When managing wounds at home it is important to always contact your veterinarian for assistance. Many home and even human wound remedies are not suitable for use in pets. Determining factors in deciding whether a wound can be treated at home or needs veterinary care includes the severity and age of the wound, the cause and location of the wound, and most importantly if the pet is leaving the wound alone. In most instances the safest and most effective way to deal with it is to take the injured pet to the veterinarian for initial treatment and advice on continued care at home. In this article we will go over some of the major components of wound treatment and care as well as giving you guidelines on when to visit the vet.
If you have determined that it is not necessary to bring your animal to the vet, home wound treatment will ensue. First it is important to clean a wound and human antiseptic solutions work well for initial wound treatment. If you are in doubt about what solutions you can use, rather use plain water and flush the wound with plentiful water until you can contact your vet or take your animal in to be seen by the vet. Once the wound is clean you may apply human wound treatment ointments such as Germolene and Bactroban. Be warned any ointment applied to a wound will often be licked by your pet so it is important to prevent this. An Elizabethan collar (cone of shame) often works well as it keeps the pet’s mouth away from the body. It is never a good idea to attempt bandaging a wound at home. If bandaging is not done properly it can have very serious consequences, doing more harm than good. If it is done on a short term basis i.e. just to prevent bleeding while transporting the pet to the vet, it should be fine. Once your initial treatment is done always contact your vet and ask for advice on what to do next. Most wounds will need cleaning at least twice a day. Ask your vet for a cleaning solution safe to use in the long term as most human antiseptic solutions are good enough for initial wound cleaning but are strong and may inhibit healing of the wound in the long term. As for wound cream, you can use human remedies but there are also veterinary products specifically designed for use in animals that work well and assist in the healing process.
In the event that it is not appropriate to care for the wound at home, take your pet to the vet for examination. Based on the assessment of the wound one or more of the following course of action can be taken: Shaving around the wound, cleaning the wound, disinfection of the wound, debriding the wound (removal of dead necrotic tissue and debri) or stitching the wound with or without the placement of a drain. Shaving and cleaning the wound will expose the wound and help to remove all dirty and infected material in and around the wound to aid healing and allow for easy access for home treatment. If a wound is not to be stitched your veterinarian will give strict instructions on how to care for the wound at home, dispense medication (topical treatment, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories as the situation requires) and have you in for regular check-ups to monitor the progress of the wound and determine the course of action as the wound matures. If a wound needs to be stitched your pet will be admitted into the hospital and placed under either sedation with local anaesthetic or full general anaesthetic, depending on the severity of the wound to be stitched. In the event that large pockets and open spaces are found under the skin a drain may be placed near the wound to allow drainage of fluid the body produces in response to the trauma. These drains are generally left in place for 3 days giving the body enough time to close off the open spaces and start the healing process. These will then be removed. If a wound is stitched without the placement of a drain, there will be little to no wound care at home except to monitor the healing of the wound and bring your pet in for stitches to be removed. If a drain is placed you will have to clean around the area twice a day until the drain is removed.
In conclusion most wounds will require at least initial examination by a veterinarian and in all instances seek the advice of your vet. Prevent your pet from licking or further traumatising their wounds and ensure regular cleaning and care. Do not use any wound treatment on your pet which you would not use on yourself.
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