Your Dog Has a Bleeding Open Wound, What Do You Do Next?
DO NOT PANIC! It won’t help you assess the situation clearly and in a systematic manner.
Ask yourself these questions:
Is he/she breathing easily without extra effort?
- Animals in shock will pant, but breathing heavily from the belly may indicate more serious injury
Is the color of their mucous membranes (gums) pink and moist?
- If it is pale, they are likely losing a lot of blood somewhere, often times it is internally in cases of hit by cars or big dogs attacking little dogs
- If they gums are tacky it is likely a sign of shock
Approximate the size of the laceration, and what you can see
- In most places on the body, bone is fairly well covered by tissues
- You are likely to see fat, muscle, tendons and ligaments before bones
If your pet is too painful to touch, DO NOT BE PERSISTENT AND GET BITTEN. Most bleeding will stop with time if the pet is healthy and has a normal clotting system. Sometimes even placing a loose tee-shirt over the area will help from your house or car getting too bloody. If your pet allows, place a compression pad/gauze/paper towels over the area for 10-20 minutes with consistent pressure to help slow the bleeding. A covered bag of frozen peas applied to the area will also help slow the bleeding. Once the area seems to have stopped bleeding as much, you can pack the wound with Neosporin, which will help to keep hair and debris from collecting in the wound. Having a “cone of shame” in your first aid kit is also a very good idea, licking is always discouraged. A surprising amount of lacerations are not an emergency. If you can keep the wound clean and ensure the pet does not lick at it, you can see medical attention in the morning if the incident were to happen at night.
Once you have managed the situation at home, calmly call the veterinary office and alert them to the situation and that you will be on your way down. With larger lacerations your pet will be anesthetized, and the wound closed with suture and sometimes even a drain placed. Pain medication and antibiotics will always be sent home as well. Depending on your pet’s age and health status, blood work may be run prior to any procedure. In some cases of small puncture wounds, they will be cleaned, sent with medication, and there will be no additional intervention necessary. Wounds over vital structures such as lungs, or any type of penetrating wound such as a shotgun, will require radiographs to assess for internal damage as well.