppies and weak or elderly dogs.

Hydrosols are less expensive than essential oils, but they have a shorter shelf life. For best results, buy hydrosols from a reliable distributor and keep them refrigerated.

Leading hydrosols for wound care include the previously mentioned lavender plus helichrysum, also known as immortelle or everlasting (Helichrysum italicum) tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oregano (Origanum vulgaris) and witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana).

Essential oils have significant healing properties, but most essential oils – even those of the highest therapeutic quality – are so concentrated that they can overwhelm a dog’s sensitive olfactory system, causing discomfort, or have a harsh effect on the wound itself. Because they’re so powerful, essential oils can be greatly diluted without losing their effectiveness. Kristen Leigh Bell, author of Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals, recommends approximately 10 drops of essential oil per tablespoon of base oil for canine use. Diluting threapeutic-quality essential oils makes them both gentler and more affordable.

Ten drops of essential oil, such as those from plants listed above, in a tablespoon of base oil is an effective blend for cuts, wounds, scrapes, irritations, burns, bruises, and post-operative incisions.

An even more effective combination would be to use calophyllum or tamanu oil (Calophyllum inophyllum), which is pressed from the fruit and seed of the tamanu tree of India and Polynesia, as the base oil. Calophyllum oil is one of the most prized oils for healing wounds, burns, rashes, insect bites, broken capillaries, skin cracks, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. This oil can be used full-strength or diluted with equal parts jojoba, olive oil, or other base oil.

Any herbal oil can be turned into a salve by adding beeswax or other thickeners, as described in “Healing Oils For Your Dog“.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil’s medium-chain fatty acids fight harmful bacteria, viruses, yeasts, fungi, and parasites, making it a perfect salve or dressing for cuts and wounds of every description. The only down side to coconut oil is that in temperatures below 75oF, it’s solid. Keep some in a small jar or bottle for easy warming in hot water.

Coconut oil is an excellent carrier oil for essential oils. But there is another down side – most dogs love the flavor and will quickly lick it off. If the wound is where your dog can’t reach, keeping it moist with coconut oil is an excellent idea.


Many products are sometimes marketed as a first-aid kit in a tube, jar, or bottle, but EMT Gel truly is. Its key ingredient, collagen, is a fibrous protein found in connective tissue, muscles, ligaments, skin, bone, and cartilage.

EMT Gel’s specially processed bovine collagen acts as a tissue adhesive, providing a matrix for new cell growth while sealing and protecting wounds and significantly reducing pain, bleeding, scarring, wound weeping, and the risk of infection.

One of EMT Gel’s success stories comes from Shannon Rogers-Peisert of Liberty, Missouri, whose black Labrador Retriever, Cody, severed an artery while jumping a fence. “There was blood everywhere,” she says. “I had a sample of EMT Gel and thought to use it before taking Cody to the emergency clinic. The vet said it kept Cody from bleeding to death.”

In New Mexico in 2002, Troy Sparks and a friend spent quail season’s opening day hunting with Lucy, his Llewellyn Setter. When they returned to the truck, he noticed a blood clot on Lucy’s neck, and as he began to clean it, blood poured down her neck. Sparks applied EMT Gel, gauze, and vet wrap to hold it in place, then drove straight to Lucy’s veterinarian two hours away. When the vet removed the dressing, Sparks says, a six-inch stream of blood shot out. After getting stitches, Lucy recovered quickly.

Once applied, EMT Gel can be left undisturbed, which simplifies dressing changes. The collagen forms a plug that stops bleeding by encouraging clotting, and its occlusion of nerve endings reduces pain. Veterinarians in research universities and clinical practice recommend EMT Gel for abrasions, lacerations, skin ulcers, gunshot wounds, bites, first- and second-degree burns, electrical injuries, frostbite, post-surgical incisions, suture and IV sites, skin graft sites, and other wounds.

Sample sizes are no longer available. EMT Gel is sold in 1-ounce tubes and has a two-year shelf life.

The company also makes an EMT Gel Spray for the treatment of scrapes, scratches, and other minor skin injuries. In addition to wound-healing collagen, the nontoxic spray contains an extremely bitter taste that deters dogs from licking it off.

Tree resin, Pitch, and PAV Ointment

Tree resin or pitch contains powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal ingredients. In fact, pitch from America’s coniferous trees has been a folk remedy for centuries to treat skin infections, black widow and brown recluse spider bites, flea and tick bites, wasp and bee stings, gum infections, poison oak and ivy rashes, ringworm, staph infections, burns, scalds, surgical incisions, and other injuries.

The medicinal use of pitch had all but died out when it was resurrected in the 1970s by Forrest Smith, a retired logger from Northern California. Now his NATR (North American Tree Resin) company is the leading source of resin from the pitch of Pacific coast Douglas fir, yellow pine, and other coniferous trees.

Smith became interested in the healing properties of pitch when a medical missionary took some to South America. The physician spent years in remote areas, where he routinely performed surgery without sterile equipment or antibiotics. Before closing every incision, he covered the area with pitch and applied more before bandaging the wound. He was a steady customer for over 15 years because none of his patients developed an infection and all experienced rapid healing.

Smith recounts a friend’s experience years ago when he tried to help a dog that had been hit by a car. The dog was everyone’s friend, so the man did his best to patch him up even though his entrails were covered with sand as he lay by the side of the road. “My friend had some pitch with him,” says Smith, “and he poured it over the sandy intestines and shoved them back into the abdominal cavity. Then he covered the wound with more pitch and tied the dog together, no stitches, with rags wrapped around his body. That dog healed completely and lived in good health for several more years.”

More recently, a customer called to say that when her small dog was bit on the foot by a copperhead snake, the foot swelled quickly. “Not knowing what to do,” she said, “I found your resin bottle and covered the dog’s foot with it and wrapped it up. Soon he quit complaining and the next day he was running around as if nothing was wrong.”

Smith does not prescribe tree resin for snake bites or any other medical condition, but pitch has a long record of use for venomous bites and stings.

Pitch can be used full-strength or added to herbal salves and oils in any proportion. Mixing pitch with olive oil or another carrier helps it spread and reduces its stickiness. NATR’s products include full-strength pitch, pitch diluted with olive oil, a Hot Spot Pet/Livestock formula, and the company’s most popular product, PAV salve, which stands for Pitch and Vaseline petroleum jelly. All are safe for pet use. Avoid eyes and mucous membranes, and keep flammable pitch away from fire or flame.

Internal Supplements to Accelerate Your Dog’s Healing Process

Several vitamins and minerals are known to have healing properties, but zinc is especially important for wound healing. Supplementing the diet with a product like Standard Process Dermal Support, which contains zinc and other skin-healing ingredients from whole-food sources, provides the body with easily assimilated nutrients that help repair damaged tissue.

Zinc and other trace minerals are found in unrefined sea salt. Salt’s electrolytes and the enzymes they help produce are important to healthy immune function, rapid wound healing, adrenal health, and the regulation of bodily fluids. Add up to 1/8 teaspoon unrefined sea salt per 25 pounds of body weight per day to food.


High-quality protein is essential for wound healing and for the repair of damaged fur and skin. Seacure, a deep-sea fermented whitefish powder, is predigested so that its amino acids and peptides, the building blocks of skin and hair, are immediately absorbed and utilized. The product is available in chewable dog-treat tabs and as a powder as well as in 500-mg capsules.

To help dogs recover from surgery, cuts, wounds, broken bones, or other trauma injuries, give at least twice the label’s recommended maintenance dose of 1 capsule, 1 tablet, or ¼ teaspoon powder per 10 pounds of body weight.

“There is no maximum dose,” says Dee Eckert, the manufacturer’s director of operations. “Several years ago my Basset Hound, Fergison, was attacked by another dog and suffered a severe puncture wound to his snout. I immediately took him to the vet, who said he would have a scar and that the hair on his nose would never grow back. Since he is allergic to many medications, surgery was not an option.

“After the vet thoroughly cleaned the wound, I took him home and gave him 3 tablespoons of Seacure daily. Within 48 hours, the wound closed and scabbed over. By the following week, it had completely healed and the hair was growing back. Fergison’s case was not unusual, for many pet owners, breeders, and vets have sent reports about how quickly wounds heal when Seacure for Pets is added to the animal’s diet.”

Colostrum Supplements

Colostrum, the “first milk” produced by mammals after giving birth, has become a popular supplement because of its immune-boosting properties. Some holistic vets, like Stephen Blake, DVM, of San Diego, feed colostrum to injured animals and also apply it to their cuts and wounds.

“I have found colostrum to be the best topical agent for healing any possible wound,” he says. “It works twice as fast as any other products I have used in the past 33 years. Colostrum contains EgF (epithelial growth factors) and IgF (insulin-like growth factor). Without adequate growth factors, the body cannot repair damaged cells, no matter how well the patient is being fed.”

Because research has shown that salivary amylase and hydrochloric acid in the stomach improve the activity of colostrum’s growth factors, Dr. Blake recommends offering the powder by itself on an empty stomach half an hour or more before a meal. “I give it once per day, first thing in the morning,” he says. “I haven’t yet met a dog who doesn’t like it that way, but if one exists, I would add it to food.”

To help injured dogs heal quickly, Dr. Blake recommends giving twice to three times the recommended maintenance dose of one 500-mg capsule or 1/3 teaspoon powder per 25 pounds of body weight per day. For an injured 50-pound dog, this would be 4 to 6 capsules or between 1 and 2 teaspoons powder per day.

For topical application, Dr. Blake mixes colostrum powder with enough water, herbal tea, or hydrosol to create a thin paste, which can be applied directly to wounds. “Your dog will want to lick it off,” he warns, “so keep him busy for five minutes while it gets absorbed, then let him do what he likes. Leave the wound open to breathe and apply colostrum twice a day until healing is well under way.”


Wobenzym is a German enzyme product that is taken between meals on an empty stomach. Just as it’s given to human accident victims and surgical patients in large doses to speed healing and prevent swelling, tenderness, and bruising, it can be given to dogs immediately after injury or surgery.

Corneal ulcers, bruises, cuts, trauma injuries, and surgical incisions respond quickly to Wobenzym, which prevents swelling, breaks down inflammation, and speeds healing. Most dogs respond well to 1 tablet per 10 pounds of body weight (up to a maximum of 5 tablets at a time) given every 1 or 2 hours until improvement is seen. That dose is continued for several days or as needed. Once recovery is under way, a typical maintenance dose is up to 5 tablets twice or three times per day. See the October article for detailed instructions.

Wobenzym thins the blood and is not recommended for dogs with bleeding or platelet disorders, and caregivers should watch for small blood spots on the gums, pale gums, bloodshot eyes, or any abnormal bleeding. Reduce or discontinue the product if these unusual side effects occur.

Arnica Tincture

An important first-aid item, arnica tincture is best known for its dramatic effect on bruises and trauma injuries – and for its “external use only” labels. European physicians have long prescribed arnica tea or tincture as a cardiac agent, but it is such a powerful heart stimulant that most American herbalists believe arnica should never be taken internally or used on open wounds.

By taking such a cautious approach, say some experts, users deprive themselves of arnica’s most important potential. In small doses, arnica can stop internal bleeding and stimulate healing, especially after trauma injuries. For emergency use, give 1 drop of arnica tincture directly on the tongue or diluted in water per 15 pounds of body weight two to four times daily.

This simple therapy saved the life of Rosie, a cat whose encounter with a taxi resulted in a broken sacrum and broken tail. Because they believed she would never urinate or defecate normally, Rosie’s vets recommended putting her to sleep. But after a week of taking Herb Pharm’s arnica extract twice per day, Rosie was eliminating normally and made a rapid recovery.

Ed Smith, the founder of Herb Pharm, told me that Rosie’s story is typical and that arnica treats injury-caused incontinence and other problems in people as well as pets. A highly regarded herbalist and researcher, Smith finds no justification for the warning labels on arnica products. In addition to its internal use, he recommends applying arnica tincture to bleeding wounds and other injuries to reduce swelling, pain, and bruising. The sooner it is used after injury, he says, the better it works.

Barefoot Outdoors

Mother Nature’s healing aids include unfiltered natural light, which all of us need for optimum health, and direct (barefoot) exposure to earth or grass. Insufficient natural light can disrupt endocrine function and slow healing. Most dogs seek natural light, just as they seek contact with the bare earth or grass.

According to San Diego health researcher Dale Teplitz, “Clinical research suggests that standing on the earth can decrease inflammation and increase circulation to accelerate healing in dogs and people. When we are wounded, the immune system springs into action sending scavengers to the site to break down damaged tissues for removal from the body. Earth contact provides an unlimited supply of free electrons to neutralize excess free radicals that cause inflammation.”

Freelance writer CJ Puotinen is the author of The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care and many other books.

Watch the video: How to Clean a Wound on a Dog or Cat at Home the right way! - Dog Health Vet Advice

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