How to Heal a Wound Fast (dog and cat first aid)!

Learning how to clean a wound is an important skill for every dog and cat owner. Not every wound can be treated at home, some will need veterinary care. For minor scrapes and grazes however, home treatment will result in successful, rapid healing.

how to clean wounds

Can I use hydrogen peroxide on wounds? Salt and water or vinegar and water to clean it? Or just water and soap? I ask because germ and bacteria, those products are natural antiseptics no?

And next up we have a question from Just Me who asks, can I use hydrogen peroxide on wounds? So salt and water or vinegar and water to clean it? What should I be using or should I just be using water and soap? They’re asking because these products are antibacterial and they're more natural antiseptics are they not?

So what can we use to clean wounds is the bottom line of what this question is asking.

The Aims of Wound Cleaning

So let's think about what we want to be doing when we're cleaning wounds. What are our aims?

  1. Remove contamination

  2. Prevent healthy tissue damage

So there are really two aims and the first is to remove any contamination. So that's dirt and bacteria. And then the second is actually not to damage healthy healing tissue. This is very important because healing tissue is actually quite delicate and can be susceptible to damage, which can delay healing and cause problems.

If you want to heal a dog wound fast, remove contaminants and protect the healing skin.

When to seek veterinary help

Now if we've got deep wounds, if they are large wounds, if they're bleeding or if they're painful then they should definitely be assessed by a vet because they may need additional treatment than just cleaning. So that could be antibiotics, it could be painkillers, it could even be surgery to suture and repair the wounds, to stitch them up.

LOTS of Water

But I'll start off, if we've got more of a minor wound that doesn't need veterinary intervention, then there's a kind of a saying that we have and that is the solution to pollution is dilution.

What this really means is that if something is contaminated, so with bugs or dirt, then we want to just dilute that as much as possible. So we want to be rinsing that with lots and lots of water. Now it's been shown in a number of studies that drinkable tap water is absolutely fine to wash wounds with and it's been shown to be as good as saline, which is effectively salty water.

So you want to be getting just a lot of water over that wound to flush it as clean as possible.



Now for really dirty wounds, you can add just a mild soap and that can help just get rid of that initial contamination. So that's kind of the first step. Now if the wound is very dirty or it's felt that there is a high risk of superficial infection, then that's when we want to be adding an antiseptic agent to help after that initial cleaning.

So if we've got a wound that was a little bit dirty, that's all been cleaned away in that first rinse, it's pretty superficial and we actually don't need to do anything other than clean it with that water. If it was really dirty, if there's felt to be a high risk of infection, then that's when we want to be adding these antiseptic agents.

Hydrogen peroxide

So really the first part of the question was, can we use hydrogen peroxide? And I say, no, we really want to be avoiding hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds because while it does kill bacteria, it's also been shown to slow healing. And that's because hydrogen peroxide is actually quite damaging to healthy tissue or it can be if we're using it in a really kind of dilute concentration, then it may be okay, but there's no need to use it.

Chlorhexidine + iodine

I think we've got better things that we can use and those in my mind would be either chlorhexidine or povidine iodine.

Those are two antiseptic agents that, as long as we're using them diluted enough, then they have good antibacterial antiseptic action that won’t damage healthy tissue.

The thing that we need to concentrate on is their concentration. So if you're buying these, then they come in two different forms. One is a hand rub or surgical scrub and these are much more concentrated. We want the lower concentration version.

With chlorhexidine, for example, we want something that's 0.2% to 0.5%, and whichever product you buy will have the concentration written on it. If we're using these, we shouldn't be using them for longer than a few days. If we're needing to use them for longer than a few days because the discharge is still there, because the wound is still looking puffy and inflamed, then it's likely the infection is deeper and they will need additional treatment.

If you've got concerns after a couple of days that things don't seem to be healing really nicely, then again, definitely check in with your vet and see if the wound needs anything else.

Prevent Wound Infection

There are other things that we can apply to wounds such as silver sulfadiazine and manuka honey. These can be added to wounds to treat mild infections and also to prevent infections from becoming an issue as well as improve healing.

If your pet has an open wound, we don't want it to become infected because of bugs that are in the environment and are coming into contact with the wound after it's been created. So those are a couple of things to that we can add the antibacterial, antiseptic agents without being antibiotics.

Antibiotic cream

In my mind, for the majority of cases we really want to be trying to avoid using antibiotic cream as a means of preventing infections. The big reason for this is that antibiotic misuse is causing a lot of bacterial resistance problems. And while smearing a little bit of antibiotic cream on a wound is unlikely to cause any big super bug to develop, it's all part and parcel of the global misuse of antibiotics.

We’re using them a lot more than we necessarily need to, and that's causing a whole load of problems. Ultimately, we're getting super bugs and people are dying as a result of these.

If we've got other options to using antibiotics, we really should be making the best use of them.

Okay so I hope that gives you a few useful tips should your dog or cat get a superficial wound. Go through a few things to clean it up, use that tap water to start with. Just use a lot, really wash it, flush it an awful lot. Then, if things are severely contaminated, we can think of using something like chlorhexidine and to protect that wound and try and prevent infection, we can use things such as silver sulfadiazine and manuka honey.

The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.

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