Has your dog been bitten by another dog? Even if it looks minor, bacteria can still grow in the wound and cause infections. In this blog, our Visalia vets discuss the steps you should take if your dog has been bitten by another dog.
Watch For Anxious Dogs
When your dog has been bitten by another dog, it can feel like it suddenly came out of nowhere, however, as a rule, dogs don't usually bite without sending out some warning signs first. By learning what to look for and understanding the signs that can indicate another dog is anxious or frightened, you can help keep your pooch from getting bitten.
Dogs generally don't go looking for trouble. Most of the time they will actually go out of their way to avoid aggressive or dangerous situations. So, a dog will give a handful of warning signs before biting (even if you don't see them).
Like people, a dog's anxiety or fear can arise from their current situation or could be related to past experiences. This means that, even if you believe there is nothing happening that can make a dog afraid, your pup or someone else's pooch might be feeling very anxious.
Signs a Dog Might Bite
Whenever you are out walking your dog or at the park, watch for signs of fear or anxiety in other dogs. While you will likely notice obvious signs like snapping, growling, snarling, baring teeth, or lunging a fearful or anxious dog will first often send out more subtle signals. A few of the earliest signs an anxious or scared dog may display include licking lips, turning the face away, trying to move away, ears flattened and back, yawning or crouching.
If you notice that there is a dog nearby exhibiting any of these signs, calmly take your pup and move them away but do this quickly. It could be helpful to put a physical barrier such as a fence or a car between your dog and the threatening dog for extra protection.
What You Should Do If Another Dog Bites Your Dog
Even if you stay cautious of early warning signs, unexpected situations can occur. Below are a few guidelines for what you should do if your dog gets bitten by another dog:
- Remain calm! We know it can be hard but try not to panic because this can make your pup even more afraid.
- Never step between dogs to break up a fight. This could lead to you getting bitten. Focus on getting your pup away from the other dog. (The other owner should be doing the same). A loud clap to distract the dogs might help, then call your dog.
- Don't shout at the other dog or make eye contact because this can make them feel more threatened.
- Once the immediate danger is over, ask the other dog owner for details such as contact information, whether their pet is up to date on vaccines, and whether they have pet insurance. If the other pet owner is absent or uncooperative try to take pictures.
- When you and your pup are safely away from the other dog, contact your vet immediately to let them know that you need an urgent appointment or go to your nearest emergency animal hospital.
Assess Your Dog's Injuries
There are various factors that can influence the severity of a dog bite. While it might seem obvious that a large bite that is bleeding profusely requires immediate veterinary care, you might not realize that a small bite can also be a serious risk to the health of your pup.
It's always best to have a bite wound examined by a veterinarian as quickly as possible, even if the wound is small.
Why You Need to Take Your Dog to The Vet After Being Bitten
When your pooch receives a bite wound, the other dog's tooth not only creates a small puncture in your dog's skin, it also creates a pocket below the skin that can create an ideal environment for bacteria (from the aggressor's mouth) to multiply and quickly turn into an infection. Even the smallest puncture wound can be a major cause for concern because of the high risk for infection.
One reason that bite wounds are likely to get infected is that the actual hole in the skin is fairly small, so the skin tends to heal itself very quickly. However, by healing so quickly, the skin traps the bacteria within the pocket below the skin where it can multiply and turn into an abscess fast.
Infection tends to be the primary concern for any dog bite, however, there are other serious health issues that can develop from the bite wound depending on the location and severity of the injury:
- Infection of the bone
- Infection of the joint
- Cellulitis (tissue infection)
- Accumulation of pus in the chest cavity or abdominal cavity
What You Can Expect When You Visit the Vet
Your vet will examine your dog's bite wound paying particular attention to the depth of the wound as well as the amount of 'dead space' caused by the bite. Dead space is the pocket that is created when the skin is pulled away from the subcutaneous tissue. Generally speaking, the larger the dead space, the higher the risk of infection. During the examination, your vet will also look for signs of other physical injures such as nerve damage, broken bones, or bleeding under the skin.
Treating Your Dog's Bite Wound
Following a full examination, your dog's wound will be thoroughly cleaned and bandaged if necessary. Your veterinarian might prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic such as amoxicillin-clavulanate, or enrofloxacin to help fight infection and help prevent an abscess from developing.
If your dog's bite wound is more severe, your vet might suggest surgically removing the damaged skin tissue and placing a drain in order to help your dog's body get rid of any pooling infection.
Sometimes your vet might also recommend some diagnostic tests such as ultrasounds or X-rays to look for injuries that aren't immediately obvious, but possibly serious.
Pain killers may also be prescribed to help your dog feel more comfortable throughout the healing process.
Your vet will probably recommend that you have your dog wear an e-collar (Elizabethan collar or cone) to prevent them from licking the wound which can increase their risk of infection.
Cleaning Your Dog's Bite Wound
If for any reason you can't get to the vet immediately, it's essential to clean the wound as quickly as possible and keep it clean.
- Very gently wash the bite wound with soap and water and pat dry.
- Use hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine, or betadine to dab the wound in order to help kill germs. (Note that the continued use of hydrogen peroxide on the wound is not recommended as it can interfere with the healing process).
- Use a clean dry gauze pad to dry the wound then apply an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin.
The importance of keeping the wound clean cannot be overstated! Clean the wound 3 - 4 times daily with soap and water, then reapply antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection.
How to Help Your Dog After a Dog Bite
Preventing your dog's bite wound from getting infected will be your highest priority. This makes it essential to prevent your pet from licking the wound. While many dog owners feel bad about making their pooch wear an e-collar (Elizabethan collar or 'cone of shame'), these collars are very effective. If your dog is particularly uncomfortable wearing a cone, softer and less intrusive options such as the Kong Cloud Collar are available online and work well.
Remember to administer all medications as instructed! Antibiotics should be given as directed and for the full amount of time. Don't be tempted to stop giving your dog antibiotics because the wound looks like it has healed. Stopping antibiotic treatment early can make the infection come back and harder to fight.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.