How to treat open wounds in pets

You can safely assume that any animal with freshly acquired open wounds is very stressed. The first order of business when dealing with these wounds then is to ensure that you don't suddenly acquire some fresh open wounds of your own!Most pet owners make the mistake of believing that their pet wont bite or scratch them when in a distressed state. This really is wishful thinking. The best that can be expected is that a hurt and distressed animal's behaviour will be unpredictable!

The first thing to do then is to restrain the animal. In doing this, make sure you do not aggravate the open wounds or make it difficult for the animal to breath. Increased pain or difficulty in breathing will simply make the animal more nervous and thus more likely to lash out and try to bite or scratch you.

When putting together a first aid kit you should consider the question of how you will restrain your pet if required to do so.This will not only depend on the species of pet you have, but possibly also the breed. For example, one would need to muzzle a sore and upset dog before trying to treat the wound(s). But muzzling a Doberman is much easier than muzzling a Peke simply because of the differing anatomical structures of the face.

A cat on the other hand also has 4 sets of claws that you need to worry about. Thus you might have to consider something like covering the animal with a thick towel or blanket, wait a minute or so and then slide an edge of the cloth under the cat and pick it up like a bundle.Various body parts can then be exposed to inspect for damage while still keeping yourself out of danger. The same tactic works well for the larger cage birds with quickfire, finger crunching beaks!

A major consideration when using a towel or blanket to control a hurt and frightened animal or bird is to ensure that you don't suffocate it. It is much easier to control these sorts of situations if there are 2 people on hand - one to do the restraint and the other to examine and treat.

Having got the animal safely and comfortably restrained, you need to inspect the open wounds with a view to stopping any bleeding that is occuring. The best way of doing this is by applying pressure to the area that is bleeding.Place gauze swabs or a lump of cotton wool on the bleeding site and apply pressure with your fingers or palm of your hand. The pressure however must be focused precisely on the site of the bleeding.

Depending on the extent of the open wounds and if any large veins or arteries are involved, pressure might stop the bleeding fairly quickly (only small bloodvessels involved) or it might be a case of applying pressure until you can get the animal to a vet. In the latter case, you could apply a pressure bandage if the wound was in an area that was feasable to bandage and the animal would tolerate the bandage.

A pressure bandage simply mimicks the pressure of your fingers or hand. Apply a wad of cotton wool or gauze bandages directly onto the bleeding site and then wrap a bandage over the wad and around the animal.Use tape to secure the end of the bandage so that it does not unravel.The suitability and success of this type of bandage really depends on the anatomic location of the wound. In many areas a bandage will simply fall off or shift to such an extent that it becomes useless.Also ensure that the bandage is not too tight as this could impair normal blood flow and perhaps have more dire consequences than the original wound!

Cleaning the wound of dirt and debris and thereby limiting the possibility of infection can also be done. The decision whether you need to do this or not really depends on the extent of the bleeding and how long it will take you to get to a vet.

Here you have to make a judgement call. If the open wounds are bleeding profusely then stopping the bleeding is your number one priority. If the bleeding is minimal or under control, you can wash the wound without aggravating the bleeding situation,and you can only get to a vet in say an hour or more, then washing the wound might well be beneficial in the long run.

Wash the wound with normal tap water and remove as much debris and dirt as you can without causing any further tissue damage. A high pressure nozzle on a garden hose make for fairly effective wound washing. However, be careful not to aim the hose at sensitive body areas such as the eyes, ears etc.

After having applied basic first aid to the open wounds , it is in the animal's best interests that you get the animal to a vet for a professional evaluation of the wound. Many small wounds on the surface can hide massive damage to deeper layers of tissue, nerves and organs and the faster these complications are identified and treated, the better for your pet's health.