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Treating Dog Bite Wounds at Home: First Aid for Puncture Wounds

I am not a licensed veterinarian.  If your dog has a serious wound, please seek out a vet.

For non-puncture wounds (i.e. slash/cut wounds), please see Using Superglue for Wounds, to learn how we treated our most recent dog fight injury.


In Treating Dog Bite Wounds at Home:  Our History, you learned about Trooper’s dog encounters and how they were handled by veterinarians.  Then, in Obtaining & Treating a Dog Bite:  Sydney’s Adventure, you read about Sydney’s (mis)adventure in the woods that led to a hidden puncture wound on her back leg.

So there we were, late on a Monday night, dog bite puncture wound staring me in the face.  Sydney acted like nothing was going on, giving me no sense of urgency, so I had to make a few decisions.

Fortunately for Sydney, I was focused on her health during the first few days and not on the blog. This picture was taken one or two days after finding the wound. Notice the torn flesh, swollen area and general 'angry' appearance.

Fortunately for Sydney, I was focused on her health during the first few days and not on the blog.  But that means I forgot to grab early pictures.  This photo was taken one or two days after finding the wound. Notice the torn flesh, swollen area and general ‘angry’ appearance.

Emergency Vet or Not?

At that point, I strongly wanted to go to the vet.  The wound was closing up and I could tell the tissue underneath was not cleaned out (i.e. it was swollen and puffy).  Puncture wounds can cause serious infection and problems.  Because the canine teeth are sharp and narrow, they can cause a deep wound that closes on the surface relatively quickly.  Bacteria from the other dog’s mouth (plus bacteria from their lifestyle) can make its home in the wound prior to the closure and cause infection that may go unnoticed.

While part of me wanted to go to the vet, part of me rebelled at the thought of paying for someone else to clean the wound.  I knew they wouldn’t be stitching her up.  They would just be fighting infection.  Plus, if I went in the middle of the night (which it was), I’d be paying an expensive emergency bill.  Not exactly enticing.

Meanwhile, Sydney was licking her wound pretty much constantly.  Since I had shaved her hair and exposed it, it was now her prime focus.  I was worried about her mouth being grimy so I rinsed the wound with hydrogen peroxide and put a cone on her head so she couldn’t lick it off.

It's completely natural to think your dog's mouth is dirty. Look at what they walk through....and then they lick their body!

It’s completely natural to think your dog’s mouth is dirty. Look at what they walk through….and then they lick their body!

The Options for Healing – Medicine vs. Nature

The next morning, with shops now open, I decided to give her wound a more thorough cleaning.  I got a little assistance with my plan from this youtube video.  I went to the local pharmacy and picked up sterile saline wound washbetadine and a syringe.  I created a solution with the two liquids and used the syringe to rinse out the wound.  The syringe allows for greater pressure so you can really dislodge the bacteria.  I also used the tip of the syringe to push back the skin at the surface, effectively re-opening the wound a little to allow for deeper solution penetration.  I applied a topical antibiotic ointment and then felt very proud of myself.  Gold star for being a good dog mom.

After a day of cleaning the wound every few hours, I didn’t notice a big change.  Probably too early to notice.  Then Brian entered the scene.  Brian, my wonderful boyfriend, is great at knocking me off my high horse of “empowered knowledge” when I need it (and sometimes when I don’t need it).  He thought my medicinal efforts were unnecessary and that Sydney was better off being allowed to lick it herself.

How preposterous!  How could her filthy mouth keep her wound clean?!?  How could anything be better than cleaning the wound, slathering antibiotic ointment on it and putting a cone on her so the wound could heal free from her interference?  Then he asked a good question – what do you think wolves do?  Do you think a wolf gets a bite and then dies?  Or do you think they have some way to deal with it?

True, they might be able to handle a wound and keep on, keepin on, but that doesn’t mean they treated it the best they could.  Right?  Well,  thanks to google, I now know all about the powers of canine saliva!

Sydney's wound about a week after the dog fight. After one day of 'medicinal' treatment, she was allowed to lick it whenever she felt like it. Notice the tidier edges around the puncture holes and the total lack of swelling.

Sydney’s wound about a week after the dog fight. After one day of ‘medicinal’ treatment, she was allowed to lick it whenever she felt like it. Notice the tidier edges around the puncture holes and the total lack of swelling.

Wound Licking – Good or Bad?

Sydney licking her wound.

Sydney licking her wound.

From what I’ve read online, some people are very strongly against allowing their dog to lick while others believe a dog can handle minor wounds.  You can read all about the opinions of others here and here as well as the Wikipedia’s summary.  There are vets and regular Joe’s on both sides of the argument.

If you’re anything like me, your dog rests in a special place, very close to your heart.  I don’t have children.  My dogs (and Fred at times) are my children and I love them to pieces.  I would never want to make a decision that benefits my convenience at the sake of their health and happiness.

That being said, I also believe that in the absence of interference, many situations will run their course in a beneficial way.  Yes, there are exceptions to this and yes, modern medicine is a wonderful thing.  But as someone who has received completely invalid, inappropriate advice from a medical professional and also made wonderful progress with a self-designed treatment plan, I now assess every situation with both options available.  That is not to say I avoid doctors and brew witch potion in my kitchen.  It just means that I attempt to listen to my body and consider my personal situation first.  Then I consider the advice of others – Brian’s advice included.

So after considering my options, I decided to keep a close eye on the wound but let Sydney doctor it in the way she felt was best.  She didn’t obsessively lick it all the time, but in the first few days it was pretty often.  The wound continued to improve in appearance and she didn’t develop any symptoms of infection.  In fact, her activity level didn’t change much during the whole experience.

I hope you have a trusted veterinarian you can turn to in times of stress.  But I also hope you trust yourself when the situation is something you can manage – your dog will be happier at home under simple ‘natural’ treatment than being taken back and forth to the vet and put on medication.

I’d love to hear of others’ experience when it comes to handling dog bite wounds.  Please feel free to comment below!

Trooper and Brian during a hike in Western Massachusetts. Look at those pants (Trooper's of course)!

Trooper & Brian during a hike in Western Mass. Look at those pants (Trooper’s of course)!

6 Comments

  1. I am currently treating my Wilson for a bite puncture wound. I already cleaned him (semi- irrigated?) his wounds 3 times in last 2 days and applied triple antibiotic ointment 4 times. He, too, is not licking excessively and his activity level is the same. His nose is cold and wet, his eyes bright, eating, peeing and pooping. Monitoring for signs of infection.
    If in a day or two he manifests any of these signs, we will be going to vet. Short of placing on oral antibiotic “in case” of infection, I don’t know what more a vet would do. I don’t think they would insert tubing or stitch him up. I will however, try your syringe method and an extra cleaning to give it a good flush!
    I, too, have no human children and my dogs, my Wilson, are my reason to breathe. I tend to be a hypochondriac when it comes to them and have learned, no practice, not going to vet for every little hang nail with them. I’m kinda tired of my dogs getting same,”Ehh, take some antibiotics and see what happens” I get from my doctor. With that said, I’m gonna do this and see…

    • Long overdue, but – Thank you for the comment. I hope Wilson responded well to your treatment. Sydney has since gotten herself into another type of trouble and we’ll be blogging about it soon. With the most recent issue, which occurred late at night on a Sunday, I spoke to the on-call vet on the phone and he confirmed everything you said – disinfect, could do an antibiotic, watch behavior, could come in, etc. Stay tuned!

  2. I wish I found this earlier ! I was unable to do a deep irrigation. Although I did do a very decent cleaning , now I’m worried about infection . Although she shows no signs , what would the puncture site feel like or how would I know there’s an infection brewing inside her puncture?

    • I’m sorry for the delay (we were out of the country) and I hope your pup is feeling better by now. I generally inspect the wound site and look for skin that is warm/hot, puffy and red. If you can, shave the hair away from the puncture so you (and the dog) have easy access to it.

  3. I have 2 male pits, father and son, they are big babies but even babies get irritated with fellow babies. For whatever reason it is, food, guarding a chewing bone, ect. they get into a short and fierce altercation. Sometimes no one is there to interfere and they obviously resolve the matter solo but I will know if they had a issue because of a scratch or tiny cut. Nothing to really worry about. However I have been a room away from their room n heard it and like any mom, I’m running in yelling to stop and like 2 little kids they stop n hang their heads n go to their respective beds. Unfortunately even minor conflicts can at times cause injuries in need of care. The very few times my skills are utilized has been a good bite, in the facial/ear/ mouth area, I am all about holistic health care and handle as much as I can before I seek outside treatment. The absolute best and I mean miracle topical treatment I swear by for wounds by animals, cuts from God knows what, skin rashes, skin sores from a irritated collar, ect pretty much everything external, * Sovereign Silver First Aid Gel * bought at health food/ vitamin stores. It’s a godsend. It heals quickly, like super fast, while killing the bacteria and infection and relieves pain. This is also a excellent product for us 2 legged critters, every external issue you can get this is a must have. I am not sure what the other brands are like because I have had such amazing results with this, I have no reason to try other makers. I hope this helps any of the fur babies and any of you looking for a priceless potion in your health care arsinal! Oh and its not costly at all. Even better if you ask me. 😀

    • Hi Heidi – thanks for the tip!

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