How to Treat A Cut on A Dog (& What to Put on It)

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Despite our best efforts, dogs sometimes get hurt. One part of being a responsible pet parent is knowing how to answer the question, "What can I put on my dog's cut?" and how to treat a cut on a dog at home. Having a dog-specific first aid kit on hand, knowing what to use to treat a cut at home and recognizing when your dog needs veterinary attention are all important parts of pet care. If your furry friend is wounded, here is how to treat a cut on a dog.

How to Treat a Cut on a Dog

Use this step by step guide to treat your dog if they get a wound:

Medical treatment of pet concept: bandaging a dogStep 1: Assess and Stop Any Bleeding

Before you can answer "What can I put on my dog's cut?" you need to ask yourself, "Is the wound bleeding?" If the wound is oozing blood, then you can apply gentle pressure with a small towel or gauze square, depending on the size of the wound. Ask your dog to sit or lie down, and hold the towel in place over the wound with your hand with just enough pressure to stop the bleeding. If the dog is calm, most wounds will clot and stop bleeding within a couple of minutes. If the dog is excited, then it will take longer because of high blood pressure. If the wound is pumping blood, that means a larger blood vessel has been cut, and you will need to keep pressure on the wound until you get to a veterinary clinic.

Step 2: Clean

If the wound has debris in it, like mud or leaves, flush the wound with a generous amount of lukewarm tap water to rinse dirt and bacteria off the surface of the wound.

Step 3: Disinfect the Wound

This brings us to the million dollar question: "What can I put on my dog's cut?"

Dilute betadine is an excellent disinfectant to keep in your first-aid kit. A good alternative to betadine is diluted chlorhexidine. Hydrogen peroxide should not be used to clean the wound because it is very damaging to skin cells, and can actually delay wound healing.

Start by applying disinfectant to the wound. If it is a bite wound, squirt disinfectant into the puncture hole to flush out bacteria and contact your veterinarian for advice as bite wounds are more likely to develop secondary infections. After the wound is cleaned and disinfected, apply a thin layer of triple antibiotic ointment to the surface of the wound.

What Can I Put on My Dog's Cut: Additional Precautions

Injured Shih Tzu front leg wrapped by red bandage and splint after surgery in vet hospital with sunset lightIt's important to deal with cuts and scrapes early to avoid infection. If you wait too long to treat a wound, then it can become a much bigger, more painful problem that takes longer to heal and requires additional expensive treatment.

Dogs that are wounded are hurt and scared, and may react aggressively out of fear. Before you ask yourself how to treat a cut on a dog, ask yourself if you should. Only attempt to take care of your dog's wound at home if you are confident that your dog won't bite anyone who tries to help. Use a muzzle (you can make one at home) and get somebody to help you. When treating a wound yourself, it is important to stay calm as your dog can pick up on your stress.


When to See a Vet

How do you know when you need to take your dog to the vet and when you can treat a cut at home? Here are the types of injuries that need veterinary attention:

  • Bite wounds as they're likely to get infected
  • Deep cuts that fully penetrate the skin
  • Cuts longer than an inch
  • Cuts that the dog won't leave alone
  • Cuts that don't heal within a week
  • Cuts that look infected (redness, heat, swelling, discharge that looks like pus, odor)
  • Any injury that leaves your dog acting sick (excessive tiredness, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea, etc.)
  • Anything wound you are unsure or worried about

If you've treated the wound adequately, it should heal in less than a week. Anything that takes longer than that or shows signs of infection should be addressed by a vet. If you follow these simply steps, you'll be ready to play nurse the next time your pup gets hurt. Your dog and your vet with thank you for practicing good hygiene and safety when it comes to treating wounds at home.

Contributor Bio

Dr. Sarah Wooten

Dr. Sarah Wooten

A 2002 graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sarah Wooten is a well-known international speaker in the veterinary and animal health care spaces. She has 10 years experience in public speaking and media work, and writes for a large number of online and print animal health publications.. Dr. Wooten has spoken in the veterinary education space for 5 years, and speaks on leadership, client communication, and personal development. Dr. Wooten is also a certified veterinary journalist, a member of the AVMA, and has 16 years experience in small animal veterinary practice. In addition to being a speaker, author, veterinarian, and co-creator of the wildly popular card game 'Vets Against Insanity', she co-owns Elevated Eateries Restaurant group in Greeley with her husband of 22 years, and together they are raising 3 slightly feral mini-humans. When it is time to play, she can be found skiing in Colorado or diving with sharks in the Caribbean.

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