So, your dog runs up to you and you notice he has a bloody spot on his chest. Upon further inspection you see that there is a wound that appears to be somewhat deep. Thankfully you have been keeping up with Wanderdog First Aid’s blog posts, so you know exactly what to do – and what not to do. Wink wink.
You give your pup a treat and a reassuring pet on the head and get to work. After inspecting the depth and severity of the wound you break out your canine med kit and locate the sterile lubricant. You apply it to the surface, clip away the longer hair that seems to want to collect in the wound with a pair of scissors, then you flush the wound with clean drinking water until it appears to be free of hair, debris, and plant matter.
We learned about the proper technique to clean wounds last week. But wound management does not end there. From this point forward you are faced with a myriad of choices. The “best” choice will be highly dependent on your particular situation and your dog. And that being said…
I find having too many choices and fear of making the wrong decision for our dogs is the root of our dog owner anxiety when it comes to their health. Anxiety muddies the water in these situations in a multitude of ways.
And not only that, but our anxiety is transferable to our pups. It is important that we do not underestimate how in tuned they are with us. Especially in stressful situations.
Finally, decision making is difficult when you are making them for a family member who cannot speak for themselves… am I right?
I am going to make this part easy for you. By keeping it SUPER SIMPLE when it comes to wound management.
Your dog has a laceration.
Step 1) You clean it via the method outlined in last week’s blog post. Click here to read it if you haven’t already
Step 2) Now you should close it and/or cover it. Knowing that at the very minimum you should cover it.
Why is this so important? Well let’s run through that real quick.
With the close it and or cover it approach we are accomplishing one goal, and one goal only. We already did our very best to clean it and now we have to protect it from further contamination and unwanted pain and inflammation.
How you go about accomplishing this is going to vary by the location of the wound- which is why you have the option to close it and or cover it. But again. Keep your mindset and thought process simple in these situations. If the wound is in a location that is difficult or impossible to bandage, you may consider closing it.
Especially if it meets the following criteria:
Consider closure if…
- The wound is in a location that bandage slippage or displacement is inevitable
- You are greater than 14-16 hours from veterinary care
- The wound is NOT from an animal bite
- The wound is not a puncture wound or impalement
- The wound is not grossly contaminated or already infected
Puncture wounds, animal bites (unless the bite resulted in a large, superficial tear), infected wounds, or wounds that are contaminated may need to be left open to drain. These types of wounds produce fluid and have high potential for infection- and the fluid/infection must escape somehow. Therefore, we may want to consider leaving them open vs closing. In these situations, coverage is best with plenty of absorbent material as part of your bandage makeup.
Again, keeping your approach simple and remember the process outlined here will help you make quicker and more appropriate decisions. Decisions that will minimize the pain and anxiety that your dog is experiencing.
Lacerations are one of the most common first aid ailments we see in our canines, so having a sound approach to their care on the trail is vital to again; reduce infection, reduce pain and inflammation, and speed up recovery time. This allows our pups to get back on their feet and back to their normal routine… and in some circumstances might just save your trip, your hike, or save you from a trip into civilization which can at times be hours away.
So, there you have it. What are you experiences with wound and laceration care? Did you have a similar approach and/or mindset? What worked for you and what didn’t? I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, and experiences. Comment below and let me know!!
Until next time,
Libbie Fort, DVM