We’ve all been there.
Upon the sudden realization that you no longer recognize your dog under its wild tangle of matted fur, you decide to do something about it. Taking out a pair of scissors, you turn yourself into a groomer for the day.
After 3 grueling hours in the jungle of your dog’s coat, you’re nearly finished with the task. Just as you’re about to take the final snip, your dog squirms for no particular reason- and yelps suddenly in sharp pain.
“I’ve accidentally cut my dog’s skin with scissors!”
Bright red blossoms before your wide-stretched eyes as you realize what’s happened. Panic rises to the top of your throat. However, now’s not the time to freeze.
Don’t worry– we have all the information you need to bring your dog back to perfect health as quickly as possible.
- What Do I Do If I Accidentally Cut My Dog’s Skin With Scissors?
- How To Prevent Accidentally Cutting Dog’s Skin Again
- Will A Dog’s Cut Heal On Its Own?
- What Happens If You Accidentally Cut Your Dog’s Whiskers?
- Can You Accidentally Cut Your Dog With Clippers?
- In Conclusion
What Do I Do If I Accidentally Cut My Dog’s Skin With Scissors?
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It’s time to get out your first aid kit.
Hopefully, you’ve got one prepared at home with the following items inside:
- KY lubricant
- Gauze pads
- Sterile bandages
- Betadine or other povidone iodine product
- Kwik Stop styptic powder, or similar
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Farnam Wound Care, coconut oil or other antimicrobial ointment
- Bandage scissors
- Elastic bandages
You may need to muzzle your dog before beginning any treatment. It will be in considerable pain and will be feeling apprehensive and scared in this situation. Scared dogs are prone to become more aggressive than usual and can lash out with little notice or reason.
If you don’t have a muzzle at home, you can make an emergency one out of a leash as shown in the video below:
After your dog is muzzled and in a comfortable position, you can begin treatment.
A cut on your dog will be treated in different ways depending on how deep and wide it is.
For small cuts under ¼ inch in length, soak a cotton pad in betadine and clean up any bleeding first. Dab the cotton pad onto the cut and then leave it alone to let it heal by itself.
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Dogs have very elastic skin and are able to recover quickly from these types of superficial cuts and scrapes, so you will not need to follow the steps below.
For cuts from ½ inch to over an inch long, you will need to put more effort into stopping the bleeding initially. The longer and deeper the laceration, the more that it will bleed- especially if the cut is on the dog’s head or foot.
Try to stop the flow of blood by applying firm pressure with a towel, gauze square washcloth. While it would undeniably be best if the material is clean, it doesn’t matter too much at this stage because later on you will be disinfecting the wound regardless.
The goal is to put enough pressure on the open wound so that the blood vessels are able to clot and seal.
Since injuries resulting from grooming usually aren’t too deep, it shouldn’t take long to stop the bleeding. Once the cut isn’t bleeding anymore, you can proceed onto the next step.
You can also use styptic powder to help stop the bleeding once it has been slowed down through pressure. Styptic powder contains ferric subsulfate, which is a hemostatic agent that stops bleeding by making blood vessels smaller.
I recommend brands like Kwik Stop that also contain benzocaine as an ingredient. Benzocaine numbs the wound and eases itching, so it allows your dog to heal more comfortably.
If after 10 minutes or so the bleeding still continues steadily, forgo further treatment and take your dog to the emergency vet clinic immediately. You may have nicked a larger blood vessel and pressure alone won’t be effective.
In this case, your dog will likely need forceps to seal the vessel and stop the bleeding, as well as stitches to close up the wound.
Now that the bleeding has stopped, it is really important to prepare the area around the wound so that it doesn’t get in the way of treatment. It also goes a long way in helping to keep the wound clean.
This means that you will need to clean surrounding areas of dried blood, as well as trim away any hair and fur that might dip into the cut and make it dirty.
After you have cleaned around the wound with betadine or other iodine solution, put a thin layer of KY jelly on the wound itself to stop any further contamination. Following that, place a gauze square on top to cover it.
This is in effect a temporary bandage that will allow you to work around the cut without touching it and prevents it from getting any dirtier.
After the temporary bandage has been applied, use your scissors to carefully shorten the hair around the wound. Again, though both you and your dog might be nervous about scissors coming so close to its body, it is very important to get the hair out of the way.
Collect the hair as you cut it. Once you are done, wash your hands thoroughly to remove the fur and move onto the next step.
After you have finished prepping the area around the wound, it’s time to clean the cut itself.
Firstly, remove the temporary bandage and gently wipe away any residual lubricant.
Following that by rinsing the wound with tap or cool boiled water first before disinfecting with diluted betadine. You can use a cup or syringe to gently pour over and wash the wound.
Make sure that you don’t use hydrogen peroxide to clean the cut as it is a harsher chemical compound that can damage the tissue and slow down healing time. Rubbing alcohol should also be avoided.
Both cause a stinging sensation and will make your dog even more distressed during a time it should be comforted as much as possible.
When you have cleaned and disinfected the wound sufficiently, dry the area and apply an antimicrobial cream like the one pictured above. Human ointments like Neosporin or more natural remedies like coconut oil will also work well in a pinch.
Apply the ointment thinly and evenly over the cut itself to prevent bacteria from getting into the wound.
Finally, it would be a good idea to put a bandage over the gash, both to protect it from bacteria and licking as well as to help it knit back together faster.
Any bandage will do, but I recommend using a butterfly bandage.
These work great on small cuts as it holds the cut together while also giving it ample air to breathe. This prevents the wound from getting moist; as we all know, a moist environment is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
See this video below on how to properly apply a butterfly band-aid:
No matter what type of bandage you use, make sure that it is not wrapped too tightly around the wound. If the bandage is too tight, it can cut off blood flow to the area and slow down the healing process.
Note: if the cut is on soft tissue like your dog’s foot pad or nose, then a bandage likely won’t stick very well.
In these cases, you will either have to keep the wound open and be vigilant about keeping it clean and dry, or use a surgical glue to keep the gash closed.
Since a cut from your scissors during grooming isn’t likely to be too large or dirty, oral antibiotics and pain medication shouldn’t be necessary.
Constantly monitor whether the bandage is getting dirty or wet, and replace it with fresh covering and ointment every day if possible. Clean the area by wiping with betadine before drying and covering with a new dressing.
Some vets, such as Dr. Marie Haynes of Ask a Vet Question, swear by rinsing open wounds with water to speed up healing. You can also try this method by running warm water over the wound for 10 minute segments 3 times a day.
One of the biggest infection risks is if your dog is allowed to lick at the wound. A dog’s mouth is unsurprisingly full of bacteria, and the wet, warm saliva is the perfect environment for nasty microorganisms to thrive.
In order to stop the dog from licking the cut and removing the ointment, you will need to use an E-collar or something similar to limit your dog’s reach.
Also make sure that your dog gets plenty of rest and does not do any strenuous activity or play outside where it is dirty.
Depending on where the wound is, a sudden movement can very easily reopen the cut and cause it to start bleeding again. This will only slow down recovery time and make infection more likely.
If you do notice the wound becoming red and inflamed or swollen with pus, it likely has become infected and will need antibiotic therapy. Keep an eye out also for visible signs such as vomiting diarrhea, fever or loss of appetite.
If your dog has these symptoms, or does not seem to be healing after a few days, a visit with your vet may be necessary for assessment and proper treatment.
Ear injuries can look a lot worse than cuts on other parts of the body.
They tend to bleed quickly and profusely due to the large number of blood vessels present. This is also partly due to the closed shape of ear flaps, which makes blood accumulate in the area with nowhere to go.
It is quite easy to accidentally nick a dog’s ear due to the fact that each breed’s ears can be so different. Some may have more skin folds or contours that stick out more, as well as fur that makes it hard to see where the skin ends and hair begins.
Despite the amount of bleeding, cuts on ears are no more serious than anywhere else.
You can treat it in the same way as you treat cuts on other parts of the body. The first step is always to apply pressure to stop blood flow, and then to clean and bandage following the steps above.
As long as proper treatment is given, cuts in dog ears will heal quickly and won’t cause any long-term damage to your pup.
It’s exactly as they say: prevention is better than the cure. Here’s how to make sure you never accidentally cut your dog’s skin again while grooming:
If your dog has matted fur, don’t try to tidy it up with scissors! It is very easy to cut the skin this way as you won’t be able to clearly see where it connects to the hair.
If your dog is seriously matted, it is best to use a de-matting comb first to brush out the tangles before grooming with clippers.
If you only have access to scissors, use a flat, fine-toothed dog comb as a barrier between scissors and skin. This way, it will be impossible to accidentally nick your dog.
If you are unsure or inexperienced, save yourself time and trouble by taking your dog to a professional groomer.
If your dog is older, you have to be more careful when grooming them. This is because they have less elastic skin that has become thinner with age. Even with clippers you run the risk of cutting them if you use the shortest blade.
If you know that your dog has warts, you have to be extra careful cutting around them so that you don’t accidentally cut them open or off.
Dogs have excellent immune systems and are usually able to fight off infection and heal from cuts very effectively. In some cases, they can heal just as well by themselves without any need for human intervention.
Small scrapes and cuts will close quickly without leaving behind scar tissue. They will heal by themselves in around 10 days. As long as you help your dog to keep the area clean, they will likely be just fine.
For deeper open wounds, it is still possible for a dog to heal on its own but there will be a higher risk of infection. Obviously, if there is a lot of bleeding you don’t want to leave your dog to heal on its own.
In these situations it’s advisable to step in and treat your dogs using the steps outlined above.
Otherwise, a dog will take much longer to heal on its own from a deep wound- and that’s if it doesn’t become infected.
The follicles at the base of a dog’s whiskers are packed with nerves that send sensory signals to its brain.
As a dog moves around, it uses its whiskers to detect changes in the air and the location of nearby objects. This helps dogs to ‘see’ better, since their eyes are not the sharpest.
Some dog breeds also use their whiskers to feel whether they are able to fit through a small space.
Accidentally cutting your dog’s whiskers won’t be painful since like hair, they don’t have any nerve endings. Even cutting off just one whisker likely won’t have much of an effect on your dog.
However, if you trim all the whiskers off your dog in a freak accident, your dog will definitely have decreased spatial awareness and navigational abilities.
It will be unable to balance as well as before and lose a significant aspect of its sensory perception.
Luckily, dogs’ whiskers do grow back eventually. They go through growth cycles just like other hairs and will be back to normal length in 3 to 4 months.
It is generally recommended that if you are going to groom your dog, to do so with clippers rather than scissors.
With scissors, you are directly exposing sharp blades in close proximity to your dog’s skin. Even the slightest twitch or movement from you or your dog can result in a cut or puncture wound.
Clippers are a much safer option, since most come with additional guards that keep the actual blade off the skin.
Different guards can be attached to cut hair of different lengths, though for very long hair you will still need to reduce it first before clipping so that the clipper won’t jam.
Though unlikely, it is still possible for you to cut your dog with clippers. This can happen if you are going for a really close shave with no guard attached. As no guard is attached, it is easier to use the clipper at the wrong angle and cut the skin.
Therefore, it is still vital to take utmost care when using clippers to groom your dog in order to prevent unnecessary injury.
It can be a distressing event for both you and your dog if you ever accidentally cut its skin with scissors while grooming! However, despite the likely presence of bleeding, it usually isn’t as bad as it looks.
The key is to stay calm and act quickly to stem the bleeding as much as possible. Assess the extent of the wound, and then proceed to cleaning, disinfecting (but not with hydrogen peroxide!), and bandaging the cut.
Aftercare is just as important as allowing a bandaged wound to become wet or dirty will make it more likely to become infected. If the area starts to look red or if your dog shows signs of fever or lethargy, take it to the vet immediately for antibiotic treatment.
Most of the time as long as you keep the wound clean and dry, the cut will heal in around two weeks with little sign of scarring.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.