As much as pet owners hate to see their pets suffer from any sort of injury, it is even worse when they can’t determine the extent of the injury or what needs to be done to handle it. Taking your pet to the veterinarian for a minor cut or scrape that could be healed at home with minimal treatment can be equally as frustrating as failing to take your pet to the veterinarian for what appears to be a minor cut or scrape but is actually a more serious injury that needs deeper treatment or even surgery. So how can you tell which is which?

When to Take Your Pet to the Vet

Lacerations occur when sharp objects like glass, blades, metal edges or claws cut the skin. Depending on the object responsible for the laceration, these cuts can be shallow or deep and have either clean or jagged edges. Healing can be further affected by the presence of dirt, fur, fabric or other foreign materials that can cause infection.

Abrasions occur when something is scraped against the skin, thereby irritating it. Intense scratching can cause an abrasion, as can sliding over a rough surface. With a mild abrasion, the pet’s skin may show superficial oozing, crusting, and redness. With a severe abrasion, the pet’s skin can lose its full thickness and there can be serious damage to underlying tissues. As is the case with lacerations, the healing of abrasions can be affected by the presence of dirt, fur, fabric or other foreign materials that can cause inflammation and infection.

In the case that your pet has suffered significant blood loss or is obviously experiencing trauma as a result of a cut or scrape, or if the cut or scrape is very deep or extensive, veterinary treatment is an absolute must. If, however, the cut or scrape seems very superficial you can begin to treat it at home and then determine whether further veterinary treatment is necessary.

The treatment for a cut or scrape begins with a thorough cleaning of the wound so as to remove all dirt, debris, foreign material, crusts and oozing fluids. You should clip back any longer fur that is around the edge of the wound, and then treat the entire area with an antibacterial cleanser. If this proves to be impossibly difficult due to your pet’s pain and discomfort, you may need to take them to the veterinarian where sedative medications or general anesthesia can be administered in order to ensure their comfort during proper and thorough wound cleaning.

Once you have cleaned the wound, you should be able to see it very well and better assess how serious it is. Smaller cuts and scrapes can usually heal well on their own once properly cleaned, while larger and deeper cuts and scrapes may need surgery to suture the edges together for proper healing. Wounds that have rough and jagged edges normally don’t heal well on their own and require a veterinarian’s care so that dead and tattered skin can be cut away and the resultant fresher edges can heal quickly and correctly. In some cases, wounds that are severely traumatized or dirty will need to be left open and a drain placed under the skin so that infected fluids can easily leave the body. Also, abrasions that are more severe tend to heal very slowly as the damaged skin is replaced by new skin and scar tissue. While this process is occurring, the area needs to remain protected by bandages so as to prevent new damage from occurring.

Generally speaking, any wound bigger than a superficial cut or scrape should be treated by a veterinarian. Not only can they ensure that the wound is properly and thoroughly cleaned, they can apply antibiotic creams or ointments and prescribe oral antibiotics where necessary to speed the healing process and prevent infection. This will allow you great peace of mind to know that your pet is well on the way to full recovery.