How to help a bleeding dog
As with any first aid treatment, always ensure your safety and the safety of your pet. If your dog is bleeding, first and foremost, stop the blood coming out!
It is not a priority at this stage to clean the wound.
Cleaning the wound
If the wound is deep or bleeding profusely, do not attempt to clean it as this should be done by the vet in a clinical environment. Ideally all wounds should be seen by a vet. However, if the wound is minor and you are not planning to get it seen by a vet, then it should be carefully cleaned before it is dressed.
You may need to carefully trim your pet’s fur around the wound so that you can properly see the extent of the damage. Ideally use curved scissors to do this to avoid accidentally cutting their skin.
A wound can be cleaned using saline or clean water. For very dirty wounds you may wish to use an approved animal antiseptic although a dirty wound should always be seen and treated by a vet.
Do not use Hydrogen Peroxide as this can damage the edges of the wound and it could take longer to heal.
All bite wounds should be seen by a vet so they can properly assess the extent of the damage and your pet is likely to need antibiotics. Find out more about bite wounds.
Specific dangers from dog bites
Bites from dogs and other animals can be jagged and often get infected. This is because dog’s teeth can harbour lots of bacteria. A bite is not always immediately apparent, especially if your dog has a lot of thick fur. Therefore, if you think they may have been bitten, make sure you check them out thoroughly, as soon as possible and get veterinary advice quickly.
Even if an animal bite has just punctured the skin, it is important to wash the wound really well and look out for any signs of infection. Small-looking wounds can be deceptively large as there can be considerable damage underneath the skin and fur.
If possible, gather as much detail from the other owner as possible. Swap details with the owner of the other dog. This could help with any possible subsequent insurance claim.
Treating the bite
The initial treatment for an animal bite is the same as for any other wound, except it is important to wash it immediately with clean water and antibacterial soap.
The steps are as follows:
- Reassure your pet and phone the vet. All bite wounds should be seen by a vet ASAP.
- If the vet is unavailable, wash the wound thoroughly with clean water (and antibacterial soap depending on the location of the wound).
- Stop any bleeding by elevating the wound and applying pressure. Wear gloves if possible, whenever you are dealing with bleeding.
- Get to a vet as soon as you can. Bites get infected easily; they need to be cleaned thoroughly by a medical professional and vets usually prescribe antibiotics.
- If the wound looks red and becomes inflamed, hot, or angry looking, it is getting infected they will definitely need antibiotics.
Note: Outside the UK, if a human is bitten or licked in a wound, it is really important to get medical attention very fast and have anti-rabies medication. It is also important to ensure that they are covered for tetanus. Untreated rabies has 100% mortality, having the anti-rabies injection quickly is vital.
Type of bleeding
It may be helpful to understand the type of bleeding:
An arterial bleed is expelled under pressure from the heart and is bright red and frothy. An animal with an arterial bleed can lose blood very fast and quickly go into shock. It is vitally important to apply pressure fast to stop the bleeding.
Venous blood is darker than arterial blood and pours rather than spurts. Venous bleeding is easier to control than arterial bleeding.
Reassure the injured animal, apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean, non-fluffy cloth. Do not use tourniquets – direct pressure will usually stop most severe bleeding.
Keep the animal warm and dry and look out for signs of shock. Phone the Vet and advise them what has happened, take the casualty to the nearest veterinary surgeon. Keep monitoring them and reassuring them.
Internal bleeding occurs when the dog is injured inside and there is no obvious external wound. This type of bleeding is far harder to recognise and treat. Internal bleeding is usually diagnosed by recognising signs and symptoms.
Internal bleeding can result from a fall, a road traffic accident, a ruptured gastric ulcer, broken bone, or many other causes.
Suspected internal bleeding must always be assessed and treated by a Vet.
Symptoms of internal bleeding:
- Becoming cold
- Becoming restless
- Gums turning pale
- Having a fast heartbeat
- Shallow breathing
- Little or no urine, dark concentrated urine or blood in the urine
- Becoming lethargic and floppy
- Blood coming from any of their orifices
If you suspect internal bleeding it is vitally important that you get veterinary help fast.
If possible wear gloves when dealing with bleeding and dispose of soiled dressings in a yellow incinerator bag, a dog poo bag or in a sanitary bin.
It is vital to know how to help a bleeding dog. This is why we cover this topic on all our practical and online first aid courses.
First Aid for Pets provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for veterinary advice. The author does not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any mistreatment or misdiagnosis of any person or animal, however caused. It is strongly advised that you attend a practical First Aid for Pets course or take our online course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.