A subscriber recently suggested we do a blog on treating minor pet ailments, such as cuts and grazes, at home. So here it is…and many thanks for the suggestion!

When to go to the vet?

If in doubt, always take a trip to the vet with your injured pet. As a rule of thumb, ask yourself if you or your child had that type of cut or wound, would you go to the doctor? It’s no different for a pet. Wounds that fully puncture the skin, including dog (and cat) bites; heavy bleeding, potential broken bones, strange breathing (heavy and rapid or shallow) would all require a trip to the vet.

Treating a cut or wound at home

For small surface cuts and grazes just clean with plain old tap water or you can use warm water with salt in it (about a teaspoon of salt to a pint of water) as well. A golden rule of veterinary practice is — dilution, dilution, dilution — so basically keep irrigating the cut with water and more water. Clean at the same time using a cotton bud and then dab dry with a cotton wipe or pad.

When you google how to treat pet cuts and grazes at home, a number of sites give quite elaborate instructions, including clipping of the affected area. Is this really something you should be doing at home?

If you’re confident and competent, you might well be capable of performing it at home; but for a lot of people it might be a step too far. It depends on how calm both the dog and the owner are in the situation. Some dogs can become quite agitated, and even aggressive, especially if approached with a clippers, when they’re in pain or discomfort.

What about using natural products, such as tea tree oil, on cuts and grazes?

Products like tea tree are oily and not ideal. You want the pet to forget about the cut, not dwell on it. With creams, liquids or lotions on it, they’ll keep licking the area. The best approach is to just use salt and water to clean and irrigate the affected area. The first rule of veterinary practice is – Do no harm. It’s worth keeping this rule in mind when treating your pet at home; you can be pretty sure salt and water will do no harm.

What other type of minor pet ailment might you treat at home?

Sometimes you can clip a damaged claw, for example, at home. Again, it’s if you’re comfortable with it.
Cuts on ears and paws can bleed a lot but they might be small. Wash with tap water to see the situation before panicking.
Also different breeds of dogs react differently to pain. For example, a greyhound might scream if it gets a little cut whereas a Labrador or spaniel could have a broken toe and wouldn’t as much as whimper. In fact, a Labrador would probably want to go back out playing rather than seek attention!

Tip of the day: Invest in a buster collar; or the Cone of Shame; as it’s popularly referred to in the Disney movie Up!! That keeps the pet from licking the wound.

For the more advanced pet DIYers here’s a few useful links:
http://www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted/2013/april/how-to-take-care-of-your-pets-minor-wounds-30187
http://www.fidosavvy.com/dog-wounds-on-dogs.html