Dealing with Trauma in the Field: Blood, Cuts and Impalements
By Dr. Luke Peterson, DVM
In the January issue earlier this year, Dr. Diggs wrote an excellent article on what to have for first aid kits and other useful medicines. I want to build off that knowledge you have gained from his article and provide you with some care tips for some of the more serious traumatic wounds which may occur in the field. All of you have your own level of comfort with doctoring your hounds so my general advice is: if you encounter something you’re uncomfortable taking care of, seek veterinary care.
It never ceases to amaze me the variation in how people describe wounds to me, especially lacerations. I’ve had owners call me in hysterics, sure their dog would bleed to death from a cut, only to find upon examination a deep scratch that needed nothing more than a good cleansing and topical antibacterial ointment. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had owners call wondering if they should have their dog stitched up and upon examination find a dog with a gaping wound half the length of its body dripping blood from all ends. The two primary issues of concern with any laceration is 1) the amount of bleeding and 2) preventing infection/damage to underlying tissues. Dogs can lose about 10% of their blood volume with little or no effect to their everyday function (although a performance dog would suffer a slight decrease in stamina for 1-2 weeks). So, for a 22 pound beagle, they could lose about 100mL of blood or about 3 ½ ounces. A 20% loss in blood volume is tolerable provided they are treated with IV fluids. These dogs will require a couple of weeks to generate red blood cells back up to normal levels. Anything beyond 20% loss and a blood transfusion should be performed. When dealing with a laceration, the most important thing is to control bleeding, usually by direct pressure or by using a hemostat from your first aid kit to clamp off any squirting arteries or veins. Once you use something to apply pressure, don’t remove it from the wound until you are ready to apply a more permanent bandage or until a veterinarian is ready to repair the wound. Why? Every time you remove the bandage, you are removing the blood clot that has been laid down on the wound. This causes the wound to start bleeding again and defeats the purpose of constant pressure. If you are concerned the item you are using to apply pressure is dirty and may cause an infection remember this: dead dogs can’t fight infections, but living ones can.
Don’t miss the rest of this informative article on page 18 of our August issue.