One of the most frequently asked questions The Veterinary Wound Library receives through our online Chat Bot is from pet owners asking if they can use over the counter creams for their pet's wound.
We have a clear position on this subject based on the physiology of wound healing, and feel that there really does need to be greater awareness of the ingredients of such creams and that not all of them will be beneficial to healing, especially when used on animals.
First things first: As a service the Veterinary Wound Library was set up to support veterinary professionals with challenging cases, to support their decision making and product choices. We certainly don't mind the odd request for help from owners looking for answers, and we get some really great questions. However, we can't advise on individual cases directly to owners. This is because we would be making a decision based on a patient we have not seen in person (all patients usually require a full check over to ensure there are no other complications or factors that may delay healing) and more importantly, we could contradict your own Vet's advice which could get us all into a muddle over the care of patient.
So, for that reason we encourage owners who contact us to seek advice from their Vet and we can certainly help their Vet if they need it.
We appreciate that all owners seeking our help are looking for answers and just care about the welfare of their pet. We are very glad that so many people do. We didn't want to leave you with no advice if you have come here searching for answers, so we have included the advice we usually give in terms of basic wound care below.
Our basic wound management advice (as we teach the veterinary profession) is that wounds require 3 things to heal well;
1. Good preparation of the wound before anything else- to wash the wound thoroughly using lots of warm water or saline (you can make saline using 1 tsp salt to 1 pint/500mls of warm boiled water).
2. Promotion of healthy healing environment - Promotion of wound healing means keeping the wound clean and covered if possible. We advocate the use of water based hydrogels (you can ask your chemist for brands of wound hydrogels, some are sold over the counter). Hydrogels provide a better environment for healing than oil based products. Any oil based products can not be dissolved naturally by the body and actually inhibit cell migration and may lock debris into the wound. Sudocrem, Bepanthen and Vaseline are all Oil based products and in our opinion should not be used on open wounds. Further more, if you have washed the wound well there will be no need for the antiseptics in creams or ointments. Many of the off the shelf nappy creams have some of form of antiseptic (cetrimide, chlorhexidine, iodine, phenol) and these can be sensitising (cause reactions) or can actually inhibit healing and may even be toxic to animals. Yes antiseptics may kill bacteria, but they may also damage the healing process in a healthy wound.
3. Protect - protect the area from interference, contamination from soil, urine, and scratching. This can be challenging and if your pet is scratching and has an itching area it's likely that a dermatological issue is present and that the wound is secondary. You really do need to seek veterinary attention if this is the case.
Whatever the size of the wound, and even with Veterinary support its important to monitor your pet to be sure they are not irritated by the wound or that there are complications arising from a bandage or treatment. Infection is a complication in wounds when they have been contaminated or become dirty and signs include inflammation, redness, swelling, pain and production of pus or slough. If this is the case it is very important to seek help from your Vet as antibiotics may be required sooner rather than later. Some wounds such as bite wounds or puncture wounds can become infected and deteriorate very quickly, so a trip to the vet should be your first priority.
If the wound is healing well, and the edges are closing together nicely without inflammation or signs of infection it will seem all is progressing well. Your vet will advise to keep the wound clean and we suggest regularly washing any scurf and debris away from the wound edges with warm salt water. This shouldn't be done too often if the wound is healing well as it may disturb new cells - once daily to every other day may be all that is needed once a wound is very close to healed. Be sure not to scrub these healing wounds, just gently pat dry with clean toilet paper or clean cloth.
If in doubt for any reason contact your Vet or vet nurse immediately. A call to the vet nurse and a photograph of the wound will be all you need for them to help you. There is a misconception that Vets will look for an excuse to charge owners for care and wounds can become expensive if they start to deteriorate. The reality is, that with smart phones available to be able to send a photo and some detail to your Vet or Vet nurse they will usually be honest about the need for you to visit. If money is tight they will advise accordingly, but be aware that some tiny wounds can become very serious very quickly. Your Vet is the best person to advise and they can always contact us for specialist help if they need it.
We hope this helps, if in doubt please don't be afraid to ask your Vet for advice.
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