Skin and Wound Basics

Over a pet’s lifetime, many will experience dermal injuries from minor to major. These may happen during normal activity or may be more serious such as from fighting or rough-housing. While these are a common occurrence, the progression of dermal healing in a dog is actually a complicated process that involves many biological factors and several stages. Your dog’s skin is much different than yours so treatment should be approached with care and knowledge. If not treated properly, they may become problematic. And if left untreated, they can become infected.

Conditions that require dermal repair include:

Different types of skin injuries and wounds may require different types of care. If your dog has any of these conditions, talk to your veterinarian about proper care.


No skin is missing, just separated

Bites and punctures

All bite wounds are considered
due to oral bacteria

Hot spots*

Typically a result of self-induced
trauma to alleviate pain or itch


Require careful wound care
to prevent infection and tend
to heal slowly

Surgical incisions

Follow specific instructions provided
by your veterinarian

Abrasions and tears

Wounds caused by friction, scraping
or blunt force

*Also called acute dermatitis, hot spots are a way the skin of dogs has a unique response. Typically a result of self-induced trauma when the dog bites or scratches itself in an attempt to
alleviate some pain or itch. The lesions are red, moist, and exudative. Large lesions can form in a matter of hours.

Stages of Healing

There are many types of dermal injuries, but most go through similar stages of healing. There are 4 major stages of epidermal healing:


First, blood vessels constrict to control bleeding, and then within minutes, the blood vessels dilate. This causes swelling.


This is removal of foreign material from the wound that happens naturally on a cellular level. Certain types of white blood cells attack bacteria and other debris in the affected tissue.


Cells begin to grow and rebuild missing and damaged tissues. Small blood vessels develop to deliver a blood supply to the wound. Skin cells then migrate, and scabs form within hours of the initial wound. These skin (or epithelial) cells can cover a properly closed surgical incision within 48 hours. In a larger open wound, the creation of granulation tissue takes longer.


The newly laid collagen fibers reorganize and the tissue strengthens. The length of this process depends upon the severity of the injury or wound.

Different Skin,
Different Needs

Skin is the largest organ in your pet’s body and serves as a barrier against injury, disease, and damage from ultraviolet light. While it covers the body just as ours does, there are some real differences in canine skin that make it unique – and these differences should guide options you use to treat and cleanse your dog’s injuries.

Supporting Faster Turnover: canine epidermis (the outer layer) has a turnover rate of 20 days compared to humans which occurs approximately every 28 days

Thinner: the epidermis of a dog is 8 to 10 cells thick, and a cat’s is even thinner. In humans, it’s at least 18-20 cells thick. This means your pet’s skin is very thin and susceptible to bacteria if it is stripped away with improper ingredients that are not pH balanced for their skin

More Alkaline: a dog’s or cat’s skin is extremely alkaline so it’s a perfect breeding ground for skin infections if pH is disrupted. Pets have a neutral pH of 7 to 7.52, (some breeds it’s as high as 9.0!) Humans have acidic pH of 5.2 to 5.5. When you move the pH scale from one number to the next, it indicates a change of 10 x 10 or a 100 fold change. For example from 5 to 7, that is 200 times more alkaline

Fewer Layers: making their skin more sensitive. This means products made for human skin can cause discomfort and irritation, – and may actually harm your dog’s skin. It’s best to consult your veterinarian for dermal products that are formulated for pets to promote healing and moisturize sensitive skin tissues based upon the unique epidermal environment


Your veterinarian will prescribe treatment based upon the specific type and severity of the dermal issue that is focused on healing the wound properly and, in most cases, as rapidly as possible. The recommended treatments may include:

Skin and wound repair solutions that accelerate healing, such as Episanis BioHAnce Skin and Wound Gel

Antibiotics or antiseptics to treat infection

Anti-inflammatories or analgesic for pain management

Appropriately applied bandage or covering based upon the type of injury

The “cone of shame” (Elizabethan Collar) to prevent further injury

Call or ask your veterinarian for tips on how to treat minor cuts, abrasions, wounds and hot spots at home to ensure you’re taking the proper steps and using the right products to promote healing. Ask about products that can help make administration easier and more precise, as well as reduce the amount of time your pet is in pain or wearing the cone (a major goal for any pet parent).

Expert advice is always the best strategy for a successful outcome. You may want to create an emergency kit to have at home for minor injuries.

An immediate appointment may be advisable for:

An injury that fully penetrates the skin (e.g., a bite wound)

An injury that involves a large portion of the body

An injury that affects sensitive areas of the body

Even after emergency treatment, continued care at home will be necessary to complete the healing process.