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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 signs 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. 

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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Written by a Pugs lover Grace Park

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 05/05/2017, edited: 04/05/2021

Open Wounds Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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lab mix

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

I was walking my dogs off leash around a heavily wooded and overgrown area. I heard a commotion and then my dogs ran into some thick brush after either a rabbit or squirrel or something. When my dog Ellie came back she had her tall down and immediately came and sat by me; I noticed she had some scraped off some fur and skin along her right side and another deeper scrape/gauge further down on her belly. It looks like she was running full speed and scraped/ran into a branch or something. I just want to get a second opinion if I should head to the vet. Thanks in advance

Feb. 25, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Hello I would put some Neosporin on this but she should see you vet. They can start her on antibiotics to keep it from getting infected

Feb. 25, 2021

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germ

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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6 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Open wound between my dog's toes. He had gotten injured at the groomers. I told the Banfield Vets about it but it looks like it isnt getting any better.

Jan. 20, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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6 Recommendations

Unfortunately that would is very infected and needs veterinary treatment. It should be flushed and requires antibiotics and anti inflammatories. Ensure your dog cannot lick at it; use an Elizabethan collar and the vet may consider a dressing if appropriate.

Jan. 21, 2021

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mix

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Nine Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Redness

Some wound and redness and get hair loss at hertail

Jan. 16, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, this looks like a hot spot. You can clean this and apply hot spot spray from the pet store to this. If possible try clipping the hair away from the wound. Keeping it open to the air will allow it to heal quicker.

Jan. 17, 2021

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dalmatuan Rottweiler

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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4 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Open Wound With Drainage Rocco Continues To Lick Wound Causing More Irritation.

Our baby disappeared for 3 days going after a dog in heat he is just a little over a year old and once he came home we found this wound on him seems to also be effecting his back and left fr I nt leg. Obvious discomfort

Dec. 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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4 Recommendations

Hi there, I'm sorry to hear this. The wound is moist and may well be infected. We should go to the vet for an evaluation and I suspect a medicated wash, antibiotics and pain relief will be dispensed. A check over is a good idea anyway given the little adventure this one has been on!

Dec. 20, 2020

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Shih Tzu

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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7 found helpful

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My dog hit her back under my bed and now she has a lump on her back

Dec. 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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7 Recommendations

Hello, this looks like a small abscess. It would be best if your vet looks at her. At home, you can clean this area with soap and water and apply triple antibiotic ointment to this area. If it does not start to clear up in a few days you would need to see your vet for antibiotics.

Dec. 10, 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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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

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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0 found helpful

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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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0 found helpful

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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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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

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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0 found helpful

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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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