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Using Superglue for Wounds

This is a continuation of Sydney’s New Dog Fight Wound and describes how we treated the cut using superglue for wounds.

The Vet’s Advice

This is the superglue we ended up using but the vet mentioned several others that are fine as well.

After about 15 minutes, I decided to call the on-call vet.  Our tiny town of 10,000 has 5 or 6 veterinarians and they rotate who is the weekend emergency office.  After I identified the correct office, I called in to see if they could advise me on how to proceed.  Never did I guess we would end up using superglue for wounds.

The vet himself answered the phone.  After a brief description of the situation, he asked me two questions – Was the eye ball intact (i.e. not hanging out of her head) and were the two pieces of flesh gaping open?  (Note – If the tissue is hanging open or is a jagged cut, consider going to the vet.)

The answer was no in both cases and I was aghast at the idea that someone would call in about a dislodged eyeball rather than treat it as an emergency.  (I later learned that dogs with shallow eye sockets and large eye openings (think pugs and shih tzus) sometimes suffer from proptosis – popped out eyeball.  One groomer told me she has just popped it back in, which honestly, kind of makes me shudder.)  So then his advice went something like this –

“If you bring her in, we’ll disinfect it, give you an antibiotic just in case and then use a superglue for wounds to close it.  If you come tonight, the office visit will have the added cost of being an emergency.”

Usually preferring to do things myself, I asked if “superglue for wounds” was a specific brand and whether he thought I could handle it myself.   I asked specifically if Gorilla Glue is a superglue for wounds.  He gave me the green light on Gorilla Glue and on doing it myself.

Superglue For Wounds

Here is how he advised me to proceed  –

  • Thoroughly disinfect the wound.  (We had already done this, but we did it again before proceeding)
  • Make sure you have access to the tissue on both sides of the wound. You don’t want to glue hair – you want tissue to tissue contact.
  • If the wound is longer than 1 inch, you’ll want to work in multiple steps.  This allows you to keep focused pressure as you go.
  • Place the glue alongside one side of the wound directly onto the edge of the tissue. Keeping your fingers clear of the glue, press the other side of the wound to the glue and hold it together for a minute (or whatever the glue says).
  • Once you are done with that segment, apply glue and pressure to the next segment of the wound. We applied glue twice because Sydney’s wound was about 2 inches long.
  • IMPORTANT – The vet said that the glue is going to BURN and the dog is going to react. Hold the dog securely in place and use an assistant if necessary.  If the dog twists or jerks around, the glue could get into areas you don’t want it (like her eye in this case) or it could create an imperfect seal and create an opportunity for infection.

Once I finished reiterating the process of using superglue for wounds (and also confirming again that Gorilla Glue was okay), I hung up and started preparing.  Our friends found two tubes of superglue that were unfortunately, both dried shut.  Unwilling to wait until we finished our dinner party, I left to run home and get our tube.  While I was there, I picked up the (very old) dog painkillers I had been prescribed for Trooper’s back injury several years prior.

I was back at the friends’ house within 20 minutes and was ready to go.

Communicating with your Dog

One of my favorite dog trainers told me about communicating with your dog.  During class, she would tell us when another dog was coming through and would instruct us to speak calmly to our dog and say, “Another dog is coming in.  You’ve seen this dog before and we’re not going to get upset about it.  There isn’t anything to worry about so let’s not get all worked up.”

Whether it was the words or the tone that communicated serenity and understanding, the strategy was, nonetheless, effective.  Trooper always kept his composure if he was warned and I would reward him with snacks when he would look at me for confirmation that things were okay.

So, before gluing Sydney’s face back together, I got down in front of her and we had a little tête-à-tête.  Brian knew what I was doing but our friends probably thought I had drifted towards the deep end.  I said to Sydney, “This is going to hurt a little but we need to do it.  We are going to apply glue to your wound in two pieces and we have to hold each section together for at least a minute.  We need you to be still and good so that we can get this done quickly and safely.  I’m really sorry about the burning, but you can do this.  We’re almost done.”

Sydney visibly relaxed and we proceeded with the procedure.  She jerked slightly when the first round of glue touched her face.  But she didn’t pull out of my hands and she didn’t move at all when we did the second application.  Despite being in pain and uncertain about the situation, she listened to me and kept it together.

I gave her one half of a painkiller, a big dog snack and put the cone back on.  We (mostly) enjoyed the rest of the evening with our friends and the dogs went to sleep nearby.  Tessie stayed in another room.

Superglue for wounds – It actually works

Her face looked kind of busted and it hurt my heart.  She’s such a pretty dog and here she was with this small mountain ridge of hair coming out of her forehead.  Would it scar?  Would her hair be stuck like that forever?

We took the superglue for wounds approach and here is Sydney’s face a few days later.

Sydney wore the cone for the next day and then we took it off because she wasn’t rubbing her face.  I gave her one half of a pill in the morning and again at night for two days following the incident.  I felt her face regularly to see if the wound was unnaturally hot and watched her behavior closely.

About a week after the fight, I was examining her face to see how the wound site looked when I noticed a weird hair tuft.  I touched it with my finger and this ‘caterpillar’ fell off into my hand.  It was the tissue and adjoining hair that had been sealed out when we closed together the two sides of skin.  Whatever tissue wasn’t closed inside of the wound, but that didn’t belong outside of her body either, died and then fell off.  It freaked me out for a moment but upon closer inspection, I figured out what it was and stopped worrying.

With the tuft gone, I could see the scar – it confirmed that the wound had stayed closed and was not swollen.  So while the thought of using superglue for wounds initially made me uncomfortable, Sydney’s face was a clear example of it working.

About a month later, she looked completely normal again.  No scar.  No gap in her face hair.  She’s the same old beautiful Sydney.

Sydney is not a fan of getting her photo taken so she looks rather nervous and embarrassed in this photo. But it was taken yesterday, about three months after the dog fight, and you can see that there is no evidence of the wound.

Lessons Learned

  • There is no need to introduce Sydney to other alpha females. No amount of alpha female introductions is going to pacify Sydney.  She will never be Trooper.  Her family did not socialize her well when she was young (puppy through 5 years old) and they enabled a lot of bad behavior.  She has made tremendous progress since we adopted her but there is no reason to set her up for failure by putting her in situations she is not ready for.  She tolerates small dogs, old dogs and dogs that ignore her.  That is enough for us.
  • Have a small dog-related first-aid kit. DO THIS.  If you have children, you probably have a first-aid kit.  But for us, aside from bandaids and rubbing alcohol, we would have been unprepared for this incident.
    • I would recommend you have – sterile gauze, hydrogen peroxide, vet wrap/athletic wrap, tweezers and SUPERGLUE.  Oh, and of course, a cone.
    • This one looks like an entry level pet first aid kit but doesn’t include superglue for wounds.
  • Even if medication is supposedly expired, I don’t think there is anything wrong with keeping it on hand for emergencies. I did google the painkiller to make sure it was okay to give it to the dogs after the “Best By” date.  But my human medication understanding told me that the only thing that happens to most medications over time is that they lose their potency.  Same as spices.  (This is a real grey area, so you should definitely consult someone you know and trust before medicating your dog.)

So, thanks to Sydney, our family is now equipped to handle both puncture and slash wound emergencies.

Other Resources

This website talks about using superglue for wounds (search ‘medical glue).  The wiki on Gorilla Glue is helpful to describe that particular type of glue.  This blog is a comprehensive guide to using superglue for wounds.  Note that most of these sites discourage the use of superglue for dog bite wounds (risk of infection) and using it near eyes (risk of burning/irritation and/or gluing the eye shut).  It also isn’t clear whether or not Gorilla Glue is an approved chemical compound for medical uses.  (Hence the reason I checked TWICE with the vet before using it.)

Do your own research so you feel good about it and hopefully, you’ll never be in a situation where you need to use it.

Another shot of Sydney – with Trooper investigating the situation to see if he can help somehow.