Dogs are instinctively part of a pack, so they want to help their fellow dogs heal when they get hurt. However, licking wounds may do more harm than good.
This is especially true if the wound is from surgery. It can irritate the incision, break down sutures, or cause infection.
Stage 1: Inflammation
When dogs sustain an injury, their body naturally responds with inflammation. This response happens right away and is the first stage of healing.
During the inflammatory phase, swelling, heat, pain and redness occur as the body prepares cells to heal. This is a normal part of the process and only problematic if it lasts too long.
This stage also engorges the damaged blood vessels so that they can swell and release transudate (a mixture of water, salt, protein, and enzymes). This helps to remove bacteria, pathogens, and other debris from the wound, as well as prep the wound area for healing.
At this stage, granulation tissue begins to form over the wound edge. It’s a moist pink tissue that will eventually fill in the wound and cover it, though it can look a little unattractive at this stage.
Stage 2: Debridement
When your dog sustains a wound, it is important to know that the healing process can take time. This is why it is best to protect the area and keep the wound clean and treated with an antimicrobial liquid.
The body sends its first signals of healing after a cut or scrape, including inflammation and granulation tissue formation. This inflammatory reaction prepares the body for healing by sending white blood cells to the wound.
Once the white blood cells reach the wound, they will push the dead tissues out of the way and flush the area with fluid to prepare the body for repair. This process is called debridement and can be done with either a selective or non-selective method.
Selective debridement removes dead or unhealthy tissue while sparing healthy tissue. Autolytic debridement occurs when the white blood cells soften and liquefy the hardened tissues, making them easier to remove. This is a safe, painless, and effective form of debridement for long-term healing.
Stage 3: Repair
When your dog sustains an injury, their body immediately begins to heal the wound. This involves the mobilization of white blood cells, inflammatory cells, and proteins to the site of the wound.
This process aims to prevent further bleeding, which will result in the formation of a thick scab over the wound. It may take several days or even weeks for the scab to fully form over the wound and the scar tissue to become stronger.
During this stage, your dog’s white blood cells will begin to remove dead and unhealthy tissues from the injured area. The white blood cells will also kill bacteria and pus that are present in the wound.
This stage is very important because the body needs to remove harmful dead tissue that might hinder the healing process. This is called debridement and it can be a natural process performed by your dog’s body or it can be surgically done by a veterinarian.
Stage 4: Closure
When a dog has suffered an injury, their body will start to repair damaged tissues a couple of days after the trauma. They will also produce new cells, and the skin will begin to form scabs.
In some cases, a wound will not heal properly because the dead tissue it contains is too difficult for the cells to remove. The best way to prevent this is by having a veterinarian remove the dead tissue surgically.
Once a wound has healed, your vet will remove the stitches that were used to close it. This is usually done in a few weeks, depending on the type of surgery your dog had.