Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dog Medical Emergencies Survey: Are Cuts and Abrasions an Emergency?

9.09% survey participants checked cuts and abrasions as an emergency.



This is the kind of scenario where common sense should rule. You wouldn't rush your kid to an emergency with a scraped knee, and you don't need to do that with your dog either. But ...

"An abrasion is a wound caused by superficial damage to the skin ...." ~wikipedia

Abrasions further break down into three grades ranging from scrapes/grazes to avulsions. An avulsion refers to a surface trauma where all the layers of the skin have been torn away, exposing the underlying tissues. In other words, an abrasion can be a mild injury or a substantial trauma.

While a superficial skin damage is not an emergency, skin ripped away and revealing muscles, tendons or bone would be.


Not because it is in itself life-threatening but being taken care of properly is imperative.

This would be particularly true if a dog suffered an avulsion as a result of falling off or out of the vehicle, or other, similar scenarios where further, more serious injuries are possible even though not readily apparent.

Jumping or falling out of a vehicle, being in a car accident, falling off heights, etc. are always an emergency regardless of how minor the injuries might look.


It should indeed be common sense to evaluate the injuries as you can see them as well as what led up to them.

I'd like to note that chronic injuries to feet and foot pads, while not an emergency, should be evaluated. Foot pads can suffer from chronic exposure to hard, abrasive, or hot surfaces, the tops of the feet might keep being injured from neurological deficits.

Similar distinctions need to be made when it comes to cuts, lacerations or puncture wounds.


How did the injury happen? How much bleeding is there? How deep is the wound? Could there be a foreign body left in the wound?

Is is quite easy to underestimate how deep a cut might be.


There is also a limited window during which such a wound can be expertly sutured or glued. Many veterinarians recommend having all cuts seen and tended to.

It's also important to keep in mind that the odds of such wound getting infected are high.

With cuts and abrasions, use good sense. It is better to overestimate the potential damage than the alternative.


Related articles:
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey Results
Is Unproductive Retching an Emergency?
Is Difficulty Breathing an Emergency?
Is Panting an Emergency?
Is Severe Pain an Emergency?
Is Limping an Emergency?
Is Vomiting Bile in the Morning an Emergency?
Is Profuse Vomiting an Emergency?
Are Convulsions or Seizures an Emergency?
Is Loss of Appetite an Emergency?
Is Reduced Activity an Emergency?
Is Severe Lethargy an Emergency?
Is Inability to Stand an Emergency?
Is Inability to Urinate an Emergency?



Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

35 comments

  1. I love this series about medical emergencies. It's interesting to compare what we would judge to be an emergency or not, with what the experts say. When it comes to my younger dog Jack I think I'm pretty good at judging, but my golden oldie Red - I never adopt a "wait and see" attitude. Things can go downhill so quickly with a fragile dog like Red, I'd rather be considered a pain in the you know what, then sorry I didn't take action. Thankfully I don't go overboard and rush to an emergency hospital for no reason, but I am quick to make a phone call to the vet in the morning. Thanks for sharing such potentially life saving information

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    1. I don't know a good vet who would raise an issue with being careful and discussing all concerns; particularly for a dog who's health is fragile.

      It's funny; when I was writing my book, I planned on having a little note about when each of the symptoms was an emergency. I had a hard time with some of them and asked Dr. Jo to help with that. She had a hard time with it as well so I left that out on some of them. When hubby was reviewing the book, though, he asked, "Why don't you have the emergency note on some of these? I'd like to see it on all of them."

      I explained why it wasn't there but he insisted that as a reader he'd like to have it. "If it's not an emergency, just say it isn't." "Well, just because it typically isn't an emergency, doesn't mean it can't be," I said. I wasn't comfortable labeling any of the symptoms as NEVER being an emergency.

      So I sat down and contemplated what it would take for each of them to be an emergency. Believe it or not, I was even able to come up with an emergency scenario for chapter on bad odor.

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  2. Great post! With active dogs, we've definitely seen our share of abrasions along the way. It can be so hard to tell just where that line is where they really need to go to the vet. That said, I can be a bit overprotective and err on the side of caution.

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    1. With abrasions, generally, I'd say unless you have skin hanging off revealing underlying tissues, it's not likely to be an emergency.

      With cuts, though, it can be much trickier because more often than not they are much deeper than they look.

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  3. I always tend to overreact to any injury the dogs get but figure it is better to err on the side of caution. ☺

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    1. It most definitely is. I think I somewhat learned to chill, having been through all we've been through. It's like with children, I suppose. The first time your first kid scrapes a knee you freak out. When your second kid get their toe cut off, you take it calmly simply because you're well trained and desentisized by then. Which does not make a cut off toe not being an emergency, of course.

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  4. I tend to err on the side of caution and treat anything other than a minor wound as an emergency.

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    1. Always better to be safe than sorry.

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  5. Definitely a symptom where you should use common sense!

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    1. The argument being, though, since good sense (which is what common sense should be) is not as common as one would hope. That's why eventually I called it good sense. A lot of people lack that, unfortunately.

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  6. What a helpful article, I'm passing this one along!

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  7. Great article. I completely agree that it's better to be safe than sorry when dealing with a wound. My dog had a chipped nail that I had ignored for several weeks. I thought it was only a minor injury and it would heal its self. When I took my dog in for his checkup at the vet, I had the vet look at the nail. The vet told me that the nail had become infected and that cancerous cells were growing. Luckily they were able to remove the digit and my dog is completely fine now. I felt so bad that I ignored my pets injury. I have learned my lesson and that will never happen again.

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    1. Sorry about that; nails can be particularly tricky because they get painful AND usually there is a reason behind it breaking or chipping in the first place. It's so important to be cautious particularly with nail injuries. I'm glad it all worked out.

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  8. We have fortunately, knock on wood, not had any serious cuts or wounds with our pets. This is a great resource to have just in case anything happens - good to know what to look for ahead of time as you might not be thinking clearly in a crisis situation.

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    1. Being prepared is important. Glad you didn't have any serious issues. We had some minor wounds we were able to deal with ourselves but the main problem people often run into even with smaller wounds are infections.

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  9. Over reaction is natural, esp with pets who can't talk... bit I think as years go on we all learn what needs emergency care.

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    1. With time, experience is a great teacher. It is always better to over-react than under-react, though.

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  10. Since we hike a lot and are often a ways away from a vet, I took a free basic pet emergency care class offered at the local REI so that I could at least address some minor injuries on the spot. Fortunately, we've had very few issues and I always err on the side of caution and follow up with a call and/or visit to the vet to make sure that everything is okay. This is a fantastic series about how to recognize medical emergencies. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Alison. Dogs mostly don't injure themselves nearly as often as one would expect watching them do their thing. But being prepared for when it might happen is important.

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  11. Great post. Even small cuts can get infected. You just never know. Better safe than sorry.

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    1. They surely do. And with improper bandaging a small would can quickly turn into a disaster.

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  12. Luckily my cats haven't had any cuts or abrasions. I have made two trips to the emergency vet for illness.

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    1. I don't think it's too common overall, depending on the environment. Our main risk was and is with broken glass, for example. Many public places down south had kids drinking and smashing bottles. Up here, it's more the farmers "dump" sites within their own land where broken glass can be found.

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  13. I'm enjoying this series. What a great idea to do a survey and then write informative posts on the results!

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    1. Thank you so much, glad you like the idea.

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  14. Cuts can look a lot scarier than they are! I tend to panic if I see blood coming from one of my kitties. You are right though, it is not always necessary to run to the emergency vet. Sometimes a little TLC goes a long way.

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    1. It's both; sometimes it can look way scarier than it is and sometimes it might look like nothing but be actually a very deep wound.

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  15. I like the term "good sense," I feel like I would know when to call the vet for an abrasion or a cut, but as you say, it is always better to over react than under react.

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    1. You'd be surprised how rare common or good sense are, though.

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  16. Good point about considering the event that led to the wound. You can't see internal injuries.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    1. Thank you, Cathy. Yeah, thought it was a good point to bring up.

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  17. Taking a first aid course has made me less likely to rush to the vet and that is a good thing. Plus with travel, a vet is not always nearby - like when sailing - so it is good to be able to really read your pet.

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    1. Knowing first aid is certainly an awesome thing.

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