How to Clean Wounds on your Pets

By isak, May 29, 2009

Deep wounds that cut through the skin and into the flesh will need stitches within 2-4 hours to heal most effectively. Shallow wounds and minor cuts may only require home treatment, but will heal best with first aid. Surface cuts that bleed a lot can appear more dangerous than they are, but are less prone to infection. Bleeding is a natural flushing mechanism meant to cleanse a wound. Cleaning a wound that bleeds excessively will just make the wound bleed more, so don’t try to clean it.

Any time the skin is broken, contamination can occur from bacteria or other foreign matter — even fur — and potentially cause infection. Bleeding is a natural cleansing mechanism meant to flush out dangerous material. Clean non-bleeding wounds.

FIRST AID

  • Muzzle your pet (unless there’s a head injury or breathing problems). The wound will likely be sore and even the gentlest pet may try to bite you when you touch the wound. You can use a tie, a belt or a length of fabric to make a muzzle. In the case of a cat or a dog with a pushed in muzzle, put a pillowcase or a towel over the head.
  • Stop the bleeding. Put direct pressure on the wound with a gauze pad or clean cloth. If blood soaks through, add another pad on top. Do not remove the first pad or you could disturb the clot that is forming.
  • Get to the vet if the bleeding will not stop. A wound that bleeds heavily for more than 5 minutes has probably cut a vein or artery. Continue to apply pressure and get to the vet asap.
  • Trim pet fur away from wound. Once the bleeding stops, check the wound. If the skin is broken, fill the wound with a water-soluble lubricant like K-Y Jelly before you clip. Cut the fur back from the wound with scissors or electric clippers so you have a 1-inch border around the wound. Cut the height of the hair to about 1/2-inch. Rinse the area thoroughly with warm water. The trimmed hair will stick to the jelly and wash out.
  • Clean shallow wounds. Wash shallow cuts that don’t go completely through the skin with an antiseptic liquid soap and water or a mild soap and water. Then pat dry with a clean, soft cloth. You can wipe the area around the wound with 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, but don’t pour or dab it directly onto the wound. Hydrogen Peroxide can damage skin cells. Use an antibiotic cream like Neosporin or antiseptic spray like Bactine to help prevent infection.
  • Flush out deep wounds. Stitches are needed when cuts and wounds are so deep that they gape open or if they are located near joints that will put tension on the wound and interfere with healing. Flush it with lukewarm water to wash out germs and debris. Using clean, disposable gloves, dislodge any remaining debris — dried blood, fur or other debris — with your finger. Then gently wash the area with mild soap and pat dry.
    Salt water rinse — For open wounds that are infected, soak the wounded area in warm water or put a warm, wet cloth on the wound for 20 minutes three times a day. Use a warm saltwater solution containing 2 teaspoons of table salt per cup of warm water.
  • For puncture wounds like animal bites, call your vet. The vet will want to check the wound and probably prescribe antibiotics. Keep the wound open so it doesn’t seal in any bacteria that could cause an infection. If you can’t see your vet right away, apply a warm compress to the wound. You can use a wash cloth soaked in warm salt water (2 tsp of salt to one cup of water). Two to five times a day, hold the compress against the wound — 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off until the wash cloth cools. You can also fill a turkey baster or syringe (without the needle) with the salt water mixture, then squirt it gently into the wound until the liquid runs out clear. Apply an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin to minor cuts and wounds, but don’t medicate deep wounds until the vet has stitched them closed.
  • Bandage gaping wounds. Leave puncture wounds open, but protect gaping wounds with a bandage. Press a gauze pad or a clean towel over the wound and secure it with an Ace bandage and tape. Make sure the bandage is not too tight by slipping two fingers beneath the wrapping. You can also use Saran Wrap if you don’t have an Ace bandage. For shoulder wounds, put a t-shirt on your animal.

Clean all wounds once or twice a day with Betadine and water. If the wound has a lot of blood and crust around it, clean the edges of the wound with 3% Hydrogen Peroxide. Puncture wounds may require oral antibiotics. Watch for fever, swelling, heat, obvious pain or discharge as these may be a sign of infection. Restrict your pets activity. Dogs often lick or chew their wounds, so use a bad tasting product on the area like Bitter Apple or put use an Elizabethan collar. Remove the collar at feeding time so your pet can reach the food.

139 Comments

  1. Amy kellar says:

    I have my Chihuahua, that has ben bit by a big dog, he came up the steps bleeding really bad with a puncture wound under his neck and ear, it happened yesterday, I did clean it with peroxide, which seems like a bad mistake, but his whole face is swolen bad, he won’t eat or drink, he hasn’t even used the bathroom any! What to do???

    • isak says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. He is probably in a lot of pain which may be causing him to not want to or be able to eat. Also, he may still be feeling traumatized. You can flush the wounds with a salt water solution. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties. However, I recommend you take him to the vet to be sure his jaw was not dislocated. (Are the bite marks on opposite sides of his head or the same side?) And also for some antibiotics and possibly a mild pain reliever.

      Salt water solution: Mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir until the salt is dissolved. Then apply the solution to the affected area. If you have an oral syringe, a turkey baster or even a small squirt bottle, squirt the mixture into the wound until what drips off is clear. If you cannot squirt the liquid into the wound, then you need to apply the mixture to a clean cloth until it is almost dripping wet and hold it on the wound for as long as possible. Repeat this until the wound seems clean. Dry the area. Repeat this 2-3 times a day. Do not cover the wound as bacteria likes dark, moist places.

  2. Brandan says:

    My dog has an eye laceration. It’s been 2 days and the eye was not affected it is the the out ring of the eye lid that was torn. Im not sure what to do as its healing process has begun it is draining. I would like some advice on what to do next

    • isak says:

      The laceration is on the eyelid but next to the eyeball? What you can try is a natural sterile eyewash. The sell it for people at grocery stores and also a pet version at pet product stores. It generally contains a bit of sodium which will help clear the wound. Apply it liberally to the laceration to flush it out. Because it’s made for the eyeball, it won’t hurt the eyeball.

      If the laceration is scabbing up, soften the scab with a warm, damp cloth. Until it is done draining, you don’t want it to close the bacteria inside.

  3. Trisha says:

    Helllppp!!!
    My dog got involve in a dog fight . He has a dog bite on his neck. Its been 2 days but it the wound has a foul smell and yellowish liquid on the wounds. Im really worried. He keeps on scratching it that i think the diameter of the wound gets wider . I dont have money for vet and i dont know anymore what to dooo. Pleasse help !!! Also i want to clip the fur around the wound but he keeps on running away or cryin if i try , is their any oral medicine that i can buy for him to sleep while im cleaning it ?

    • isak says:

      The funky smell is likely the start of an infection. Rinse the wound 2-3 times a day with salt water. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties.

      Mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir until the salt is dissolved. Then apply the solution to the affected area. If you have an oral syringe, a turkey baster or even a small squirt bottle, squirt the mixture into the wound until what drips off is clear. If you cannot squirt the liquid into the wound, then you need to apply the mixture to a clean cloth until it is almost dripping wet and hold it on the wound for as long as possible. Repeat this until the wound seems clean. Dry the area. Repeat this 2-3 times a day. Do not cover the wound as bacteria likes dark, moist places.

      As the wound dries up and heals, she will probably continue to scratch, but she should stop as the healing progresses.

  4. Lanora Ramone says:

    My 6 month old chihuahua I got had ticks when I got herror I purchased her from a vendor she got shots and still had ticks reoccurring we got her clean but not her hair started thinning out around neck area she scratches it repeatedly i try to get her to stop eventually it caused and open wound,I washed other and covered it ,but now ithat kinda smells funky, I washed her again how do I get her from scratching after ointment is applied, I’m seriously scared for my baby.what do I buy to keep her from scratching? Veterinary medicine didn’t help.

    • isak says:

      The funky smell could be the start of an infection. Rinse the wound 2-3 times a day with salt water. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties. Be sure to rinse with plain water as the last step so she is not licking salt off her paw if she continues to scratch the wound.

      Mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir until the salt is dissolved. Then apply the solution to the affected area. If you have an oral syringe, a turkey baster or even a small squirt bottle, squirt the mixture into the wound until what drips off is clear. If you cannot squirt the liquid into the wound, then you need to apply the mixture to a clean cloth until it is almost dripping wet and hold it on the wound for as long as possible. Repeat this until the wound seems clean. Dry the area. Repeat this 2-3 times a day. Do not cover the wound as bacteria likes dark, moist places.

      As the wound dries up and heals, she will probably continue to scratch, but she should stop as the healing progresses.

  5. Adrianna says:

    My cat is using Soft Paws to cover her claws and it looks like her toe was irritated by it. It looks like it’s got a sore on the toe. Why can I do to help it heal? She keeps licking it and it looks infected.

    • isak says:

      If she had some kind of wound, the soft paws likely created the perfect environment for bacteria to grow: dark and moist. So you need to clean and dry her infection.

      Rinse it 2-3 times a day with salt water. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties. Be sure to rinse with plain water as the last step so she is not licking salt off her paw. You may need to scruff her or have someone hold her while you do this.

      Mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir until the salt is dissolved. Then apply the solution to the affected area. If you have an oral syringe, a turkey baster or even a small squirt bottle, squirt the mixture into the wound until what drips off is clear. If you cannot squirt the liquid into the wound, then you need to apply the mixture to a clean cloth until it is almost dripping wet and hold it on the wound for as long as possible. Repeat this until the wound seems clean. Dry the area. Repeat this 2-3 times a day. Do not cover the wound as bacteria likes dark, moist places.

  6. Cee says:

    Hi, my 1 year old pup was bitten by an older dog on his neck and ear 2 days ago, I came across your page and went ahead with the salt water mix but was a bit worried when I noticed some dry yellow/green around the bite wound. Would it be ok to send you a picture please, I would really appreciate it as I would like to do the best I can for my boy. Thanks

    • isak says:

      The yellow/green is likely from infection. That it is dry indicates that the salt water rinse is working. Otherwise, it would be moist and oozing frm the wounds. You should apply a cloth soaked in warm salt water to the wound so you can soften that yellow/green material and get it off him. You may need to leave it on the wound for several minutes so it softens. You want the wound area to be very clean so you can get a good rinse on everything. If you would like to send a photo, send it to beingstray [at] gmail [dot] com.

  7. Flor P. says:

    My dog has been bitten a stray dog, she has multiple open wounds (6), one of them on her back next to her right arm is really bad. I believe its fat tissue that is hanging out she is very weak unable to stand, I cant afford a vet i cleaned the open areas with hydrogen peroxide but i have read that, that wasnt the best option. What can I do? Very desperate.

    • isak says:

      No to the hydrogen peroxide. Rinse it 2-3 times a day with salt water. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties.

      Mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir until the salt is dissolved. Then apply the solution to the affected area. If you have an oral syringe, a turkey baster or even a small squirt bottle, squirt the mixture into the wound until what drips off is clear. If you cannot squirt the liquid into the wound, then you need to apply the mixture to a clean cloth until it is almost dripping wet and hold it on the wound for as long as possible. Repeat this until the wound seems clean. Dry the area. Repeat this 2-3 times a day. Do not cover the wound as bacteria likes dark, moist places.

  8. Sarah says:

    My dog chewed at his paw from maybe little ants or bug bites the other day and it’s raw. It’s not fleas but his paw where he chewed is like yellow and looks Kinda worrying. I tried wiping it with some antibacterial soap and water what else could I do? Is it infected? I don’t really have the money for a vet please help

    • isak says:

      It sounds like it is becoming infected. Rinse it 2-3 times a day with salt water. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties.

      Mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir until the salt is dissolved. Then apply the solution to the affected area. If you have an oral syringe, a turkey baster or even a small squirt bottle, squirt the mixture into the wound until what drips off is clear. If you cannot squirt the liquid into the wound, then you need to apply the mixture to a clean cloth until it is almost dripping wet and hold it on the wound for as long as possible. Repeat this until the wound seems clean. Dry the area. Repeat this 2-3 times a day. Do not cover the wound as bacteria likes dark, moist places.

  9. ENat says:

    Help!!! We have a 2 week old kitten and she has a gaping cut in the underside of her neck… Can we treat this. She is being calm, just sleeping in a blanket at the moment.

    • isak says:

      Rinse it 2-3 times a day with salt water. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties. Mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir til the salt is dissolved. Then apply the solution to the affected area. If you have an oral syringe, a turkey baster or even a small squirt bottle, squirt the mixture into the wound until what drips off is clear. If you cannot squirt the liquid into the wound, then you need to apply the mixture to a clean cloth until it is almost dripping wet and hold it on the wound for as long as possible. Repeat this until the wound seems clean. Dry the area. Repeat this 2-3 times a day. Do not cover the wound as bacteria likes dark, moist places.

  10. Breanna says:

    My cat ripped out his claw while he was playing. I have bactine but need to know how to cover it so he won’t lick at it.

    • isak says:

      Ouch! He’s going to lick the area and he’s going to try to remove anything that covers the wound, so you might try rinsing the wound 2-3 times a day with salt water, then dry it. That should do as well as the bactine.

  11. Katie Higgins says:

    I recently had my cat groomed because of horrible knots in her hair 🙁 this is the second time she’s been groomed, but the knots were worse. I think she may have some irritation to her skin where one of the big knot was, either that or she may have been knicked a little because I can tell she licks it and it’s a little red.

    What can I do to prevent making it worse? And prevent having to take her to the vet?

    She let me place my hand over it several times, and it does feel slightly warm. She is still eating and wanting her loves and playing with her sister (another cat) and she is 11 years old.

    I really don’t feel comfortable giving her a bath for obvious reasons of terrifying her, and getting myself injured. So could a washcloth be used if a recommendation is to clean it out with water?

    • isak says:

      Try salt water rinses. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties. So mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir till the salt is dissolved. Then apply the solution to the affected area. You can apply the mixture to a clean cloth until it is almost dripping wet and hold it on the wound for as long as possible. Repeat this until the wound seems clean. Dry the area. Repeat this 2-3 times a day. Do not cover the wound as bacteria like dark, moist places.

      To avoid or reduce knots in the future, brush her daily. Many cats enjoy this so long as you don’t pull hard on their hair.

  12. Shannette says:

    My pit bull has a Really bad cut on his neck from his metal training collar. What is best to take care of it with ?

    • isak says:

      First, throw that collar away!

      Second, flush his wound with a salt water solution. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties. So mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir til the salt is dissolved. Then apply the solution to the affected area. If you have an oral syringe, a turkey baster or even a small squirt bottle, squirt the mixture into the wound until what drips off is clear. If you cannot squirt the liquid into the wound, then you need to apply the mixture to a clean cloth until it is almost dripping wet and hold it on the wound for as long as possible. Repeat this until the wound seems clean. Dry the area. Repeat this 2-3 times a day. Do not cover the wound as bacteria likes dark, moist places.

      Third, throw that collar away. Seriously.

  13. Ashley says:

    I just found a small lesion on the back of my cat.. I have $10 to my name. I washed with soap and warm water then rinsed it out. Is there anything I can do? Is there anywhere that will let me pay them back either monthly or whatever?? He really seems to be acting normal I guess but I am freaking out. He is 5 and a decent sized orange boy, probably tabby cat or people say maybe maine coon (sp?)if the type makes any sort of difference. This cat, Sonny, is so special to me it almost really cant even be described in words how awesome he is and how attached to me he is and I would pay anything to help him, but I literally have nothing. PLease help me and I can provide a pic if you need. I would say its about 1cm in diameter and a perfect circle. If you could get back to me I would greatly appreciate it. Im going to go wash it again.

    • isak says:

      Yes, send a photo if you can to isak@beingstray.com.

      Does it look like a wound? if so, mix 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water and flush the wound with that. Salt has natural antibacterial properties, so it cleans and starts to dry a wound out. Plus it won’t hurt him if he ingests it.

  14. Roy says:

    My dog (Wirefox Terrier) has a skin condition so is bather more frequently then most (vet from UoGue) and noticed some blood staining in fur around cheek area. Cleaned it up a bit to have a better look and sure enough has a cut not deep but a fairly large area and were not sure how this happened. Any advice on how to care for this wound.

    • isak says:

      Try salt water rinses. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties. So mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir til the salt is dissolved. Then apply the solution to the affected area. If you have an oral syringe, a turkey baster or even a small squirt bottle, squirt the mixture into the wound until what drips off is clear. If you cannot squirt the liquid into the wound, then you need to apply the mixture to a clean cloth until it is almost dripping wet and hold it on the wound for as long as possible. Repeat this until the wound seems clean. Dry the area. Repeat this 2-3 times a day. Do not cover the wound as bacteria likes dark, moist places.

  15. Leona says:

    My cat drop a glass plate on the floor he was acting normal eating and everything no pain shown but it wasn’t until I look at his arm to see that he cut his self it wasn’t bleeding bad it stop bleeding but it cut through skin where you can see his bone he is not in pain but when you touch it that’s when he go crazy. No money for vet how can I fix him n clean the wound .

    • isak says:

      Either rinse it out with salt water in an oral syringe (no needle on the syringe) or a turkey baster or apply a clean cloth soaked in salt water for about 5-10 minutes a couple times a day for 2-3 days. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties in it. So mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir til the salt is dissolved. This will clean the wound and help it to start drying out. Leave it unwrapped so air can get to it. Bacteria likes dark, moist places.

      You may want to try to wrap it so he doesn’t constantly lick it, but that may not be possible.

      Keep an eye on the wound. You want to be sure it doesn’t get red and warm to the touch. That’s a sign an infection may be starting.

  16. Anon says:

    My kitten was bit by a husky on his belly.he has a little bit of fat the size of a dime hanging out (confirmed by vet friend its fat) out. Ive out iodine on it and gauze and then wrapped his belly in that guaze your arm gets wrapped in after donating blood. Will he be ok? There is no internalor external bleeding or swelling. No infection. Ive shaved his belly. I cant ford a vet. Hes up and walking and eating and drinking and playing with the other kittens

    • isak says:

      Is there a wound there? If so, either rinse it out with salt water in an oral syringe (no needle on the syringe) or a turkey baster or apply a clean cloth soaked in salt water for about 5-10 minutes a couple times a day. Salt has natural anti-bacterial properties in it. So mix a solution of salt and water — 2 tsp of salt in a cup of warm water, stir til the salt is dissolved. This will clean the wound and help it to start drying out. Leave it unwrapped so air can get to it. Bacteria like dark, moist places.

      Keep an eye on the wound. You want to be sure it doesn’t get red and warm to the touch. That’s a sign an infection may be starting.

  17. Anonymous says:

    My neibours children somehow put an elastic band around my dogs neck and ear didnt realize until i was giving him a bath. I cant afford a vet and im not sure how to clean it he will not let me clip his hair. So will bathing him and cleaning it with salt water help or do any goos.

    • isak says:

      You removed the elastic band, correct? Salt water is a great solution. You can either pour the salt water over the wound or soak a clean cloth in the salted water and hold that on the wound. The longer you can do either the better. It will be good to do this a couple times a day for a couple days. After the wash, you might apply some neosporin ointment. This will provide some protection and allow the wound to heal slowly.

  18. Francine says:

    I can’t afford to see a vet and my cats back right leg’s bone is popping out. I’m not sure what to do, I’ve put sterile gauze and wrapped it with an ace bandage but I’m just wondering if there’s anything else I should do.

    • isak says:

      What does “popping out” mean? Has the bone broken through the skin or does it appear to be swollen? Is your cat able to use that leg? Were you able to touch it or is it very painful?

  19. Migdalia Rodriguez says:

    Hau to have a doctor’s check my doggie that have a open wound low cost.

    • isak says:

      Are you looking for a low cost vet? Where are you located? What is the wound from? You can rinse it out with salt water (2 teaspoons of salt in a cup of warm water stirred until the salt dissolves, then flush the wound with the salt water) a couple times a day, then cover it with an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin.You’ll need to do this for 2-4 days.

  20. Kiley Baricevic says:

    are you sure its a bb…it could be a tooth abscess and unfortunately, you need to find the money to take him to see what it is…some dr’s will take a peek and can tell you…my cat had an abscess on his chin far from a tooth but dr looked at it and said it was from a rotten tooth…she prescribed antibiotics i am still to take him but can’t afford yet…so just keeping eye on bad tooth…

  21. Kiley Baricevic says:

    best advice find out who shot him and sue the sh%^&*&^ out of them….

  22. Stacie says:

    I have a stray cat that has showed up it seems only when he needs something. He showed up a couple days ago with a wound to his face. I have been able to clean it out with soap and water. I can not afford a vet visit and have tried many different organization to see if someone will be able to take him with no success. I believe the wound is from a Beebe. He has a home though his lip and a puncture wound in his upper gums. Is there anything I can do for him at home. He is eating, still able to move his mouth, meow and purr. However it looks likeep it is infected. Any help you can give us would be greatly appreciated.

    • isak says:

      Good news that he is able to eat; sad that someone is shooting at him.

      Rinse the wound out a couple times a day for 2-3 days with warm salt water. Add 2 tsp of salt to 1 cup warm tap water, and stir until it dissolves. Fill a turkey baster or oral syringe (without the needle) with the mixture, then squirt it gently into the wound until it’s clean. The tissue should be clear and glistening before you stop flushing the wound. Salt has anti-bacterial properties and won’t hurt him if he licks it or ingests it.

      You can also apply the solution with a clean cloth or even a paper towel, but it would be great if you could squirt it into the wound. Any chance you can keep him inside for a couple days so you can do this rinse?

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