As your dog approaches you, you notice that he’s limping and bleeding. You notice an open wound on his leg. Do you know what to do?
A laceration is an open cut wound and dogs can get them from other dogs as bite wounds or from having been hit with something, even hit by a car.
If you don’t know the source of the dog’s injury, or haven’t seen the incident that caused the dog’s wound, there’s no way to know if his injuries are more extensive without taking him to a veterinarian. A dog that’s been hit by a car may show a few minor-looking cuts or abrasions but also may be suffering from internal bleeding.
Handling an injured dog, no matter how sweet or tame he normally is, can be tricky. To examine and clean the dog’s wound, you’ll need to muzzle him. You can make makeshift muzzles from nylons, socks, or a cotton lead or leash.
If the wound is clean, you won’t need to clean it. But if it is dirty, you should clean it by irrigation with a saline (sterile salt water) solution. If you don’t have saline on hand, you can use emergency chemical eye wash solutions or even saline solutions used for cleaning contacts.
Once the wound is clean, you’ll be able to better assess the bleeding. For bleeding wounds, you’ll need to apply pressure. Use a clean towel or shirt, or, if you have it in a first aid kit, clean gauze. Apply pressure for 3 minutes. If the wound is still bleeding and it is located on a leg or tail, you can apply a tourniquet. But if the wound is elsewhere, you’ll have to continue to apply pressure.
If the bleeding is from an artery, it will be pumping out with a strong pulse with each heart beat. Its color will be bright red. If the bleeding is coming from a vein, the blood will not be spurting and the color is a darker red.
For pulsing bleeding coming from an artery, the tourniquet needs to be applied between the wound and the heart, to keep the blood from pulsing so much. The opposite is for bleeding for a vein. Instead, for vein bleeding, you would apply the tourniquet below the wound.
Tourniquets (using a bandana, torn shirt or towel, or a nylon, etc.) should be tight enough to slow or stop the bleeding, but you must loosen the tourniquet every 15 minutes for about 10 seconds to allow circulation to return to the leg. If not, the dog could lose all circulation to the rest of the extremity, and could chance losing the extremity later as a result of those injuries.
Now your dog is ready for transport to the veterinarian. He may or may not need stitches, and the veterinarian will be able to tell if his injuries are more extensive.
Being prepared for a situation such as this means having a first aid kit. You can find often find them in pet stores, in pet catalogs or through your veterinarian. You can also make sure that you have a sufficient muzzle contraption as well as saline, clean gauze and items to be used in case you might need to make a tourniquet always at the ready in case you need them.