Wounds on dogs – controlling bleeding

The two most important goals in treating wounds are to stop the bleeding and to prevent infection. Wounds are painful, so be prepared to restrain and muzzle the dog before treating the wound.

Controlling Bleeding

Bleeding may be arterial (bright red blood will spurt out) or venous (dark red blood will ooze out), or sometimes both. Do not wipe a wound that has stopped bleeding, as this will dislodge the clot. Similarly, don’t pour hydrogen peroxide on a fresh wound. Peroxide dissolves clots and starts a fresh round of bleeding. It may also damage the tissues and delay healing. The two methods used to control bleeding in an emergency situation are a pressure dressing and a tourniquet.

Pressure Dressing

The most effective and safest method for controlling bleeding is to apply pressure directly to the wound. Take several sterile gauze squares (or, in an emergency, use any clean cloth such as a thickly folded pad of clothing) and place over the wound. Apply direct pressure for 5 to 10 minutes. Leave the dressing in place and bandage snugly. If material for bandaging is not available, hold the pack in place until help arrives.

Watch for signs of swelling of the limb below the pressure pack. This indicates impaired circulation. If you see these signs, the bandage must be loosened or removed. Consider adding more bulk to the pack and apply a second bandage over the first. Transport the dog to a veterinary hospital.


Tourniquets can be used on the extremities and tail to control arterial bleeding that can’t be controlled with a pressure pack. Tourniquets should never be used if bleeding can be controlled by direct pressure. Always place the tourniquet above the wound (between the wound and the heart).

A suitable tourniquet can be made from a piece of cloth, belt, tire, or length of gauze. Loop the tourniquet around the limb. Then tighten it by hand or with a stick inserted beneath the loop. Twist the loop until the bleeding stops.

A tourniquet should be loosened every 10 minutes to prevent tissue hypoxia and to check for persistent bleeding. If bleeding has stopped, apply a pressure bandage as described in the previous section. If bleeding continues, let the blood flow for 30 seconds and then retighten the tourniquet for another 10 minutes.