Controlling Bleeding

There are two types of bleeding Venous (oozing dark red blood) and Arterial (spurting bright red blood). You may often see both in the same wound or have to treat for both at the same time. Arterial bleeding is the most important to stop first, as the heart pumps the blood spurts out of the wound and death can come quickly due to blood loss.

There are basically three ways to control bleeding, styptic pencil or powder for very minor venous bleeding, pressure bandage for more serious venous bleeding and tourniquet for arterial bleeding. (pressure bandages will need to be used if the wound is in a location that a tourniquet cannot be used on).

Styptic pencil or powder

If the bleeding is mild and not deep (as in a puncture), liking clipping a toe nail a little close. Styptic pencil or powder can be applied to control the bleeding, it is applied to the wound topically. In a pinch we have used baking soda or corn starch, these approaches are not sterile so should be used with caution. It is always important to read the label on the styptic, as some forms are also non-sterile.

Pressure Bandages

Some wounds may be more serious and require pressure or bandaging to stop the bleeding. Take several pieces of clean or sterile gauze and apply it to the wound firmly bandaging it into place. (see companion article this issue on bandaging) Be sure to check below the wound (if extremity) for swelling, if swelling occurs, the bandage will need to be removed or loosened.

Using clean or sterile cloth or gauze apply it to the wound and apply pressure with hand until bleeding stops, help arrives or you can get to help.


A temporary way to control arterial bleeding is by pressing down on the arteries located in the armpits or groin until an assistant can apply bandaging or tourniquet. (you can locate the area by feeling for the pulse)

The tourniquet is placed above the wound. The tourniquet is used only on extremities (legs or tail). Take a strip of cloth, rolled gauze or heavy string/rope (caution must be used with string or rope as it can cut through the skin if too thin), loop it around the extremity above the wound (between the heart and wound). With a stick or something straight, approximately 8-12 inches long, insert it into the loop. Start twisting the stick so that the loop starts winding up below the stick. As you tighten towards the skin, watch the bleeding, it should begin to slow down and stop. Once it stops secure the stick to the extremity so that no slack can occur. Seek Veterinary attention ASAP! The tourniquet needs to be released every 20-30 min. for 2-3 min. to allow blood to return to the lower extremity.

IF you can see the severed end of the artery you might want to attempt to grasp it with hemostats and attempt to tie it off with thread. The end you wish to tie off is of course the spurting end. This should really only be used in severe emergencies or by someone trained to do this.


Do not use peroxide on a fresh wound, it will inhibit the control of bleeding

Do not wipe a fresh wound that has stopped bleeding (clotted) as you might knock the clot off and bleeding will resume. (see companion piece on Treating Skin Wounds this issue).

Sources used. The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats by Rodale Books & Cat Owners Home Veterinarian Handbook by Delbert G. Carlson, D. V. M. & James M. Giffin, M. D.

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