Wound Care in Dogs

Written by Tara Evans

Tara started her dream career in a mixed animal practice in Sussex in 2003. She qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2006 and continued to work in first opinion practice until she joined the Vita team in 2018. Her passion for the care and welfare of animals continues and couldn’t turn her back on veterinary nursing completely so continues to work regular shifts at a local first opinion practice.


Whether they’ve skidded to a stop a little too suddenly, just returned from racing through the undergrowth or simply been unlucky, it’s not uncommon for dogs to pick up cuts and scrapes when they’re out and about.

It’s recommended to get anything more than a very minor graze checked by your vet to ensure there’s nothing more serious going on – but what should you be doing to help your dog heal before and after their trip to the vets? Is there anything you can do to treat minor cuts and grazes at home? What about an antiseptic cream for dogs? Read on for our summary of wound care in dogs.

While home care can play a valuable role, alone it should only be used for very superficial small cuts and grazes. Any wound that’s deeper, dirty, bleeding significantly or causing pain and distress should be assessed urgently by a vet. Puncture wounds or deeper cuts can often be more severe than they appear externally, so it’s worth getting them checked.

Either way, there is some basic wound care you can provide even for more severe wounds before you make it to the vets.

  • Keep calm: dogs take a lot of their cues from you, and may become distressed if they see you panic.
  • Rinse the wound: as soon as you can, rinse the area either with plain water or, if possible, dilute salt water, aiming to remove any visible dirt.
  • Stop any bleeding: if the wound is bleeding, apply some gentle pressure using bandage material or some clean cloth to encourage clotting.
  • Prevent licking: keep the wound loosely covered or prevent your dog from licking it on your way to the vets.

If the wound is either very minor, or it’s been checked by a vet and they’ve advised it doesn’t need any specific treatment, you can then turn your attention to helping your dog’s natural healing. This can include keeping the wound clean and, if your vet agrees, applying a suitable wound healing cream for dogs.

But before we dive into how we can support healing, what exactly does that healing entail?

Dogs’ skin heals in 3 main phases:

  1. The inflammatory phase: this includes clotting, swelling and migration of white blood cells to the area to fight infection and clean up damaged tissues. It usually lasts 24 to 72 hours, although this depends on the wound.
  2. The proliferative phase: in this phase, your dog’s skin cells are working hard to migrate into the wound and rebuild the damaged tissues. This phase can last a variable amount of time depending on the size and severity of the wound, but often lasts for 2-3 weeks.
  3. The remodelling phase: once the damaged tissues have been replaced, the wound will begin to remodel or mature. Initially, the healed wound will still be relatively weak, but over time it strengthens as the tissues reorganise. Just like in humans, it can take months or even years for the skin to finish this part of the healing process – but it shouldn’t bother your dog in the meantime.

This finely tuned, specialised process is what your dog’s skin has evolved to do – so the focus of wound care is to support it as it gets to work. Some things can get in the way of this healing process, like infection, poor nutrition, certain medications and pre-existing health issues. Home care can definitely help wounds to heal, but if things aren’t going to plan it’s important to see your vet.

What to look out for while your dog’s wound is healing

If you notice the following, it’s worth contacting your vet:

  • Severe swelling, or swelling that increases after the first 24-48 hours
  • Severe redness and heat
  • Lameness or significant pain
  • An unpleasant odour
  • Pus (small amounts of clear discharge and white debris on the skin surface are common in the first 1-2 days of healing, but you should discuss this with your vet if you are concerned)
  • Any deterioration, e.g., swelling, pain or increased discharge, after the first 1-2 days.

So, what can you do to help?

1. Prevent licking

Despite dogs’ determination to lick anywhere that’s sore, this can have a disastrous effect on healing, introducing infection and damaging the delicate tissues that are trying to repair the damage. Depending on the location of your dog’s wound, you may need to use a buster collar or pet shirt to prevent them licking.

2. Keep it clean

Small cuts and wounds are most vulnerable to infection in the first 48 hours, so it’s especially important to avoid getting them mucky in this time. If your dog has a cut paw, you may even want to pop a sock on when taking them out to toilet. If the wound is oozing or becomes dirty, you can bathe it with dilute salt water.

As it moves into the proliferative phase, continue to keep it clean. Regular bathing isn’t usually necessary throughout the healing process, and using harsh cleansers or bathing it roughly could disrupt your dog’s delicate cells as they attempt to proliferate and heal the wound; however, when needed the wound can be bathed gently with dilute salt water before thoroughly patting it dry.

For more significant wounds, your vet may recommend bandaging to keep them clean and protected. This should only be done by your veterinary team as it’s easy for bandages to be applied incorrectly and cause more harm than good. Many minor wounds are best left unbandaged as the warm, moist environment created could in some cases contribute to infection. If your dog is bandaged, it’s vital to keep this clean and dry; paw bandages especially should be covered fully if it’s damp or wet outside.

3. Apply a wound healing cream for dogs

The final step you can take is to apply a wound cream or antiseptic cream for dogs. Using an antiseptic cream for dogs can help to keep the area moist while also reducing the likelihood of infection.

Generally speaking, moist areas can favour bacteria, but this moistness is also ideal for your dog’s healing cells. By using a wound healing cream for dogs with antiseptic properties, you can support your dog’s healing by preventing the wound drying out while also reducing the potential for infection.

Wound healing creams can be used under bandages (if your vet is happy to apply them while bandaging your dog) or alone for small cuts and wounds. If your dog’s wound is anything more than a minor cut or mild graze, it’s worth making a treatment plan with your vet and discussing the use of an antiseptic cream for dogs with them.

<box out> Always be careful when handling any part of your dog that’s painful. If they seem stressed it’s best to be careful and stop what you’re doing. Even the loveliest of dogs may nip if they’re in pain! If your dog seems in pain at home, it’s worth discussing with your vet. </box>

How should you use an antiseptic cream for dogs?

  • Make sure the wound appears visually clean before you start. If not, gently bathe and dry it as discussed above.
  • Apply a small amount of the wound healing cream and gently coat the area, avoiding the eyes and mouth.
  • If your dog has a buster collar or pet shirt, you can be more generous with your application.
  • If it’s likely they will lick the area or it’s likely to pick up dirt outdoors, it’s best to use a thinner layer.
  • Give your dog a treat to make it a positive experience!

Remember, no antiseptic cream for dogs is designed for oral use and if it’s consumed in large quantities, it could be harmful – so if they might lick it, it’s best to use just a small amount.

Picking the right wound healing cream for dogs

Choosing the best type of antiseptic cream for your dog can be challenging, but there are a few things to look out for.

First, using a pet-safe product is best. Human products may be similar, but it can be difficult to rule out toxic ingredients and they may not suit dogs’ skin as well as a product tailored to pets.

Secondly, make sure the wound healing cream you choose is also antiseptic to reduce the chance of infection. Zinc oxide based products are best, as this ingredient is an effective antiseptic but also supports skin re-growth and encourages tissue repair, especially during the proliferative phase.

Finally, look for added benefits – if you want your dog’s skin to heal as quickly and as well as it can, it’s worth supporting it with natural, evidence-based ingredients like echinacea, arnica and calendula.

Omnimatrix, our pet wound cream for dogs, cats and horses, is tailored to pets’ skin and contains an evidence-based combination of zinc oxide and nine natural herbal extracts that help to soothe skin, reduce inflammation and work with your dog’s tissues to promote healing, including Echinacea purpurea, Arnica montana, Calendula officinalis and Hamamelis virginiana. It can be used in all stages of healing, and is also useful as a barrier cream for sensitive areas. With a 3-year shelf-life once opened this is the perfect pet wound cream to add to your first aid kit.

Find out more about Omnimatrix here.

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