Lacerations 

I’d like to share some things you should know when you have an animal that has a large cut through the skin (laceration).

There are tons of old (and new) remedies floating around. I’d like to share with you what your vet wants you to know. 

1. Keep it clean. This means no powder or oils or things that may interfere with suturing the skin back together. Many over-the-counter sprays, powders, and ointments are meant for open wounds – which means if you apply them to a fresh wound that needs to be sutured, you can cause significantly increased work for the veterinarian to get it clean so that it can be sutured. 

If there is excessive bleeding, place padding, then an ace bandage. Don’t remove it. It will disturb the bleeding area. If it bleeds through the wrap, simply place a 2nd wrap on top of the first. 


This beagle was found by her owners and brought in to the clinic immediately. It’s a perfect candidate for sutures because it’s fresh and clean. 


This is the neck of a horse. This laceration is old and will not heal perfectly. Although it brings me to my 2nd point. 

2. Never cut off hanging skin. It may look like it will never heal, but veterinarians are accustomed to putting things back together. 

The horse injury above was a few days old, but I was able to freshen it up and sew that flap of skin back to the neck. It didn’t heal perfectly, but that skin acted as a bandage and regrew eventually to prevent a gaping hole in the neck. 


3. When there is bone showing, it’s a definite emergency. This dog was run over by a car backing out of the driveway. That back hock lost skin, ligaments, and joint capsule. There were bone fragments that had to be removed. 


There was dirt, hair, gravel, and other debris in that hole open to the bone. 

4. Almost every laceration repair needs to be done under sedation or even general anesthesia. This German Shepherd had to be under general anesthesia so that I could flush it properly. Infection in the bone is so very difficult to heal. Thoroughly flushing, picking out debris and bone fragments, and suturing only happens under general anesthesia. 


5. Sutures should be kept clean and dry. An E-collar (cone of shame) is almost always essential. Most dogs will want to lick injuries. They will chew out stitches if not prevented. 


6. Bandages should be kept clean and dry. Any swelling above or below a bandage needs to be investigated quickly. Bandages do great to stop bleeding, support legs, and keep areas clean. However, a tight bandage can cut off blood circulation and cause more harm than good. 

7. Always finish all antibiotics and don’t miss a dose. Infection is the number one cause of suture dehiscence (not holding together).  If you forget a dose, give it as soon as you remember. Also, please do give pain medication as prescribed. Pets don’t show pain like humans, but they do show a marked difference when you know the signs. 

I hope you have a good grasp on what to do if you have an injured pet. Veterinarians have a daunting task to put some of these things back together. If you know the proper before and after care, you can do much to help your pet recover promptly. 

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