Summertime means summer fun, but it can also mean added risk of outdoorsy injuries – tussling with other pets or wildlife, taking a tumble while hiking, slipping on a rock while swimming; all the accidental side effects of enjoying our beautiful Oregon summer. So what should you do if your pet gets hurt? Dr. Yung is here to explain.
My dog just got into a fight with another dog/was scratched by a branch/met up with an angry raccoon – and has an opened gash on his side but it’s not bleeding. Do I have to bring him in?
Yes! Superficial lacerations (just through the dermis layer and up to half of the subcutaneous layer) don’t tend to bleed profusely because dog and cat dermal layers do not have the amount of capillaries that people do. We bleed like crazy but dogs bleed like…well, dogs.
The sooner the pet is brought in, the better the outcome of surgical repair. If we can suture a fresh, uncontaminated wound – the laceration has a high chance of healing uneventfully and within 7 days.
If the repair is delayed, and the wound gets infected – we’ve essentially lost our window for closing the wound since we can’t suture infected skin. We now need to rely on open wound management with bandaging and antibiotics and the healing can take 3-4 weeks on a small wound or even longer on a large wound.
Puncture wounds need to be explored – what may look like a tiny hole made by another animal’s canine teeth may very well have ripped the subcutaneous tissues to shreds.
Why do you have to sedate my dog/cat to suture the wound? My human ER doc just gives me a local block.
As we all know – lidocaine stings and while we do place local blocks for all wound repairs, we do this AFTER the pet is sedated. Our pets just do not tolerate the restraint and sting of lidocaine, and then the restraint to hold VERY still for suturing that can take 10-20 minutes. In addition, our pets are covered in fur and dander – and any movement can “whoosh” dirt and dander into our surgical field.
So how do you repair a laceration?
- Sedate pet with a protocol based on pet health and requirements. Usually, this is an injectable sedation that will be reversed.
- Surgically prepare the area to be closed. This includes flushing out any debris with a sterile antiseptic solution – also impossible to perform without a pet being sedated.
- Local intradermal blocks are placed appropriately.
- Sterile materials and equipment to suture the laceration appropriately.
- Injections of antibiotic, analgesia (pain medication) as appropriate.
- Antibiotic and analgesic medication to go home as appropriate.
A couple of other points to consider:
- DEEP lacerations or multiple lacerations may need full anesthesia to repair, instead of injectable a
- Exploration of puncture wounds can reveal surprises – even a tiny hole, once explored, could reveal a huge pocket that needs drain placement or there could be deeper, severe injuries (particularly puncture wounds around the abdomen). So these types of injuries, no matter how.