Lacerations & Punctures, including Bite Wounds (with special reference to Waterfowl, Cranes, UK Wildlife, Bears, Lagomorphs, Ferrets and Bonobos)

Click image for full page view Click image for full page view Click image for full page view back-leg4.JPG (128898 bytes) Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-screen view Click here for full-page view with caption Sutured laceration on a rabbit. Click here for full page view with caption Ring-associated leg wound on a rabbit. Click here for full page view with caption Leg wounds on  a rabbit. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit leg wound. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit foot laceration. Click here for full page view with caption Crane mate attack, during treatment. Click here for full-page view with caption.

Summary Information

Diseases / List of Physical / Traumatic Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names
  • Predation
  • Cannibalism

(see also: Impact Injury, Foreign Body Entanglement & Snaring)

Disease Agents Lacerations (cuts and tears) and punctures may be caused by:
  • Bites, slashes or talon wounds from conspecifics.
  • Bites or other injuries from predators.
  • Collisions or forcible contact with sharp objects or thin linear objects (e.g. wire, glass shards, barbed wire, edges of tins).
  • Garden strimmers.
  • Garden forks.
  • Foreign bodies.
In Waterfowl: 
  • Predators including foxes (Vulpes vulpes - Red fox), dogs, mink (Mustela vison - American mink) etc. 
  • Collisions with sharp objects including enclosure wire, branches etc.;
  • Leg rings (particularly open or badly-fitting rings) which may get caught on fencing or other objects.

(B11.36.w4, B13.16.w11, P8.3.w1)

In Cranes:

  • Conspecific aggression.
    • This may occur if a new crane is moved into a pen already holding cranes, while dominance hierarchies are being formed. (B12.56.w14, B703.10.w10)
    • Often seen in spring while pair bonds are being formed.
    • Sometimes seen in an established pair which start fighting ("divorce"). (B703.10.w10)
    • Common if a crane accidentally jumps into a pen with other cranes; (B12.56.w14)
    • Parents may attack their chick if it is sick/lethargic, wounded or deformed, or sometimes in redirected aggression due to disturbance. This is usually fatal for the chick. (B12.56.w14)
    • A Grus americana - Whooping crane chick was apparently killed by the male of a foster pair of sandhill cranes, possibly due to inexperience in rearing chicks or extreme aggressiveness of the male. (P87.3.w5)
    • Occasionally the male of a pair of cranes which have been apparently stably paired will suddenly attack the female. (P87.3.w5, V.w5)
    • In a study of radio-equipped sandhill crane colts at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon, USA, five of 142 chicks had stab wounds, broken wings or bruises consistent with conspecific aggression by parents, siblings or possibly neighbouring adult cranes. [1997](P87.7.w2)
    • Severe and even fatal conspecific injuries are sometimes seen in wild cranes. One report included three instances of a conflict resulting in death of one crane due to a stab to the back of the head; there was also a report of a bird falling out of a flying flock with a wound to the back of the head consistent with an attack by another crane, and severe scarring of the comb and neck was seen in 11/1,331 cranes examined in Florida and these injuries were consistent with stabbing injuries from conspecifics. [2005](P87.9.w4)
    • Sibling aggression has been observed in wild cranes, from larger to smaller siblings, for example 93 pecks from the older to the younger sibling of Grus americana - Whooping crane chicks in four minutes and 60 such pecks in eight minutes. Several young whooping crane chicks (e.g. 7 - 10 days old) have been found dead with signs of head trauma (sometimes severe), pneumonia and exposure, suggesting a combination of sibling aggression and parental abandonment (after being unable to keep up). (P87.8.w4)
    • In Grus americana - Whooping cranes at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, 1982-1995, trauma due to aggression from another crane or cranes was responsible for the death of four chicks and two adults. (P87.7.w8)
    • An experimentally released sandhill crane with a swollen leg (probable snake bite) was killed by other cranes after becoming cornered in the pen. (B702.19.w19)
    • A sandhill crane was seen to fall from a soaring flock of birds into a tree; it had a fractured wing, thought to have been caused by collision with another bird. (B702.19.w19)
    • The first night that a cohort of Grus grus - Common crane being reared for release were left together one suffered a puncture wound to the head which penetrated the skull. The chick died. (D450)
  • Collision with sharp objects. (B12.56.w14)
  • Self-inflicted, e.g. lacerations with toenails during capture. (B12.56.w14)
    • In one study, this was seen in two Grus canadensis - Sandhill cranes  with resulting long lacerations of the neck. It was considered possible that such wounds could also occur during territorial disputes, and might be the cause of an observed crane with a portion of the tongue protruding through the ventral cervical skin (the crane was seen, paired long-term, on numerous occasions but she and her mate did not succeed in producing offspring. [2005](P87.9.w4)
  • Predation. (B485.22.w22)
    • Out of 170 sandhill cranes necropsied 1976-1985 at the National Wildlife Health Research Center, three were killed by predators, with one also having avian cholera. [1988](J40.52.w2)
    • Predation was considered to be the primary cause of death in 2/135 Grus canadensis - Sandhill crane at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, 1966-1975, two downy chicks and one adult. (P87.1.w2)
    • In 167 wild Grus grus - Common crane in Germany, 1998-2008, attack by a sea eagle was considered the cause of death in three cranes (1.8%) and predation by a red fox in one case (0.6%). [2011] (J1.47.w5)
    • One crane weakened by Avian Botulism was predated by an Aquila chrysaetos - Golden eagle. (D279)
    • Pinioned cranes, being unable to fly, are particularly susceptible to predation. (B485.22.w22)
    • In a study of radio-equipped sandhill crane chicks at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon, USA, 13/21 were known to have been predated with 13 of these due to coyotes (52% of mortality), a further two from great horned owls, two by mink and one by a raccoon. It was noted that at least three adult sandhill cranes had been killed and eaten by golden eagles in the recent past. (P87.1988.w1)
      • This study had been conducted after a period of zero coyote control on the site. [1997](P87.7.w2)
    • In a study of radio-equipped sandhill crane colts at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon, USA, predation was responsible for the death of 64 of142 cranes, with at least 26 of these being killed by mink, while great horned owls predated at least 10 cranes, golden eagles, eight, another was found in the nest of a northern harrier, five others were also probably killed by raptors as indicated by talon wounds or nearby raptor scats, while five were due to coyotes and one to a raccoon. [1997](P87.7.w2)
    • In a study of pre-fledging mortality of Grus canadensis pratensis - Florida sandhill crane (Grus canadensis - Sandhill crane) chicks, there was evidence of predation by bobcats, coyotes and avian predators including a Bubo virginianus - Great horned owl. [2005](P87.9.w2)
    • Predation was recorded as the cause of death for nine of 17 deaths (11 with cause known) out of 38 monitored free-ranging, parent-reared Florida sandhill crane (Grus canadensis - Sandhill crane) chick in a study 1996-1999 in Florida, USA. Avian predators were involved in deaths of young chicks while mammalian predators (bobcats, coyotes) took older chicks. (P87.10.w7)
    • Out of 18 radio-transmittered Grus americana - Whooping crane chicks at Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada, 1998-1999, one was predated by a raven (tadio transmitter found in a raven's roosting tree, 2 km from where the chick had been) and two by foxes 9fox tracks found near the remains of the chicks). (P87.8.w4)
    • Predation by a wolf on a large juvenile (about 4 kg body weight) Grus americana - Whooping crane chick at Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada, was recorded in 1979. (P90.1.w4)
      • Wolf predation was thought to probably be the cause of loss of six of 12 radio-transmittered whooping crane chicks in 1982-1983. (P87.8.w4)
    • Predators of prefledged sandhill cranes in Florida include bobcats (possibly the most common cause of mortality), coyotes, alligators and domestic dogs and cats. (B702.19.w19)
    • Predation, particularly by bobcats, caused the deaths of 71% of introduced whooping cranes in Florida, probably due to unavoidable lack of predator avoidance conditioning. (B702.19.w19)
    • Predation of Grus canadensis - Sandhill crane chicks of 3 - 6 days of age by red fox (Vulpes fulva) has been observed; two carcasses were found, bitten in the back of the neck, at the entrance to a fox den with pups, while on another occasion a fox was seen stalking and grabbing a chick. (J441.91.w1)
    • Predation of a Florida sandhill crane chick by a coyote was seen by researchers while observing a crane family. (J719.23.w1)
  • In one case a Grus canadensis - Sandhill crane survived being shot by an arrow which lodged in the skin of one wing near to the body and fell out several weeks later. (P87.8.w5)
  • Both of the first two Mississippi sandhill crane chicks fitted with subcutaneous radio-transmitters in a study were predated about a week later. (J312.18.w2)
  • In Florida, predation, including by avian predators, was responsible for the deaths of 14/122 sandhill cranes and 82/115 whooping cranes; predators on whooping cranes included particularly bobcats and occasionally coyotes, with eight taken by alligators. (B702.19.w19)
In Hedgehogs:
  • Broken glass, mowers, strimmers, garden spades, garden forks, bites from predators such as dogs, entangling objects and also road traffic accidents. (B151, B228.9.w9,  B259.w9, B284.6.w6, B337.3.w3, D107)
In Bears:
  • Lacerations and bite wounds from conspecifics are common. (B10.48.w43, B16.9.w9, B64.26.w5, D247.7.w7, P85.1.w2)
  • Wounding of wild adult Ursus maritimus - Polar bears occurs during intraspecific fights during the breeding season. (D283.w7, J30.64.w1)

  • Wounds also result from traps and bites from dogs at the time of capture. (B16.9.w9, B64.26.w5)
  • Wounds, sometimes fatal, can occur from darting. Physical injury can occur when bears are darted. (P9.2004.w4)
In Lagomorphs
  • Traumatic wounds are common in rabbits, particularly those resulting from fighting with other rabbits. The genitalia and ears are the areas most often affected. Bites may also occur from cats, dogs, foxes etc. (B600.8.w8, J213.4.w4, J469.530.w1)
  • Leg rings are used on the hind legs of rabbits by breeders for identification purposes. These rings can become too tight if the rabbit puts on weight (e.g. if a show rabbit becomes a pet rabbit) and this can lead to the ring cutting into the skin and exposing the underlying soft tissue structures. There may also be swelling of the distal limb in advanced cases. Sedation may be needed to remove the ring. Special clippers are available for ring removal. (B606.4.w4)
  • Abscessation or Myiasis are common sequelae to wounds and therefore an early and aggressive approach is advisable with traumatic wounds. (B600.8.w8, B606.4.w4, J213.4.w4)
In Ferrets
  • Bites and scratches from other ferrets; these may occur during mating, fights or playing. (B652.6.w6, B631.24.w24, J16.30.w1)
  • Rat bites (seen in working ferrets) (B651.9.w9, J16.30.w1); these are among the most dangerous bites a ferret may acquire (B651.9.w9) [due to associated infections].
  • Self trauma due to parasite infections may cause wounds on the ferret. (B631.24.w24)
  • Ferrets may acquire lacerations for example from a nail or a discarded tin. (B651.9.w9, J16.30.w1)
  • The ferret may get cuts from a sharp object, for example broken glass. (B651.9.w9, J16.30.w1)
  • Gun shot wounds are relatively common in working ferrets. (B651.9.w9)
  • Note: Ferrets may be bitten by snakes during the spring and early summer. (B651.9.w9) See Snake Bite in Elephants and Ferrets
In Bonobos
  • Injuries due to bites or play objects are common in bonobos. (J23.20.w2)

  • Traumatic wounds in captive primates are mainly caused by conspecifics, particularly when a new group is formed or when new individuals are added to a group. (B10.44.w44i)
Infectious Agent (s) --
Non-infectious Agent (s) --
Physical agents
General Description
  • Puncture wounds and lacerations in wild animals are usually infected at the time of presentation.
    • Infection with Pasteurella spp. may be assumed for all animals wounded by cats.
  • Fresh wounds may be seen in e.g. small mammals or birds brought in by cats, in animals which have been damaged by garden strimmers (particularly reptiles and hedgehogs - see: Garden Management for Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) - Tools and Machinery), in those caught on a barbed wire fence or similar.
  • More commonly wounds may be several days old at the time of presentation.
  • Myiasis is a common complication of wounds in the warmer months.
  • Areas of skin deficit may be large in territorial fight wounds and bites from dogs.
  • Puncture wounds in small mammals and birds caught by cats may not be easily visible. Their presence should be assumed in all such casualties.
  • Tissue trauma under bites from animals such as dogs, badgers and otters may be considerable with crushing injury to the tissues as well as the visible skin wound.

(V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)

In Waterfowl:
  • Injuries may not be easily visible and careful examination may be necessary.
    • Matted areas of feathers may indicate underlying wounds. 
  • Damage to surrounding tissues may be considerably greater than visible injury suggests, particularly for puncture wounds caused by predators.
  • Lacerations may be seen more commonly in sparsely-feathered areas.
  • Punctures and/or lacerations can be deep, usually become infected and may become gangrenous.
  • Contamination by the surrounding feathers is common.
  • Abrasion of the surrounding skin may be seen.
  • N.B. a single mink bite to the thoracic area of a cygnet can be fatal .

(B10.20.w6, B11.36.w4, P8.3.w1, V.w5, V.w6)

In Cranes:

  • Of particular concern are wounds due to conspecific aggression, and self-inflicted lacerations of the neck. (B12.56.w14)
  • Head wounds due to conspecific aggression:
    • Soft tissue trauma to the head and neck; sometimes skull fractures. (B12.56.w14, B703.10.w10)
    • Affected cranes usually are in a state of shock. (B12.56.w14, B115.8.w4)
  • Air sac damage
  • Wounds due to predators
    • In wild Grus grus - Common crane in Germany, 1998-2008, attacked by sea eagles, skin and muscle, particularly in the pectoral areas, were lacerated and punctured. [2011] (J1.47.w5)
    • A presumed red fox predation victim Grus grus - Common crane in Germany was missing much of the anterior body (head, neck, had multiple skin lacerations, haemorrhage of muscle around the sternum, and a fractured right iliac bone. [2011] (J1.47.w5)
    • Bite marks on the carcass may indicate the predator, if the carcass is found; often carcasses of predated birds are not found. For example, one Florida sandhill crane (Grus canadensis - Sandhill crane) chick was found with bite marks suggesting coyote attack (coyotes were observed nearby) while in another case a single puncture wound was found and a Bubo virginianus - Great horned owl was found nearby, suggesting that the predator was an owl, while in another case of suggested avian predator attach the skull was crushed and flesh had been removed from the carcass but without other bones being damaged. [2005](P87.9.w2)
In Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus - West European hedgehog):
  • Wounds are often old and contaminated at the time of presentation (J15.21.w1, B284.6.w6)
  • Bite wounds from dogs should be assumed to be infected. (B259.w9)
    • Bites from dogs generally cause punctures and/or tears over the head and/or back of the hedgehog. Large flaps of skin may be torn. (B337.3.w3, V.w26)
    • There may be associated fractures, particularly where a hind limb is involved. (B337.3.w3)
  • Wounds are often infested with fly larvae (See: Myiasis); careful examination is required as maggots may be hidden under the skin.(J15.21.w1, B284.6.w6, B337.3.w3)
  • Puncture wounds from impalement on garden forks may be fatal. (B259.w9)
  • Tears and flaps of skin are particularly common on the dorsal, spined, skin, since this is loose-fitting. (B284.6.w6); such wounds may involve as much as 60-80% of the back. (B151)
  • Strimmer wounds are identifiable as clean lacerations with cropped spines at a uniform level; (V.w26)
    • Other characteristic strimmer injuries include bilateral amputation of the hindlimbs or amputation of the snout. (V.w26)
  • Infection, abscessation and cellulitis are common secondary complications. (B284.6.w6)
  • Wounds to the nose are very painful and are likely to interfere with the sense of smell, at least initially. (B337.3.w3)
In Badgers (Meles meles - Eurasian Badger):
  • Bite wounds (from territorial fights):
    • Bite wounds from territorial fights are characteristically distributed around the head, neck and rump areas of badgers 
  • May be severe, although bites are common and minor bite wounds may be an incidental finding in a casualty presented due to another incident
  • May be skin tearing, especially near the tail base. 
  • Bite wounds are often infected and the animal may have an associated bacteraemia/pyaemia/septicaemia.
  • Pyothorax (pus in the chest) may result from bites through the chest wall.
  • (J3.105.w4, J60.2.w2, P25.2.w2, V.w26)
(J3.105.w4, J60.2.w2, P25.2.w2, V.w26)
In Deer:
  • Slashes may be seen in Hydropotes inermis - Chinese water deer, Muntiacus reevesi - Reeve's muntjac from conflicts between males, as males of these species have sharp tusks.(V.w5)
  • Bite wounds from dogs, particularly in the smaller species, are commonly distributed around the hindquarters and neck (V.w26)

In Seals (Halichoerus grypus - Grey seal, Phoca vitulina - Common seal):
  • Lacerations may result from pups being thrown against rocks in rough seas.
  • Pups may be bitten when their mother is being mated.
  • (J15.20.w1)
In Birds of Prey:
  • Lacerations from being caught on barbed wire fences.
    • Injuries are most common on the underside of the wing.
    • Prognosis varies with the severity of the wounds, whether the propatagial membrane and ligament is intact (leading edge of the wing which is important in flight), the degree of soft tissue contamination and desiccation at the site.
    • Birds may be found caught on barbed wire from which they must be carefully removed. In many cases where the bird is impaled on the wire and the feathers have become tightly wrapped around the wire it may be preferable to cut the wire and take it along with the bird into care. The wire can then be safely removed with the bird under general anaesthesia. 
    • The bird will typically struggle in an attempt to release itself and may cause damage to the feathers as they become wrapped around the wire and may also damage the muscles to the upper wing.
In Bears:
  • Wound may be hidden under the thick fur and become apparent only when the wound becomes infected and causes lameness or systemic signs of ill health. (P85.1.w2)
  • Skin wounds are commonly contaminated with dirt and saliva. (B16.9.w9, B64.26.w5)
  • A wild-born Ursus americanus - American black bear cub limping on presentation for hand-rearing had a bullet wound in the shoulder. (D252.w27)
  • Wounds in adult males during the breeding season sometimes become heavily infected. One male Ursus maritimus - Polar bear was noted which could not be fitted with a radio-collar because of neck swelling due to infected wounds. (D283.w7)
  • An example of the severity of intraspecific wounding is indicated by the following: a wild adult male polar bear which was found feeding on the carcass of an adult female had a deep, festering 5 cm wound on the right side of his muzzle and his lower jaw, including incisors, was broken and hanging loosely; these wounds were thought to have occurred during his fight with the female (who had probably been protecting her offspring). The female had wounds on the head and neck. (J30.63.w3)
  • Bite wound lacerations have occurred in zoo-kept Tremarctos ornatus - Spectacled bear. (P77.1.w19)
In Lagomorphs
  • Traumatic wounds are common in rabbits, particularly those resulting from fighting with other rabbits. Ears, genitalia and ears are the areas most often affected. (J213.4.w4)
  • The prepuce is often injured in males and may show obvious trauma or infection. (B601.9.w9)
  • With wounds associated with leg rings, as well as the ring cutting into the skin there may also be swelling of the distal limb in advanced cases. (B606.4.w4)
  • Bites from predators may cause serious injury; if on the body there may be serious internal injuries and infection may be introduced; dyspnoea may occur following bites to the chest. Note: external wounds associated with severe inter injuries may be relatively small and easily overlooked. (B600.13.w13)
  • Abscessation or Myiasis are common sequelae to wounds and therefore an early and aggressive approach is advisable with traumatic wounds. (B606.4.w4, J213.4.w4)
In Ferrets
  • Ferret bites:
    • These are common during the breeding season. (B651.9.w9)
    • Wounds often occur in the thick skin around the neck and become infected (B652.6.w6) with Streptococcus, Corynebacterium, Staphylococcus, Pasteurella, Actinomyces spp and Escherichia coli. (B501.12.w12, B631.24.w24)
    • This can result in an abscess (Abscessation in Lagomorphs and Ferrets) (B501.12.w12, B652.6.w6), deep pyoderma or cellulitis. (B631.24.w24)
  • Rat bites:
    • Rat-bite wounds should be manage in a similar manner to ferret-bite wounds. (B651.9.w9)
    • Note: If the ferret is not vaccinated against Leptospirosis, there is a a risk of infection. (B652.6.w6)
  • Lacerations:
    • There is less bleeding with lacerations than with cleaner incised wounds, but they are more likely to be heavily infected. (B651.9.w9)
  • Incised cuts:
    • These wounds are likely to bleed profusely, which means they are probably cleaner than laceration wounds. (B651.9.w9)
  • Gun shot wounds:
    • There is normally a small amount of bleeding with gun pellet wounds. (B651.9.w9)
    • There may be many wounds from gun shot pellets. (B651.9.w9)
    • If the wound is from a bullet, then there will be an entry and exit wound. The exit wound will be larger than the entry wound. (B651.9.w9)
In Bonobos
  • Usually in primates vasoconstriction prevents serious blood loss. (B10.44.w44i)
Further Information TREATMENT
  • In general, treatment of wounds is likely to require sedation or general anaesthesia of the animal.
  • This is particularly true if extensive cleaning and debridement (surgical removal of dead and severely damaged tissue) is necessary.
  • The stress and pain involved in wound management must be remembered: just because it is possible to hold a conscious animal of a particular species sufficiently immobile for wound management to take place does not mean that treatment of the conscious animal without sedation and analgesia is appropriate.

(V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)

Further information on wound management is provided in: Treatment and Care - Wound Management

Initial inspection and cleaning:

  • Careful inspection should be carried out for the presence of fly eggs or maggots (which may not be superficially visible) and action taken to remove these. See: Myiasis.
  • Clipping of hair around the wound should be carried out using curved, blunt-ended scissors. Moist cotton wool may be placed in/over/along the edge of the wound to minimise clipped hair contaminating the wound by falling into it. (P19.2.w5)
  • The area clipped should not be excessive, as hair normally provides the animal with protection from cold, some trauma etc. Loss of hair from a large area will increase the risk of the animal becoming chilled, particularly in small animals. (P19.2.w5, V.w5)
  • For birds, feathers around the wound may be cut or may be plucked gently. Plucking will encourage regrowth of feathers; if feathers are cut they will not regrow until the next normal moult. The minimum area should be plucked and great care is required to avoid tearing the skin.
    • N.B. plucking of feathers is painful; this may be best carried out on an anaesthetised bird if more than a few feathers are to be plucked.
    • N.B. Care should be taken not to damage the feather follicles and thereby prevent proper regrowth of feathers. This is imperative for the flight and tail feathers of birds of prey, and any other species with a high dependency on flight such as swifts and swallows. If there is any doubt, such important feathers should not be plucked until absolutely necessary (which could be due to damage to blood feathers or the proximity of physical damage). (V.w6)

    (B13.16.w11, B14, P19.2.w5, V.w5, V.w26)

  • It is important to minimise the area of feathers removed when treating birds as these provide the bird with its protection against weather and water and loss of feathers may delay release until the feathers regrow. (P19.2.w5, V.w5)
  • The wound should be cleaned using a non-irritant antiseptic solution. Povidone iodine 0.5% solution is suitable. Savlon diluted 1:20 in water may be used. Product such as Dettol and TCP should be used only a last resort as they sting severely on open wounds. (B13.16.w11, P19.2.w5, V.w5)
    • Salt solution for bathing wounds can be made by dissolving a teaspoon of salt in a pint of hot water and allowing this to cool. (B337.A6.w12)
  • For extremely contaminated wounds, thorough flushing with sterile normal (0.9%) saline is recommended. When this is not available a suitable substitute saline solution may be produced by dissolving one teaspoon of salt in a pint of water (preferably boiled and cooled). (B13.16.w11, P19.2.w5, V.w5)
  • Hydrogen peroxide, diluted 1/10 with water, may be used for flushing contaminated wounds such as abscesses (P19.2.w5)
  • Considerable debriding of wounds may be necessary to remove contaminated and devitalised tissue. Anaesthesia will often be necessary for this process as it will often be appropriate to remove the damaged tissue as far back as to where there is an effective blood supply (and thereby usually pain sensors) to encourage healing.

    (B13.16.w11, B14, P19.2.w5, V.w5, V.w26, V.w6)


  • Puncture wounds should never be sutured.
  • Suturing may be appropriate with fresh lacerations or with older lacerations if the tissue deficit following debridement is not too extensive.
    • Absorbable sutures should be used for closure of the skin as well as deeper tissues, so that there is no need for additional handling to remove the sutures. 
      • It is particularly important to use absorbable sutures in field situations when the animal will be released immediately. (B345.4.w4)
      • Use a tapered needle to suture internal muscle layers on a deep wound. (B345.4.w4)
      • Use a cutting needle to suture the skin. (B345.4.w4)
    • Consideration should be given to wound drainage; the placement of a drain may be required (not in the field).
    • Care must be taken to avoid attempting to suture wounds with a large tissue deficit which would place excessive pressure on the wound.

Encouraging healing by secondary intention:

  • In many cases it may be necessary to leave the wound to close by secondary intention.
  • The application of topical preparations that encourage epitheliogenesis (stimulate healing) may be useful, e.g. Intrasite Gel (Smith & Nephew). 
  • Where possible, the use of dressings which promote healing may be used.
    • Many wild animal casualties, particularly adult mammals, may not tolerate dressings and bandages.


  • All wounds in wild animals should be considered to be contaminated and appropriate antibiotic treatment instigated.
    • In the field, commonly, penicillins are given, since these are effective against many of the microbes found on skin (and likely to contaminate wounds) and are available in long-acting preparations. (B345.4.w4)
    • When giving a single dose of procaine penicillin/benzathine penicillin, give 22,000 IU/kg of the benzathine penicillin G to ensure an adequate repository effect giving antibiotic cover for 5-7 days. (B345.4.w4)
    • Give no more than 5 mL at any one site, subcutaneously or into the large muscle masses of the hind legs. (B345.4.w4)
  • With "cat-caught" puncture wounds it is particularly important to ensure that antibiotics are likely to be effective against Pasteurella multocida.

(B345.4.w4, V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)

Further information on wound management is provided in: Treatment and Care - Wound Management

Species/Group specific considerations:
In Waterfowl:
  • Insect repellent should be applied to avoid myiasis (Myiasis). (P4.1992.w1)
  • Systemic and local antibiotics should be given.
  • Simple skin wounds may be cleaned, debrided as necessary, and sutured with non-absorbable sutures. (B10.20.w16, B14)
  • "Freshly created (within eight hours), uncomplicated wounds should be treated by primary closure with anticipated first intention healing; however, this is not appropriate for the treatment of open, contaminated wounds." (B13.40.w13)
  • Deep wounds should not be sutured. Remove necrotic tissue, flush twice daily, ensure ample drainage. (P8.3.w1, B11.36.w4)
  • Small open wounds usually granulate if kept clean and fly-free. (P4.1992.w1)
  • Bite wounds should not be sutured. (P8.3.w1)

In Cranes:

  • Variable from cleaning to surgical repair, depending on the extent of the wound. (B12.56.w14)
    • First control haemorrhage using compression. (B115.8.w4)
      • For small wounds, ferric chloride powder or ferric subsulphate solution may be used to stop the bleeding
    • Pluck body feathers (NOT major wing or tail feathers) from around the wound with care not to restart the wound bleeding. (B115.8.w4)
    • Clean using warm saline solution, dilute (1%) povidone iodine solution or dilute chlorhexidine. (B115.8.w4)
    • Debride the edges back to fresh, clean tissue if these are not fresh or are grossly contaminated. (B115.8.w4)
    • Suture using 3-0 or 4-0 nylon or a similar diameter polyglycolic acid absorbable suture material. Use simple interrupted, simple continuous or horizontal matress sutures as appropriate for the nature and extent of the laceration. (B115.8.w4)
      • If using nylon (non-absorbable) sutures, remove these after 10-14 days. (B115.8.w4)
    • Bandage as appropriate for protection. (B115.8.w4)
      • Consider that cranes may try to remove bandages using their bill. (B115.8.w4)
  • Head wounds due to conspecific aggression:
    • Treat for shock initially: give corticosteroids (dexamethasone 2 - 4 mg/kg or prednisolone sodium succinate 30 mg/kg), intravenous fluids, and antibiotics. (B12.56.w14, B115.8.w4, B703.10.w10)
    • One the crane's condition is stabilised, treat the wounds. (B12.56.w14, B703.10.w10)
    • Take radiographs of the head to determine the extent of any skull damage. (B12.56.w14, B115.8.w4, B703.10.w10)
    • Supportive care is particularly important in the first 24 hours after the attack. (B12.56.w14, B115.8.w4)
    • If the crane survives 24-48 hours it is likely to recover. (B12.56.w14, B115.8.w4)
    • Often the head or neck is permanently scarred. (B12.56.w14, B115.8.w4, B703.10.w10)
    • Do not put the crane back with the same social group. (B703.10.w10)
In Hedgehogs:
  • Sedation/general anaesthesia is required for adequate examination, cleaning and debridement of the wound. (B22.27.w3) [see: General Anaesthesia (Gaseous and Injectable) Techniques of Hedgehogs]
  • Cut the spines surrounding the wound short by using a short pair of sharp-edged blunt-ended scissors placed flush with the skin surface. Electric hair clippers are not suitable for cutting hedgehog spines. (J15.21.w1, B156.7.w7, B337.5.w5, V.w26)
    • A small piece of damp cotton wool may be used to protect the wound while clipping around the wound. (B337.5.w5)
    • Do not cut spines from an excessively large area around the wound as this removes the hedgehog's natural protective covering and spines take some time to regrow. (B337.5.w5)
  • Fresh wounds may be closed using standard suture techniques and drainage provided using e.g. fenestrated drip tubing. (J15.21.w1)
    • The muscle layers should be identified and sutures should be placed in appropriate layers. (B22.27.w3)
    • Several layers of sutures are required to minimise the risk of their ripping out when the hedgehog tries to roll up. (B291.12.w12)
  • Strimmer wounds (fresh) can often be flushed, debrided and sutured for primary closure. (V.w26).
  • Old and contaminated wounds and those with large deficits may best be treated by cleaning with a solution which cleanses and removes necrotic tissue (e.g. Dermisol multicleanse, Pfizer) and debridement, then allowed to heal by secondary intention. (J15.21.w1, B284.6.w6)
  • All wounds must be checked carefully for fly eggs or maggots (see: Myiasis).
  • Rapid healing of large wounds may be promoted by the application of topical medication such as Intrasite gel (Smith & Nephew) or Orabase (ConvaTec). (J15.21.w1, V.w26)
  • Dog-bite wounds should be cleaned using an antiseptic solution such as Savlon. (B259.w9)
  • Puncture wounds should be kept open and cleaned frequently to encourage healing from the base of the wound upwards, to minimise the risk of infection deep in the wound leading to abscess formation. (B337.5.w5)
  • Abscesses formed at the sites of wounds require lancing and antibiotic treatment. (B337.3.w3)
  • Systemic and local antibiotics may be used to control or prevent bacterial infection. (B228.11.w11,  B259.w9)
  • If several punctures are present marking with coloured nail varnish on the spines around each puncture may assist in finding the punctures for repeated examination and treatment. (N6.29.w1, B337.3.w3)
  • Note that the spined skin is less vascular than the haired areas and therefore heals more slowly. (B284.6.w6)
  • Infection with abscessation and/or cellulitis is relatively common in hedgehogs with skin wounds. (B284.6.w6)
  • Note: Analgesics should be given as required in injured hedgehogs. (B284.6.w6)[see: Buprenorphine, Butorphanol, Carprofen, Flunixin meglumine, Ketoprofen]
  • FURTHER INFORMATION IS PROVIDED IN: Hedgehog Wound Management (Techniques)
In Badgers (Meles meles - Eurasian badger):
  • Extensive wound flushing and debridement is essential for management of badger bite wounds. 
  • Under-run tissue and sinuses must be explored, flushed and debrided and examined for evidence of fly eggs or maggots (Myiasis). 
  • Hair clipping must be performed over as small an area as possible. The badger's thick coat provides some protection against attack and therefore clipping a large area of hair may mean that release must be delayed for a period exceeding that required for wound healing whilst the hair regrows (V.w26, P25.2.w2, P25.3.w3). 
  • Wounds are generally highly infected and should NEVER be sutured. 
  • Healing by secondary intention is advised although skin grafting onto a prepared and clean tissue bed has been suggested for closure of large deficits in some cases (P25.2.w2). 
  • Appropriate antibiotic and analgesic medication should be given and topical preparations that encourage epitheliogenesis (stimulate healing) may be used (Intrasite Gel, Smith & Nephew). 
  • Bacterial examination of wound pus smears with Gram or Diffquick and Ziehl-Nielson stains, culture and sensitivity may be advisable. Culture of Streptococcus spp., Staphylococcus spp., Pasteurella spp. and anaerobes occurs commonly. (P27.5.w5)
  • Euthanasia may be advisable for aged emaciated animals with severe wounds or dental attrition. (B157.w10, P27.8.w8, V.w26) [see:Wildlife Casualty Euthanasia (with special reference to UK Wildlife)] 
  • Protective clothing, gloves and face masks may be appropriate when dealing with badger bite wounds given the possibility of tuberculous infection in the badger.(V.w26)
    • any staff involved with handling badgers should ensure that their BCG vaccination is current and immunosuppressed individuals should not deal with badger casualties in particular V.w26 and B151.
In Seals (Halichoerus grypus - Grey seal, Phoca vitulina - Common seal):
  • Fresh wounds may be sutured, however dehiscence (wound breakdown) is common due to the elasticity of the skin in these species.
  • Bite wounds should not be sutured; they are invariably infected.
  • Old, contaminated wounds should be left open with frequent flushing and debriding, and allowed to heal by second intention.
  • (J15.20.w1)
In Bears:
  • If the wound is still bleeding, control bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound or to the appropriate pressure point. (D249.w13)
  • Clip the hair around the wound. (B64.26.w5, D249.w13)
  • Flush the wound thoroughly with a weak solution of povidone iodine or chlorhexidine. (D249.w13)
  • Debride any dead tissue. (B64.26.w5, D249.w13)
  • Bone chips were removed from a bullet wound in the shoulder of a wild-born Ursus americanus - American black bear cub limping on presentation for hand-rearing. (D252.w27)
  • Apply topical antibiotics. (B64.26.w5)
  • Parental or oral antibiotics are recommended for five to seven days. (B16.9.w9)
  • If necessary, suture the wound using an absorbable suture material (B64.26.w5, D249.w13)
  • Note: 
    • Even quite large and infected wounds in adult polar bears (e.g. a suppurating wound more than 30 cm² and another 18 cm² open wound on one male, and a 50 cm long 6 cm deep wound on the upper thigh of another male, may heal well with minimal scarring. (J30.64.w1)

In Lagomorphs
  • An early and aggressive approach is advisable with traumatic wounds. (B606.4.w4; J213.4.w4)
  • In the treatment of wounds associated with leg rings, the ring needs to be removed, under sedation if necessary. Special clippers are available for ring removal. (B606.4.w4)
  • The choice whether to close the wound or allow it to heal by second intention will depend on factors such as the position, size and depth of the wound, as well as the rabbit's behaviour. (B601.3.w3)
  • Wounds which are being left open to heal, including deep puncture wounds, can be filled with Intrasite Gel (Smith & Nephew). (B601.3.w3)
  • Further information on wound management is provided in: Treatment and Care - Wound Management

In Ferrets
  • It is important to thoroughly clean and disinfect wounds in order to prevent infection and abscess development. (B651.9.w9)
  • Ferrets bites:
    • Clip the fur away from the wound. 
      • Place KY jelly (Johnson & Johnson- health care products and pharmaceuticals) in the wound before starting to clip, to ensure the clipped fur does not contaminate the wound further. (V.w143)
      • The scissors can be dipped into water in-between each clip to keep fur from contaminating the wound (the scissors are damp, so hair sticks to them rather than falling off into the wound, and the cut hairs are washed off the scizzors each time they are dipped). (B651.9.w9)
    • Using saline solution, thoroughly flush the wound. (B651.9.w9)
      • This can be done by hand with a syringe, or a needle can be placed in a saline drip bag, as this will increase the pressure and be more effective. (V.w143)
    • Clean with an antiseptic solution (B651.9.w9) such as diluted chlorhexidine solution (Hibiscrub, MediSupplies). (V.w143
      • If no antiseptic solution is available, use salt water (two teaspoonfuls to 1 pint of warm water). (B651.9.w9, B652.6.w6)
    • If the wounds are puncture wounds, these need to be left open to drain. If the wound is large and deep, suturing may be necessary. The preferred option is to leave the wound open, to allow any debris to be cleaned out. (V.w143)
    • Apply local antibiotic, for example dusting powder. (B651.9.w9)
    • If the wound is old, debriding may be necessary. (B631.24.w24) 
  • Rat bites:
    • Wound management is the same as ferret bite wounds. (B651.9.w9)
    • Act quickly to manage this wound, as rats carry many harmful diseases. (B651.9.w9)
    • Administration of antibiotics is recommended. (B651.9.w9)
  • Snake bites: treat as for other puncture wounds but also see Snake Bite in Elephants and Ferrets
  • Lacerations:
    • Lacerations need to be cleaned thoroughly, as with ferret bite wounds. (B651.9.w9)
    • Salt water can be used: two teaspoonfuls of salt to 0.5 litres of warm water. (B651.9.w9)
    • Suturing may be required, depending on how large or deep the wound is. (V.w143)
    • A dressing may be applied, once the wound has been dried. (B651.9.w9)
  • Incised cuts:
    • Bleeding can be controlled by elevating or putting direct pressure on the wound. Pressure can be put also on the heart side of the wound. (B651.9.w9)
    • Deep or large cuts will need suturing and shallow cuts may require a bandage to be applied. (B651.9.w9)
  • Gun shot wounds:
    • Stop the bleeding. (B651.9.w9)
    • All pieces of shot need to be removed. (B651.9.w9)
  • General wound management:
    • Antibiotic cover should be given to all the above injuries, if infection is suspected. (B651.9.w9, B652.6.w6)
    • Start appropriate antibiotics, based on culture and sensitivity. (B501.12.w12, B631.24.w24)
    • A high dosage of penicillin at 40,000 IU/kg subcutaneously every twenty four hours or tetracycline at 25 mg/kg orally every twenty four hours. (B631.24.w24)
    • For abscess treatment see Abscessation in Lagomorphs and Ferrets
  • Note: When treating open wounds, fly strike should be considered and preventative measures should be taken. (V.w143)
In Bonobos

General primate/great ape information

  • Wounds in primates should be examined and cleaned thoroughly, using lavage, e.g. using saline, running water or hydrogen peroxide. (B10.44.w44i, D409.6.w6)
  • Debridement should be carried out. (D409.6.w6) Necrotic tissue should be debrided. (B10.44.w44i)
  • If possible, suture the wound to allow healing by primary intention.
    • If sutures are not under excessive tension they are more likely to be left alone by primates. (B10.44.w44i)
    • Assess the wound, condidering depth, effect on a particular area and infection risks before carrying out primary closure with care not to trap debris or create an anaerobic environment. (D409.6.w6)
  • If suturing is not possible, leave healthy tissue to granulate. (B10.44.w44i)
  • A long-acting antibiotic should be injected (e.g. penicillin G benzathine) to reduce the risk of infection. (B10.44.w44i)
  • Positive reinforcement training may allow post-operative lavage or topical wound treatment. (D409.6.w6)


  • When using garden strimmers, check for animals hidden in the undergrowth before using strimmers and while strimming. 
    • Animals such as frogs are very difficult to see while they are motionless. 
    • Strim twice, at a high level initially, to give animals a better chance of reacting to the strimmer and moving away from it.


In Waterfowl:
  • Ensure captive waterfowl are protected by predator-proof fencing and netting.
  • For waterfowl on e.g. park lakes, provide islands to roost on safe from predators.
  • Consider the risk of lacerations / punctures which may result from collision with sharp objects and structures (e.g. nails, wire ties, protruding corners) within cages / enclosures, particularly if birds are chased or panicked.

(P4.1992.w1, V.w5)

In animals in captivity:
  • Consider the risk of lacerations / punctures which may result from collision with sharp objects and structures (e.g. nails, wire ties, protruding corners, fence struts) within cages / enclosures, particularly if animals are chased or panicked.
  • Care must be taken when choosing which individuals may safely be placed together in pre-release or other longer-term accommodation to reduce the risk of bullying or fight wounds. 
In Ferrets:
  • Remove any sharp objects from the enclosure.  (B501.12.w12)
  • Ensure the male and female are together for a minimum amount of time, whilst mating.  (B501.12.w12)
  • Ferrets should be vaccinated against Leptospirosis, especially if the ferret is used for ratting. (B651.9.w9)
Techniques linked to this disease
Host taxa groups /species
  • All species.

Special Reference to Waterfowl:

  • Mute swan Cygnus olor, Bewick's swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii, Whooper swan Cygnus cygnus in the UK (J4.43.w2, J36.41.w1).
  • Trumpeter swan Cygnus buccinator in Minnesota, USA (J7.S1.w4).
  • Captive waterfowl savaged by dogs in British Columbia, USA (J14.19.w1).

Special Reference to Cranes

Special Reference to Hedgehogs:

Special reference to Bears:

Special reference to Lagomorpha - Lagomorphs

Special reference to Ferrets

Special reference to Bonobos

[N.B. Miscellaneous / Traumatic Diseases tend to be under-reported and the majority are likely to affect all species, given exposure to the related disease agents/factors.]

Disease Author Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5); Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103), Bridget Fry BSc, RVN (V.w143)
Referees Anna Meredith MA VetMB CertLAS DZooMed (Mammalian) MRCVS (V.w128); Richard Saunders BVSc BSc CertZooMed MRCVS (V.w121)

Return to top of page