Preventing infections can be difficult, whether it’s on your own body or that of your furry friend. Once you factor in your dog’s rambunctious energy or your cat’s adventurous spirit—plus their general inability to follow instructions—most of the responsibility falls on you, the pet owner.
Your course of action will depend on the current condition of the wound. There are three standard classifications, which necessitate different measures:
- Contaminated – Any wound begins in the contaminated stage. There is bacteria everywhere, and that includes on whatever was sharp enough to produce the wound. If tended to immediately, a doctor can sanitize the wound and salvage the remaining tissue. If left unchecked, however, the sore is likely to become infected.
- Clean – This, of course, is the desirable outcome of a contaminated wound. If the wound is cleaned well, your job is simply to keep it that way.
- Infected – If your animal’s wound has reached this stage, it is now in a degenerative state and will deteriorate until treated correctly, typically with antibiotics.
The purpose of this guide is to help you avoid reaching this third and final phase.
Unless you can affirm with certainty that your animal’s wound is clean—meaning, most likely, that they were treated by a vet and have since been released into your care—there’s a chance that the site is contaminated.
In most cases, you should take them to see a veterinarian, especially if the cause of the injury is unknown.
In the meantime, however, there are several wound care steps you can take at home to help prevent infections.
Control The Bleeding
Apply pressure to the wound with a clean towel or gauze pad. The bleeding should slow and eventually stop after about five minutes of consistent contact.
Clean The Affected Area
Rinse and flush the site of the wound with a non-toxic wound cleaning solution for pets. Remove any large foreign objects, such as gravel or sticks.
Using a liquid-filled syringe or acute spray bottle will dislodge particles that might be left behind by gentler, running water.
Moisten The Wound
While your animal waits to be treated by a veterinarian, keep the wound as moist as possible. This does not include letting your pet lick at their own injury, despite how many times they try.
Instead, use a sterile, water-based liquid or gel. Avoid relying on something from your personal first aid kit, such as a Neosporin or a generic alternative, as these are explicitly formulated for humans and are not necessarily animal-friendly–not to mention they collect dirt and not safe if licked or ingested.
Stock your shelves with a pet-specific antimicrobial gel and apply it to the wound after cleaning.
Cover With A Bandage
Depending on the location, either wrap the injury or apply a square bandage. Avoid a tightly wrapped binding that could cut off circulation.
After taking these immediate precautions, safely transport your animal to the vet for an in-depth examination and any necessary procedures.
Now that the wound is clean (or if it was already clean to begin with), your primary role becomes maintenance and infection prevention.
Restrict Outdoor Activity
If your cat isn’t typically allowed outdoors, this shouldn’t present an issue. For cats with regular outdoor privileges, you should keep them inside until they’ve healed completely.
Dogs, on the other hand, will need to go out to eliminate waste. Keep them on a tight leash—literally—and cover the wound with a bandage.
Regularly Clean The Wound
You should sanitize and disinfect the injured area about three or four times per day by completing the following steps:
- Remove the bandage gently to avoid detaching any developing tissue
- Use an all-natural wound sanitizer to clean, irrigate, and moisturize the sore
- Keep the wound moist and infection-free by applying a thin layer of antibacterial liquid or gel
- Redress the wound with a clean bandage
Recognize The Warning Signs
Preventing infection relies on taking swift action should the wound somehow become contaminated. The longer you wait to address the problem, the deeper the bacteria will penetrate, causing greater amounts of tissue damage.
Here are some common signs of infection to be wary of:
- High or persisting fever
- Vomiting, loss of appetite, or inability to eat
- Severe pain
- Muscle weakness or stiffness
- Loss of movement or functioning
If you notice one or more of these conditions, you should immediately take your animal to the vet.
Prevention Is The Most Effective Cure
The ideal outcome is that your pet becomes a perfect saint so that you can care for their healing injuries and prevent infections. Unfortunately, our animals don’t always listen to even the most basic commands.
Be vigilant in your care and oversight, regularly tend to your pet’s wounds, and keep them out of trouble to the best of your ability.
They’ll thank you in the long run—in their own special way.
- Merck Manual Veterinary Manual. Wound Management. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/emergencies/wound-management
- WoundSource. Understanding the Wound Infection Continuum. https://www.woundsource.com/blog/understanding-wound-infection-continuum
- VetEducation. 5 Things You Need To Know About Wound Management in Small Animal Practice. https://veteducation.com.au/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-wound-management-in-small-animal-practice/