Bite wounds and puncture wounds are common sites of infection, which often leads to abscesses in dogs, cats and other pets. Understanding how to properly clean a pet's bite or puncture wound immediately following the injury will maximize a pet's chances of a quick recovery.
Cleaning a pet's wound at home immediately following the injury can help lessen the chance of infection. Even if the dog, cat or other pet will soon be brought to the veterinarian, proper bite wound care and prompt cleaning immediately after the puncture or bite will greatly increase the chances of avoiding infection.
Treating a Dog's or Cat's Bite Wound at Home
Dr. Michael Levine, DVM, offered the following tips for treating bite wounds in cats, dogs and other pets at home:
Bleeding and Bite Wounds - The wound should be allowed to bleed for a period of time following the time of injury, providing this bleeding is not copious and life-threatening in nature (in these cases, apply pressure to the wound to stem the flow.) The blood serves to flush bacteria from the wound. This is a good time to search for other injuries, as multiple bite wounds are often present.Trimming Hair from Around Bite Wounds - Once bleeding ceases, the wound will require immediate attention. Begin by trimming and shaving hair around the affected area to provide for good visibility and sufficient air flow.Washing Bite Wounds - The wound should be cleaned as soon as possible following the time of injury. Use an antibacterial soap, like Dial, to wash the wound site for two full minutes. If there are multiple wounds, each should be washed individually for two full minutes.Flushing the Wound -After washing the wound site, the area must be flushed to help rinse away bacteria and soap. This is perhaps one of the most vital steps of bite wound care, so its essential that each wound is flushed for three full minutes. The wound should be positioned directly beneath the flow of water and the water should flow inside and over the wound.How to Clean and Disinfect a Pet's Bite Wound
Once the animal is removed from the sink or tub and dried off, the second stage of bite wound treatment can begin. During this time, its vital to avoid direct contact with the pet's bite wound, as this is the stage when the wound is disinfected.
Flushing a Bite Wound (With Saline):If wound wash saline is available, (this can be found at many drug stores, usually in the first aid section near the hydrogen peroxide and other disinfectants) flush the wound for a second time with this sterile solution.Disinfecting a Bite Wound: Disinfecting the wound is an important step, so its vital to use the proper tools. Betadine iodine - a hospital-grade antiseptic that kills bacteria and disinfects the wound is preferred. Its typically available in the first aid section of the drug store and its by far the most effective antiseptic, and its well tolerated since it does not cause stinging or burning. If betadine is not available, opt for hydrogen peroxide, applied full strength. The betadine (or other antiseptic like Hydrogen Peroxide) should be poured directly onto the bite wound and allowed to flow into the wound. Use caution not to directly touch the wound after the antiseptic is applied. Wipe up any drips, but allow the area around the wound (at minimum, a hairless one-inch diameter) to air dry.Dressing a Bite Wound: Dressings are not ideal for bite wounds, as this limits air flow to the site. But immediately following the injury, the animal caretaker may not have the proper equipment on hand, such as an Elizabethan collar (also called an e-collar or lampshade collar) in the case of cats and dogs, therefore the injured animal may have access to lick and contaminate the wound. If this is the case, the entire flushing and disinfecting process must be repeated. So until the animal can make it to the veterinarians office (ideally, within two to twelve hours), a light dressing can be applied.Apply a dab of antibiotic ointment to the bite wound to help prevent infection in the bite wound. Then, use a gauze pad or rolled gauze to lightly cover the wound to help prevent contamination. Two layers of gauze are sufficient to protect the wound from debris and other contamination, while also still allowing for air flow to the region.
Notably, a cat's or dog's bite wound should be left uncovered for the majority of the healing process. A light dressing should only be applied for a short period of time, to protect the area until the animal can be brought to the veterinarians office.
"Antibiotics are almost always necessary for bite wounds, so bringing your pet to the vet sooner rather than later is ideal. This will help lessen pain, healing time and cost. You're going to pay a lot more later on if we need to go in and surgically debride the wound," Dr. Levine explained.
Related Articles on Caring for Pets' Wounds
Readers may also enjoy General Bite Wound Care along with Infections in Animals.