It could be from another dog biting your pup during an energetic wrestling match in the dog park. It could be from surgery. It could be from past abuse. Whatever the reason, a scar on your dog can be distressing. It can remind you of a difficult experience, or an operation that was frightening. In some cases, a scar can be irritating for your dog or even painful, and a secondary infection or injury can occur from scratching.
If your dog is injured, the most effective way to prevent scarring is to have the wound treated properly.
Here are some ways to prevent, minimize or treat scars.
In most cases, a serious wound that can cause scarring needs to be treated by a veterinarian. Only a doctor can determine if the injury needs suturing. Often, the area around the wound will need to be shaved and thoroughly cleaned. If scarring is a problem for you, tell your vet. Things like smaller stitches, subcutaneous or dissolving stitches can minimize or even prevent scarring.
After treatment, put on a cone or an e-collar. It may make your dog grumpy, but it will prevent him from scratching and ripping out sutures. Your vet will send you home with one. There are alternatives to the cone of shame, if you can’t deal with the plastic kind. However, whatever cone you choose, pay attention to your dog to make sure he can’t get to the injury.
While your dog is healing, keep close watch on the incision. Symptoms of infection include redness, discharge, discoloration, odor or swelling. If you see any of the signs, call your vet. Don’t attempt to treat it on your own if the wound appears infected. Your vet may prescribe prednisone or another corticosteroid to reduce swelling and inflammation, or counsel you to try Bacitracin or Neosporin first.
Infections increase the possibility of scarring, and they are often painful. An infection may spread through the blood and make your dog very sick. If an abscess develops, it may need to be treated surgically. Catch an infection early to prevent complications and further scarring.
Chances are, if you successfully prevent your dog from licking or biting the wound, the wound will begin to heal.
The Healing Process
In most cases, a wound or incision will be almost healed in around 2 weeks after surgery or treatment. A scar will begin form after around 3 weeks.
This is the point that you can start treating the scar rather than the wound. Some vets recommend using a supplement called methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM. Derived from kelp, this sulfur compound can help reduce the amount of scar tissue the dog’s body produces at the wound site. Your vet can determine what dosage your dog needs. You can also use an MSM cream to keep the skin supple and moisturized.
Other products that may help reduce scarring include Vaseline, Aquaphor and Vitamin E (break the capsules open and apply the oil). There are also natural products that moisturize. Fish oil supplements help the hair grow back to cover the scar, but only if the hair follicles haven’t been damaged.
Some dogs will naturally scar worse than others. Lighter colored dogs may heal with more pigment in the scar tissue. The scars on short haired breeds will be more noticeable. Scars in places like the muzzle can appear very prominent.
When to be Concerned
There are some cases where a scar needs further veterinary treatment. Like humans, dogs can form keloids, which are raised, lumpy areas formed mostly by collagen. Sometimes this type of scar can be painful or irritating to a dog. In the case of a keloid, your veterinarian can remove the excess tissue. This reduces your dog’s pain or discomfort.
The worst-case scenario is that keloids can develop into a cancerous tumor called malignant fibrosarcomas, which your vet can remove.
Even if your dog ends up with a prominent scar, it will bother you way more than your dog. Think of it as a badge of honor.