A major cut in a dog requires immediate treatment to prevent severe infection, tissue damage, and blood loss. If your dog has a major cut, assess bleeding before you administered any first aid. Severe bleeding will require immediate attention, but if the bleeding is not severe you have time to clean and stabilize the wound before taking the dog to a veterinarian for treatment.
- Deep gash that is bleeding or not bleeding
- A long cut in the dog’s skin
- A cut that is so large that the skin cannot be closed
- Excessive bleeding from a cut
- A cut that interferes with your dog’s mobility
- Licking or pawing at the cut
What You Should Do
If your dog has a major cut, assess bleeding before you administered any first aid. Severe bleeding will require immediate attention, but if the bleeding is not severe you have time to clean and stabilize the wound before taking the dog to a veterinarian for treatment. If a foreign object has caused the cut do not remove the object.
To determine the severity of any bleeding, take a look at the color and action of the blood. Blood that is dark in color and seems to have a slow oozing type exit from the wound is usually venous blood and is generally not life threatening. If possible, clean the wound with Saline, then apply pressure to the wound using medical bandages, cloth, towels, or whatever is on hand. Keep applying pressure to the wound, and the blood flow should slow to a stop within the next 20 minutes.
If the blood coming from the cut is spurting or bright red, this is a more serious and life threatening wound that is causing arterial bleeding. In this case, apply immediate pressure to the wound (do not clean the wound just apply pressure) and keep applying pressure. If blood continues to soak through the cloth you are using, add another cloth on top of the blood-soaked cloth and keep applying pressure. Never remove a cloth from this type of wound once you have placed it on the cut and applied pressure. Take the dog to the nearest emergency clinic for treatment. Pressure should continue to be applied to the wound during the transport.
In some cases there may be a mixture of venous and arterial bleeding, and in these cases pressure should still be applied to the wound to slow the bleeding. If the wound has occurred on a limb, the bleeding can be slowed by raising the limb above the heart’s level and by applying additional pressure at the top of the limb to reduce blood flow.
What Your Veterinarian Will Do
The veterinarian will treat the wound by stabilizing bleeding if necessary, completely cleaning out the wound, removing any foreign object (if the origin of the cut is unknown, an x-ray may be required to ensure that no foreign object is still lodged within the dog), and stitching the wound. Whether or not these procedures are carried out under sedation or local anesthetics depends on the severity of cut. In cases of severe bleeding electrolytic fluids, shock treatment, and blood transfusions may be needed.