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First aid for wounds

My three-year-old Cockapoo recently ran through a fence, catching her leg and damaging the skin. I took her to the veterinary surgery and she is now on the mend, but is there any basic care I could have provided before taking her to the vet’s?

Paul Manktelow advises...

There are some basic first-aid tips that you can apply when helping your dog with a wound. The first is to remain calm and try not to panic. It’s important to be aware that the dog is likely to be in a considerable amount of pain, and may therefore react differently to you when you’re trying to examine or treat the wound. For this reason, it is always sensible to take care when handling your dog and, if possible, get someone to help you.

For small, shallow wounds, if the area is at all dirty, run clean lukewarm water over it to remove any loose debris, and then apply pressure with a clean bandage or damp towel to help stop any bleeding. Human sanitary pads are useful in this situation. Try to stop your dog from licking at the wound to avoid further damage. If there is no excess bleeding, the area can be cleaned using salt water (roughly one large teaspoon in 500ml water).

Tight bandages should only be left on for a maximum of two hours, and you should avoid tying anything around the limb completely, as this can stop the blood supply to the wound and cause more damage to the affected area. A vet should always assess any wound and the damage it has caused.

If there is anything stuck or lodged inside the wound that appears to be deeply impacted, do not attempt to remove it, as this can increase bleeding, which will require immediate veterinary support. If there is persistent bleeding, provide constant pressure using damp towels or nappies. It is then very important not to remove these until you get to your vet’s so that you don’t disrupt any blood clots that may have formed. Once you have applied firm pressure, preferably with someone to help you, go to your vet immediately. This is in order to avoid hypovolaemic shock, which occurs from the loss of too much blood over a short period.

It’s always a good idea to phone your vet when setting off so that they are prepared for you and can better assist you on arrival. They will also often be able to provide further tips for management during transport, based upon your description of your dog’s injuries. Finally, if you are unsure about anything, consult your vet for specific advice on individual wounds so that you can be certain you are enabling a speedy recovery.