My dog or cat has been wounded, what should I do?

Seeing your cat or dog bleeding can be very distressing. While some injuries can be dealt with at home, others need emergency veterinary treatment. If you are unsure it’s always best to seek advice from a vet or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now clinic.

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First aid care for minor injuries on limbs or paws

Note: If a joint or paw is bruised and swollen, do not follow these guidelines – there may be deeper injuries and you should consult your local vet immediately.

  1. If the wound is dirty, clean with warm salt water (1 teaspoon of salt in 1 pint of water).
  2. Use a soft cloth or towel to clean the injury; avoid cotton wool and other loose-fibered materials, as the threads often stick to the wound.
  3. Apply a cold compress, such as a bag of frozen vegetables or even just a cold, wet towel. Keep it in place for a few minutes.
  4. Bandage the wound to keep the dog from licking it.
  5. Call your vet for further advice, describing the injury and, if you know, what caused it.

Bandages need to be changed every day until the wound heals and you should ensure the bandage remains dry.  If you notice any purulent (puss-like) discharge, swelling, redness of the wound or an unpleasant smell coming from the bandages when you change them, contact your vet immediately.

Image of a cat and dog for Vets Now article on bleeding wounds in cats and dogs

What should I do if my cat or dog has a bite wound or puncture wound?

Contact your vet if you suspect your pet has been bitten. Cats and dogs have lots of bacteria in their mouths and as a result wounds following a bite are more likely to become infected.

Puncture wounds are extremely varied: From small splinters and grass awns that break the skin to stick injuries and gunshot wounds. They almost always get infected, leading to severe problems under the skin even when everything looks fine from the outside so we would advise you consult your vet.

Only bandage a puncture wound if it is in the chest, if it is bleeding profusely, or if there’s still an object lodged in the animal’s body.

Do not wash puncture wounds to the chest or abdomen, seek veterinary advice.

My cat or dog has a major injury, what should I do?

If your dog or cat is has a serious injury resulting in a large bleeding wound you must contact your local vet as soon as possible. With any bleeding wound the main aim of first aid is to prevent excessive blood loss that can lead to shock.

  • If possible, cover the wound with a clean cloth, sterile dressing, nappy or sanitary pad.
  • Place your hand over the dressing and apply pressure.
  • If blood soaks through the dressing apply more dressing material and continue to apply pressure.
  • Do not remove the first dressing, as you will disturb any clot that is beginning to form.
  • If you can, bandage the dressing in place while you transport your dog or cat to the vet.
  • If you cannot bandage in place, try to keep some pressure on the wound with your hand.

What should I do if my cat or dog has wounds over the chest or abdomen?

If the wound is on your dog or cat’s chest and a “sucking” noise can be heard you should:

  • Attempt to bandage the wound with cling film or other similar material, tightly enough to keep air from entering the wound
  • Transport your pet immediately to the vet.

If there is a protruding object, such as a stick:

  • DO NOT attempt to remove the object
  • If the object is large, you can cut the object leaving about two inches (five centimetres) from the body
  • Then, if necessary, place a dressing around the object to control bleeding
  • Take them to a vet immediately

If the abdomen is punctured and internal organs are exposed:

  • do not let your dog or cat dog lick at them
  • Wash the exposed organs immediately in clean, warm water if you can
  • Use a warm, damp sheet to wrap your pet’s abdomen
  • Take them to a vet urgently