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What are Open Wounds?

Depending on the nature of the wound, whether it is a small cut or a large trauma, your veterinarian will need to assess the area and make sure that any other surrounding tissue is not affected. X-rays or ultrasounds may be necessary to ensure that all surrounding tissues, bones and organs are not damaged by the open wound. 

Open wounds can occur from a number of different causes including bites, scrapes, punctures, and cuts. If you know what caused your dog’s open wound, be sure to tell your veterinarian so they can properly treat the wound. If you are unsure what caused the open wound, your veterinarian may need to do some investigative work to determine the cause.

Open wounds in dogs will vary according to three main factors: cause, location and level of contamination. When deciding how to treat open wounds, your veterinarian will consider all three of these factors. There are times when the location of the open wound will affect whether or not it can be sutured closed or properly bandaged. Bacterial infections are common in open wounds and proper cleaning or debridement will need to be done before suturing or bandaging. Open wounds on your dog should be seen by a veterinarian to ensure that they are properly treated and antibiotics prescribed if needed.

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Symptoms of Open Wounds in Dogs

As a responsible dog owner, it is your responsibility to do thorough physical checks of your dog. Take a few minutes each day to check your dog over, looking for any open wounds or symptoms that your dog is in distress. The obvious symptom of an open wound will be an open laceration in the skin. The laceration may bleed profusely or there may be little blood that is present. Other symptoms to look for include:

  • Skin surface is scratched or scraped
  • Bruising 
  • Hair loss
  • Hair matting around the wound
  • Bleeding
  • Pus in or around the wound
  • Obvious pain
  • Redness and swelling
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Causes of Open Wounds in Dogs

Open wounds in dogs can occur from a number of different causes. Abrasions or scrapes can occur when the superficial skin layers are scraped. This will cause minor inflammation, some surface bleeding and may cause bruising. Abrasions can occur from your dog biting at their skin, jumping over or digging under fences, fighting or being dragged across a rough surface. 

Lacerations are when your dog’s skin has been cut or torn open. Some lacerations will have clean, smooth edges or they may have jagged edges. Some lacerations will affect multiple layers of tissue depending on what caused the actual laceration.

Puncture wounds or bite wounds occur when an object or tooth pierces the skin and leaves a small hole on the surface. The hole will most likely affect multiple layers of tissue and is most susceptible to bacterial infections. Puncture wounds can easily become abscessed, creating a bigger medical emergency for your dog.

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Diagnosis of Open Wounds in Dogs

Your veterinarian will begin by asking you questions about your dog’s open wound. If you know the exact cause or suspect you know the cause, share this with your veterinarian. Knowing the cause of the open wound will help them decide how best to treat it. 

Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination, paying close attention to the area surrounding the open wound. Radiographs may be necessary to rule out any internal trauma or bleeding that your dog may be experiencing. An ultrasound can also be used to assess any damage that has been done internally. 

A complete blood test and biochemistry panel may be ordered to determine if an infection is present. Bacterial infections are very common in dogs that have open wounds.

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Treatment of Open Wounds in Dogs

Your veterinarian will begin by fully assessing the open wound and stopping any bleeding that may be occurring. Depending on the location and size of the open wound, bleeding may be profuse. Once any bleeding is controlled, your veterinarian will disinfect the wound. Some open wounds will require debridement and irrigation before closure of the wound. Debridement means that any compromised tissue or dead tissue is removed so that the wound can be sutured closed. 

Some open wounds will require wound closure using sutures. Your dog may need to be put under general anesthesia so your veterinarian can surgically close the open wound. If the wound is small enough, your veterinarian may be able to suture without having to use general anesthetic. 

Depending on the location and the amount of skin that is available, your dog may not be able to have an open wound sutured closed. In these instances, your veterinarian will thoroughly clean the wound and then apply bandages to keep it clean. You will be given precise instructions on how to keep the open wounds clean and free of dirt and debris. 

To prevent infection, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics. To combat swelling, NSAIDS may also be prescribed. Antibiotic creams or ointments may be applied to some open wounds. Speak with your veterinarian regarding all prescribed medications for your dog.

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Recovery of Open Wounds in Dogs

Your dog’s diagnosis will strongly depend on the location and severity of the open wounds. Dogs that suffer from severe blood loss will have a longer recovery than those dogs that are suffering from mild abrasions.

Speak with your veterinarian regarding your dog’s treatment plan and expected prognosis. Once treatments have started, your veterinarian will be able to give you a more precise prognosis and expected recovery time.

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Open Wounds Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Mini Australian Shepherd

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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Puncture Wound

My dog was attacked by another dog one week ago. We took her to the animal hospital and they cleaned and clipped the wound but left it open and gave us antibiotics and pain meds. All week the wound on the right side of her chest has been scabbing up and we couldn’t see the hole anymore because the scab covered it. However, the scab just fell off but there’s still a hole. Is this considered normal? Will the wound scab up again?

Sept. 15, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Kate D. MA VetMB MRCVS

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Hello, Thanks for contacting us about your dog. I'm sorry to hear she was bitten. Dog bite wounds can be worse than they initially seem, because the crushing action of the dog's jaws causes tissue damage that isn't initially visible. So it's certainly not unusual for the site of the wound to look worse before it looks better. It also sounds like the wound has been healing normally, in forming a scab, but it's unfortunate that the scab fell off before the underlying skin had healed together. Again, not uncommon -- especially as scabs can be very itchy, so a lot of dogs find ways to dislodge them at that stage in the healing process! In answer to your questions, is this normal and will it scab over again, my answers are that yes it can be normal, and very often they do scab over again. Occasionally if the scab keeps coming off and the underlying skin isn't healing very well, the vet may decide to apply stitches to the area to help it heal, but we don't usually do that in the early stages of dog bite wounds because of the tissue damage from the bite and the bacteria that are in the wound. My advice at this point would be to keep a close eye on the area, and if it looks like it has any discharge I would recommend cleaning it with some warm salt water. It's also very important that she doesn't lick or bite at it as she can make it worse. If you still have the medications, particularly antibiotic cover, keep taking them, and make sure you go to the vet for a check up before the antibiotics run out. If they have already run out, try to take her in when the vet is open to get some more cover for her during this phase of healing. I'd keep a close eye on her, and if at any point you feel things are getting worse rather than better, for example she seems more painful, the area around the wound seems more red, or there is a discharge or bad smell, then she needs to go to the vet straight away. I hope that is helpful and she makes a speedy recovery.

Sept. 15, 2020

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Parson Russell Terrier Mix/ Unknown

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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N/A

My dog has a bump on her head but the bump never heals and it is a open and bleeds.

Sept. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. The bump on your dog's head may be caused by an infection, a tumor, or a growth of some kind that will not heal without medication. It is difficult to say what it might be without being able to see the bump or examine her, and if it is a problem that is not getting better, the best thing to do would probably be to have her seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine her, look at the lump, see what might be going on, and let you know what treatment might be available. I hope that everything goes well for her and she feels better soon.

Sept. 4, 2020

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Terrier mix

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Laceration

Has a quarter sized part of her skin missing. About two quarters deel

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. That sounds like a fairly deep wounds, from your description although it is difficult to say without being able to see it. If you are concerned, it would probably be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian. They would be able to assess the wound, see if stitches or antibiotics are needed, and make sure that your dog is okay. I hope that all goes well.

Aug. 7, 2020

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Terrier lab mix

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Bleeding

My dogs go into a fight and she have a quarter size chunk of her skin missing. She is eating normally still and is energetic still.

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Dog fights can cause wounds that get infected fairly quickly, and it would be best to keep an eye on that wound closely. If it shows signs of being infected, is red or swollen or sore or has a discharge, then it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. Without seeing the moon, I can't say if it needs stitches or not, but if it is not healing it would be best to have her seen. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 8, 2020

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Mix

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Redness

My dog has a open wound on the upper part of hind foot

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. It is possible that that is an infection, a growth, or a foreign body and draining tract. It is difficult to see what might be going on without being able to examine the area more closely. You can try soaking the foot in a warm epsom salt bath for 10 minutes twice a day, and see if that helps over a few days. Make sure that your dog does not drink the epsom salt water. If it is not improving after that, then having a veterinarian examine the dog would be best. I hoep that all goes well.

Aug. 8, 2020

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Naka

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Siberian Husky

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10 Months

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Serious severity

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Open Wound Not Healing

My dog recently got attacked by another dog and during the attack she surrendered and got a large gash near her groin. She got taken into the emergency vets and got 5 stitches (two under the wound and three on top). This was over 2 weeks ago, 16 days to be exact. Since then we have been going for regular check ups at the vet who initially said the would wasn’t healing as hoped and due to this took one stitch out which caused there to be a big hole where it was. We were then given a cream to pack into this ‘hole’ along with antibiotics. We were then just back at the vets and she took out the other stitches and advised that we continue putting the cream on and giving her antibiotics (which she has been on antibiotics for the full length of time now, something I am also worried about as I thought it wasn’t great to be on antibiotics for a significant length of time?). I am just looking for advise on how long a wound like this can take to heal? As she is a husky she is desperate to get out and get exercise but this isn’t possible with where the wound is positioned, therefore I am wondering how much longer this will take or if there is anything we can do to speed up the process. Thanks

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Storm

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German Shepherd / Labrador

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13 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Hair Loss
Open Wound
Itchy
Crusty
Scratching
Red Bumps
Crusted

About a week ago my daughter realized an open wound on the left side of our dogs face, but we had no idea how she got it. We don’t have a backyard and she stays in the bathroom while we are at work, so there is nothing really that could cause it. Now we noticed that another one has shown up on the right side of her face. She doesn’t allow up to go near that area of her face.

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Ava

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Great Pyrenees

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14 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Depression
Lethargic
Open Wound

My GP was spayed at 9 months old. Before spaying she was a playing machine, after her surgery, her personality completely changed. She moves at a snails pace, does not play, but still has a ravenous appetite. Where the stitches were, it is apparent that two were left in. They crust over and become thick black scabs. If I clean them (with colloidal silver usually) there are small circular sores under them that have a small amount of watery blood which will show on a tissue. I have had the original vet that spayed her and two other vets to see her about the personality change, and none of them seem too concerned and say this will pass, and not one has shown any worry about the sores. It is now November and these wounds have not healed and she has not returned to normal. One vet did try doggie hormones to see if the change in behavior was related to that, there was no change whatsoever. I have given her a pain pill on an occasion or two and once she seemed to perk up, the next there was again no change. I have begun to wonder if there isn't an underlying infection because of the open wounds, however they do not look infected. They just don't heal. Her blood work has all been fine, so the vets tell me, but no one has checked her thyroid because she is still just over a year old. I am open to all suggestions at this point. I cannot bear that she is in pain or depressed and feel that there must be some underlying cause. Had she always been this way I might get it, but she literally ran and played constantly with my female Rott (also a year old) and even played with the donkeys and kids on the farm. Now, she has no interest in the goats, donkeys or dogs. Just me and food. Any thoughts?

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Tiva

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Dachshund

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Normal
Soft Lump
Sticky Fluid
Small Puncture

My dachshund was outside with my dads two cane corsos for a couple hours. She has been around them everyday since they were puppies and they around around 9 months old right now. When I came to pick her up she had a small puncture wound and lump on her neck and tons of sticky clear fluid around it. I’m assuming the dogs got a little ruff with her and but her neck. Is it normal for a new wound to be leaking this sticky fluid?

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Nila

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Poodle

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Puss

My 2-year-old toy poodle is a total inside dog. About5 days ago noticed blister-like on the butt by anus but not on it. The next morning had popped and was pussing. It shows red open small wound not deep but open and oozing not bad at all. She is playful and does not bother her but her tail keeps getting stuck to and then causes it to stay open and not crust over. I cleaned it and watching but not sure what caused or what to do.

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