HOW TO TREAT CUTS & SCRAPES
Animals can get injuries in the strangest places. Often, those places are the hardest to keep clean. This can be scary because infections can eventually lead to death if left untreated for too long. Minor cuts, scrapes and scratches can become major problems if ignored. A minor cut is any wound that does not require stitches. Cuts that require stiches will look deep and fleshy. With any open wound, large or small, there is always the risk of infection and it is important to take a few minutes to perform these steps to evaluate the wound. If it’s major and needs stiches, call your advisor or vet. For minor cuts, scrapes or scratches perform the steps below:
Stop the Bleeding – Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own. If they don’t, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage.
Clean the Wound – Rinse, flush and wash with clear water. Clean the skin around the wound with soap and a soft washcloth.
Debris & Dirt – If debris and dirt remains embedded in a wound after a thorough cleaning, repeat the cleaning again. Another method is to soak the wound in warm water or apply a warm compress. Some animals will allow their foot or leg to be placed in a bucket of water. If no success in removing the dirt, contact your vet.
Hydrogen Peroxide – Spray or blot the wound with a clean cotton pad. A small spray bottle makes it easy to apply!
Betadine Solution – Blot on the wound with a cotton pad.
Antibiotic Ointment or Cream – Apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment such as Neosporin or polysporin to help keep the surface moist. These products discourage infection and allow the body’s healing process to close the wound. Cuts around the feet may heal better with cream based antibiotics vs ointments. Ointments can collect sand and dirt causing more vigorous cleaning.
Cover the Wound – If the wound can be covered, use a sterile or clean cotton bandage. Bandages can help the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria out. Usually one or two days is sufficient to keep covered. After the wound has healed enough to make infection unlikely, exposure to the air will speed healing. Bandages can be made using clean cotton gauze pads with self-stick wrap (Vetwrap). Many times the wound is in an area that cannot be easily wrapped or the animal won’t have anything to do with the bandage. If this is the case, thoroughly clean the wound twice a day.
Watch – Twice a day, watch for signs of infection. See your advisor or vet if the wound isn’t healing or if you notice any redness, drainage, warmth, or swelling.
- Clean Bucket
- Clean Washcloth
- Small Spray Bottle
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Betadine Solution
- Neosporin or Antibiotic Ointment or Cream
- Cotton Pads (found with the nail polish at the store)
- Cotton Gauze
- Self-Stick Wrap
- Fly Repellant (Spray or ointment.
Here is an example of a wound discovered on my horse. Watch to see how this turned out! I chose not to apply antibiotic ointment because I knew that it would attract dirt and cleaning twice a day would be sufficient. Because of the location & depth of the wound, covering with a bandage was not required.
The initial discovery looked pretty bad and I was expecting to see that a piece of skin was scraped off. My first step is to examine the wound and clean with water. Water helps to wash away the blood to see the underlying damage. Every barn should have Betadine, Hydrogen Peroxide, Cotton Pads, Antibiotic Cream & a clean dish on hand. They are inexpensive and can be used on both people & animals! Flushing out and dis-infecting any wound is a key element in healing. Here is how I cleaned the wound.
After washing with water, it’s clear to see that it is a minor cut. The blood made things look much worse. Because this cut is down low and in the dirt, I will want to keep cleaning it for a few days to make sure it doesn’t become infected and swollen. Because it’s down in the dirt, I’m not going to add an antibiotic ointment. I’ll see if daily cleaning will be enough. If I see that it is developing an infection, I’ll add the ointment.
When Betadine is applied, it will discolor the hair. It always looks gorier after the betadine application. Betadine gets its color from the iodine in the solution.
On Day 2, the wound still looks a little irritated with crusty blood and dirt. Repeat the cleaning process steps.
Taking the time for a few days to clean cuts and scrapes will ensure that if an infection is developing, you’ll be there to discover it! If a wound like this is not cleaned, there is a risk is that it can close up and grow an infection inside. An infection could become an abscess and cause unneeded pain as well as require the vet. Identifying an infection is relatively easy. There may be swelling, oozing, puss or heat. If the infection becomes systemic, the animal will be sluggish, appear sick, and possibly have intestinal issues such as diarrhea. Keep in mind that if the over the counter medicines are not working, you’ll need a veterinarian to properly identify and treat the infection.
Flies – If flies are landing on the wound, apply a fly repellent with a cotton pad to the area AROUND the wound. Do not spray the wound with fly repellent as it could irritate the healing process.
Thoughts on Wounds – I prefer to keep first aid with animals simple and basic. Clean, observe, clean, observe until things look better! If they don’t look better quickly, you will be able to share the steps you’ve taken to your advisor or vet.
If your advisor or vet has other preferred methods of treatment, by all means follow their advice!
With animals that live in dirt pens, the biggest health mistake you can make is to do nothing!
For other health topics, refer to the Health tab!