How to know if a dog wound is bad enough to go to a vet?

Written by heather vecchioni
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How to know if a dog wound is bad enough to go to a vet?
Dog-bite wounds often become infected and require treatment from a veterinarian. (dogs are fighting image by Ivonne Wierink from

Dog wounds are often deceptive---what looks like a small, unassuming injury on the outside, can actually be quite deep and extensive underneath. If your dog has suffered a wound, whether from a dog bite or a lacerating foreign object, it may heal on its own; however, there is a very good chance that it will become infected and require treatment from a veterinarian. There are a few symptoms your dog---and the wound---will display if it needs to be addressed by a doctor.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Observe any bleeding. While most wounds will bleed a bit, they will typically resolve with only a small amount of blood loss. However, if the wound will not stop bleeding or it appears to be releasing a large amount of blood, rush your dog to the veterinarian, as it may be a life-threatening situation.

  2. 2

    Note any swelling around the wound. Swelling can occur below the wound, as fluids will travel to a low area. The fluid may be pus and the swelling can either feel hard or soft. If any swelling occurs, you should have a vet take a look at it, since it is probably infected.

  3. 3

    Smell for any odour. The presence of a foul scent is a strong indicator that the wound is infected and requires antibiotics and perhaps further treatment, such as skin debridement and thorough cleaning.

  4. 4

    Look at the wound and around it for any redness. This change in colour of the skin over or around the wound is usually a sign of infection. In addition, if the wound or skin around it feels warm to the touch, the dog should see a veterinarian for infection treatment.

  5. 5

    Measure the length of the wound. If the wound is over ½-inch long, it will likely require sutures, which should be placed by a veterinarian.

  6. 6

    Watch your dog for any behavioural changes. If the canine displays a change in its appetite, seems depressed or lethargic, has an elevated temperature or a decrease in its appetite, it should be examined by a vet. Not only is an infected wound possible, but the dog could be anaemic and at risk for becoming septic---an infection that occurs within the entire body.

Tips and warnings

  • Regardless of whether or not you think your dog needs to see a vet, it's always a good idea to call the doctor and inquire about what he thinks should be done. The veterinarian will likely ask you a few questions and will give you his opinion as to whether the wound will heal on its own or require outside assistance.
  • Clean the wound, if possible. Use sterile gauze and clean the wound with water. Do not use hydrogen peroxide unless instructed by a veterinarian, since it can cause further bleeding and potential tissue damage.
  • The normal temperature for a dog is between 100.5 and 552 degrees Celsius.

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