Cuts (lacerations) and scrapes (abrasions) in the skin are common in dogs and cats. Most are minor injuries that heal quickly with minimal treatment, but some are more serious injuries that may require surgery.

Lacerations are cuts in the skin caused by sharp objects, such as broken glass, blades, jagged metal edges, or claws. Depending on the nature of the sharp object that cuts the skin, the resulting wound can have edges that are clean and well-defined, or jagged and dirty. Foreign materials such as fur, dirt, or fabric can be driven into the wound, increasing the possibility of secondary infection and delayed healing.

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Bites and puncture wounds can both lead to abscesses in dogs and cats. Puncture wounds can be caused by fights with another animal, stepping on a nail or other sharp object, or even running into a broken branch or stick. These problems are most common in pets that roam free outside, especially male cats. Unlike simple lacerations or abrasions, bites and punctures tend to carry material into the wound, which can seal over and trap bacteria inside. When this happens, the wound often becomes infected and can develop into a large, pus-filled abscess. Punctures that penetrate completely through the wall of the chest or abdomen are rare, but they are especially serious problems that require emergency treatment and surgery.

Abscesses are especially common in cat-fight wounds. Numerous bacteria are found in the mouth, and they are carried deep into the skin and underlying tissues by the very sharp teeth of cats. The small wounds left by the bite on the skin surface seal over quickly, trapping the bacteria deep inside. Within a day or two, a large pus pocket develops, which may be warm and fluctuating to the touch. Yellow, gray, or greenish pus may ooze from the wound, and the pus pocket may rupture spontaneously after several days.

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Dog nails often crack or tear when caught on objects.  Although this is a relatively minor injury, it is very painful and can bleed quite a bit.

The canine nail consists of a central bundle of blood vessels and nerves that are informally known as the “quick,” which is surrounded by a layer of horny material called keratin.  The central quick is living tissue, while the brittle keratin is not.  Normally, there are five nails on each front foot, and four nails on each rear foot.  The front nails that are found slightly higher up the foot are called dew claws.

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Bites on dogs, including fleas, ticks, certain spiders, and bee stings are common causes of bite reactions in pets.  Some dog bites cause no more than a mild annoyance, while others can cause a serious condition.

The most common signs of an insect bite reaction on a dog include swelling and redness at the site of the bite, “hives,” or a swollen face or muzzle.  However, just like people, some dogs can become sensitive to the proteins contained in the saliva or venom of biting insects.  These allergic individuals can develop severely inflamed skin, vomiting, breathing difficulties, and (rarely) death.  Allergy to fleas is very common and usually shows up as severe itching over the rump, from even a single bite.

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Sprains and strains involving the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments are common in dogs and cats, just as they are in people. These are often referred to as “soft-tissue” injuries, to differentiate them from damage to the bones. Soft-tissue injuries are more common in dogs than in cats, and they are especially common in large, active dogs.

Muscles move the legs by contracting and relaxing, thereby moving tendons that connect muscle to bone. Ligaments are strong, fibrous bands of tissue that connect bone to bone, stabilizing and protecting the joints. Joints are further protected by fibrous joint capsules that surround and stabilize the joints, forming a reservoir for joint fluid, which lubricates the joints.

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Foreign bodies such as brambles, plant awns, small sticks, etc, often cause skin and coat problems in dogs and cats. These types of materials can work their way into the skin, often between the toes, or into the eyes or ears. The foreign material then acts as an irritant and source of infection, possibly making healing difficult. Foreign bodies can also create hair mats that lead to secondary “hot spots,” also called moist dermatitis.

Many plant seeds are covered with spiny material that easily sticks to hair, especially between the toes, or in folds of the skin. Bits of plastic, wire, etc, can also have sharp, prickly edges that stick to hair. These materials can work their way into other areas, such as the ears, vulva, or sheath of the penis. Dogs and cats with long hair coats, as well as those that spend time outside in fields and woods, are most at risk.

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The most common causes of bone fractures in dogs and cats are being hit by a car or falling from a height.

Bones consist of an outer, hard portion known as the cortex and an inner, spongy portion known as the marrow. The outside surface of the cortex is surrounded by a fibrous capsule called the periosteum, which contains blood vessels and nerves. The periosteum also contains immature cells that grow into the osteoblasts, which are the cells involved in growth of bone and fracture repair.

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Tail injuries are relatively common in dogs and cats. Tails can be bitten, caught in doors, stepped on, or even broken. Injured tails tend to droop or sag, and are generally quite painful. The dog or cat often walks very gingerly in the hindquarters.

The bones in the tail are a line of progressively smaller vertebrae that are a continuation of the spine and run from the pelvis to the tail tip. Muscles and nerves run along the length of the tail, controlling sensation and movement. Important nerves near the base of the tail also contribute to control of bowel movements.

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Oral injuries in dogs and cats are relatively common and include injuries to the mouth, gums, teeth, or tongue. Dogs often chew on sticks, bones, stones, furniture, and other items that can crack teeth or result in splinters or shards entering delicate oral tissues. The mouth can also be injured by trauma (eg, hit by car), fight wounds, porcupine quills, bee stings, and other causes. Pets with oral injuries can have difficulty eating (especially hard food), may gag repeatedly, and/or may drip blood from the mouth onto floor surfaces or toys.

The gums blend into the mucous membranes lining the inside of the mouth, cheek, and throat. All of this tissue has a rich blood supply, which means that it bleeds easily but also heals quickly. Small cuts, scrapes, or punctures within the mouth often heal on their own. Larger cuts and those associated with foreign bodies (such as sticks) usually require surgery (under general anesthesia) for treatment and repair.

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*This information is provided courtesy of WebVet