How to Clean a Wound on a Dog's Face

Medium
20 - 40 Minutes
2 Day

Introduction

You hope it never happens, but the reality of owning a dog means that sometimes you’ll be unable to get him to a vet on the chance that he gets hurt or injured. While being able to hop into the car and head to an emergency vet would be ideal, sometimes, you need to take things into your own hands while you wait for the next chance to get him some professional help. Knowing how to clean a wound around your dog’s face and nose is information that could potentially help you in a small emergency later on. Though it can be undoubtedly stressful, the more prepared you are, the better.

Dog's Perspective

When a dog hurts himself, especially near his face, he can be very touchy and nervous, just like a person might be if they are in a lot of pain. Even the sweetest dogs are prone to snapping or biting when having wounds treated, so caution and understanding are important. However, the sooner you can help ease your dog’s pain, the better.

The Bandage Method

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Scissors
Clipper
Towel
Step
1
Apply pressure
If the wound is bleeding, take a piece of gauze or a soft towel and press it against the wound in order to allow the blood flow to stop. This may take some time and patience, especially if your dog is prone to wiggling around. Have a helper, if possible, hold him still while you apply pressure.
Step
2
Clean the area
Once the bleeding has stopped, use some warm water to rinse off any debris or dirt around the area. The water won’t cause irritation and will help you get out any sticks, burrs, or other bits that may still remain around the area.
Step
3
Shave or clip the fur around the wound
Use electric clippers or scissors to clip the fur around the area, especially if your dog has particularly long hair. This will help keep the area clean later on and keep hair from irritating it when you apply the bandage. Make sure to remove all of the clipped fur so that it doesn’t enter the wound.
Step
4
Disinfect
Using a dog-safe disinfectant such as warm saline solution, betadine, or mild chlorhexidine to disinfect the wound and clean it further. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide, as this can cause damage to the wound and the tissue around it. If you don’t have any disinfectant on hand, use another round of warm water instead.
Step
5
Apply a bandage
A square bandage will work best, but it’s important to have a way to keep your dog from scratching at it. It’s almost impossible to “wrap” a bandage on a face wound, so a cone or an Elizabethan collar will work best at keeping your dog from interfering with the bandage. If you do not own either of these, you will want to keep an eye on your dog throughout the day so you can replace the bandage if he removes it.
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The Clean and Air Method

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Scissors
Clipper
Towel
Step
1
Clip the fur around the area
Using scissors or clippers, trim the fur around the wound. If it is bleeding, take care of that first, but this method works best if the wound is not actively bleeding. Take your time with this step to avoid allowing any hair to enter the wound and irritate it further.
Step
2
Wash the wound
Use warm water to flush out the wound as much as possible. This should also help to remove excess hair from the earlier clipping. Avoid using cold or hot water, as this can bother your dog and make him more uncomfortable than he needs to be. Take special care to remove any debris, dirt, or grime that may have built up in or around the wound.
Step
3
Use antiseptic
Use a dog-safe antiseptic to disinfect the wound and the area around it. Be gentle and don’t pour the antiseptic directly into the wound. Instead, apply it with a small towel or cotton ball. Avoid using things like Q-tips, as you can accidentally push the swab into the wound and irritate it.
Step
4
Use antibacterial ointment
Place some antibacterial ointment onto your finger or a small rag and apply it to the wound. This will help continue to keep the wound clean, as you won’t be using a bandage. Don’t apply too much ointment, as this may encourage your dog to use his tongue to lick it off or otherwise wipe it off.
Step
5
Clean two or three times a day
Allow the wound to air out in the open, but monitor your dog closely for any signs of additional distress or irritation. Clean the wound with antiseptic and an additional helping of ointment two or three times per day until you can take him to the vet to get the wound assessed.
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Caution & Considerations

  • Consider keeping a pet first aid kit in your home for situations like this. The kit should have things like antiseptic, antibacterial ointment, gauze, bandages, and other items that you may find useful to have in an emergency situation.
  • If your dog is in extreme pain, take precautions such as a muzzle or a leash to keep him from biting at you or anyone else in the area. 
  • Never allow small children to assist with wound cleaning. This could put both the children and your dog at risk.
  • A plastic or fabric cone around your dog’s neck can help prevent him from scratching at the wound until you can get him to the vet. Consider keeping one in your home in case of emergency.
  • If the wound is too deep, too bloody, or if your dog is showing signs of severe distress, call an emergency veterinarian’s office to determine your best course of action. While you may not be able to transport your dog to the vet, the office may be able to give you further instructions on what to do.

Conclusion

Taking precautions and being prepared is the best way to tackle a wound on your dog’s face or any other part of his body. The process may be stressful, but being able to at least bring him some relief before he can see a veterinarian can be enough to make the knowledge worth knowing. As long as you approach the situation calmly and carefully, you can help keep your dog safe and healthy.

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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