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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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Open Wounds Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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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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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

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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American Eskimo

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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

Has Symptoms

Skin Tear

I was just petting my dog when i noticed a small lump in his back, I thought it was a flea although i found it weird, but when i was able to get a closer look it was a piece of skin with his hair hanging, on the bottom was his skin red but wasn’t bleeding. I don’t know what might have caused this or what it is exactly.

Nov. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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4 Recommendations

This sounds like a little scab. We can see this when a dog has scratched themselves, from an insect bite etc. I would clean the area with salt water and monitor it; it should heal quickly. If not, a vet can examine it. Do ensure your dog is up to date with a good parasite prevention.

Nov. 2, 2020

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