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In this lesson, we're going to go over bleeding care for your cat and dog, including the three types of bleeding – capillary, venous, and arterial – and how you should proceed for each type.

Bleeding accidents can happen with cats, but they tend to occur more regularly with dogs. It's important to remember that before approaching any animal who has been injured, make sure the scene is safe and make sure you'll be safe approaching your pet.

Pro Tip #1: Animals in pain can lash out. If your pet is injured and in pain, strongly consider putting a muzzle on the animal first, before attempting to move or help your pet.

The 3 Types of Bleeding

1. Capillary

Capillary bleeding wounds are the most minor. Capillary bleeding resembles a road rash type of wound that children will routinely get falling off a bike. The color is light red, and the wound is only on the surface – the uppermost layer of skin.

2. Venous

Venous bleeding wounds are deeper and more severe than capillary bleeding but are not under pressure like arterial bleeding. These wounds are characterized by steady oozing or running of dark red-colored blood. And even though it's not under pressure, there may still be a lot of blood to deal with.

3. Arterial

As the name suggests, arterial bleeding comes from the arteries. This is the most severe type of bleeding injury. The color is also dark red, like venous bleeding, but the blood will be spurting rather than simply oozing. Arterial bleeding injuries can be life-threatening.

How to Control the Bleeding

When it comes to bleeding wounds, controlling the bleeding will be your number one priority, at least initially. The steps outlined below can be used for all three types of bleeding wound, but just know that controlling the blood loss will get progressively more difficult as you move from capillary wounds to more severe wounds.

1. Grab an appropriately sized gauze pad from your first aid kit.

2. Place the gauze on top of the wound and apply direct pressure.

3. Hold the gauze in place for at least five minutes; resist the urge to remove the gauze and peak at the wound.

4. After five minutes have passed, gently lift up the gauze to inspect the wound.

Pro Tip #2: As clots begin to form, the bleeding will slow down and eventually stop. However, if you accidentally rip, or even wipe, away a clot while removing the gauze, you may be back to step one. So, take care lifting the gauze off your pet's wound.

5. If you notice that the bleeding has stopped, it's time to move on to wound care, which we'll get into in a later lesson. But if the bleeding hasn't stopped, apply more gauze – on top of the existing gauze – and apply pressure for five more minutes.

You can do this three times. If your third attempt at controlling the bleeding falls short, it's time to load your pet into the car for a ride to see the vet.

With venous bleeding and especially with arterial bleeding, your ability to stop the bleeding will be more difficult. Which means the gauze pads may get soaked with blood. That's normal with deeper wounds. Just remember to NOT remove the other layers of gauze as you apply more. Layer them. Don't replace. Those clots will come off, remember.

What happens if you don't have gauze or run out of it? Any clean towel, like a dish towel or a hand towel, will work fine.

Also, with deeper wounds, you'll want to secure the gauze pads in place using roll gauze or some other type of bandage. Simply wrap the wound over the gauze, snugly but not too tight. You don't want to cut off your pet's blood supply to the site of the wound … unless that's your intention.

There may be instances when a tourniquet may be warranted. Let's say your dog suffers a wound on her leg that you cannot get to stop bleeding. You know you have to go to the vet, but you want to secure the wound and control the bleeding before you do.

Warning: A tourniquet is a serious method of wound care, as it will also stop blood from flowing to other tissues, which can cause problems. If it's going to take you longer than 10 minutes to get your pet to the vet, stop every 10 minutes or so to loosen the tourniquet briefly, before retightening it. This will allow blood flow to vital tissues.

Having said that, if a tourniquet is a necessity, make sure you place it above the wound or between the wound and the heart. You want it to be tight, obviously, but not too tight. Watch the corresponding video for this lesson to practice.

Again, for minor wounds, once the bleeding has stopped, you can move on to wound care. But for deeper and more serious wounds, your goal is to control the bleeding long enough to get your pet to veterinary care.