Dog Bite Injury

In-fighting among household pets is an inevitable problem caused by complex behavioural causes. Dogs may become aggressive with other dogs or cats. Male dogs who had been friends for a long time can suddenly become enemies if a female dog is in heat. Food aggression is also a common cause of traumatic injury in household pets.

Treating a dog bite injury at home is possible depending on the circumstances. The table below will guide you when deciding if you can treat the injury at home or if you should rush to your nearest emergency vet:

TYPE OF INJURY 

RECOMMENDED ACTION

Superficial dog bite trauma on skin, without bleeding

First aid at home, observe for 1-3 days

Superficial but with mild bleeding

First aid at home, observe for 1-3 days

Superficial but with heavy bleeding

First aid at home then rush to the vet

Deep  without bleeding

First aid at home, observe for 1-3 days

Deep with mild bleeding

First aid at home, observe for 1-3 days

Deep with heavy bleeding

First aid at home then rush to the vet

CAUSES OF TRAUMA

If one of your pets got injured from another pet, the former pet may likely develop fear as a post-traumatic stress disorder. This will likely result to further infighting between your pets. It is essential to know what triggers the aggression so you could reduce, if not stop, this bad behaviour.

Castration of male pets in their first year may help reduce aggression that is worsened by sexual behaviour (like fighting over a dog in heat).

Some behaviors may need a psychiatric intervention with an animal behaviourist.

WHY YOU NEED TO BRING YOUR PET TO THE VET

Based on my experience, very deep bites along the neck tend to “tunnel”. Wound tunnelling is a condition wherein a small site of infection spreads to a larger area, causing the skin to detach from the underlying muscle and create a “tunnel”. If you see this in your pet, you should be very alarmed as the skin that has detached may die and may eventually be removed by a veterinary surgeon. This usually has a rotten odor or “amoy bulok”. In the end, your pet is left with a large defect on its skin which may take 1-6 months to heal and lots of your patience and funds going to frustration.

Deep trauma or bite wounds always result to infection. Antibiotic therapy may be insufficient despite using a strong drug with a good dose. Surgical repair with antibiotic therapy is the best option for this type of trauma.

Deep wounds along the belly are dangerous as internal bleeding may result when one of the organs inside is hit. This is an emergency surgical case. Neck wounds are similarly life-threatening when the jugular vein, or a very big tube that carries blood, is traumatized. Excessive blood loss will be the end point. A blood transfusion with prolonged hospital confinement may be expected.

Heavy bleeding that does not stop despite application of pressure and an ice pack may likely suggest that your dog has low platelets and anemia. This prevents adequate clot formation (“langib”) and allows non-stop bleeding for an hour or more. This can not be remedied by first aid.

For non-deep trauma, it is possible to try to treat it for the first three days at home. If it does not respond to the first aid, there may be other diseases present in your pet that cause delay in healing. These diseases may not be evident by observing your pet, but through blood workup that can only be accomplished in your vet’s office.

WHEN YOU CAN’T FIND A VET AT THIS TIME

OPTION 1:
“First aid at home, observe for 1-3 days”

Step 1

Allow your pet to calm down.
Isolate the injured pet to a quiet room, away from its aggressor.
Once calm, locate the bite sites using a flash light.
Give cold icy water if your pet wants to drink.

Prepare the following:
Sterile gauze
Povidone-Iodine solution (Betadine)
Cotton balls or cotton buds
Leukoplast or Micropore tape
Elizabethan collar
Scissors

Step 2

Remember or list down the bite sites, taking photos and labelling them for reference.
If your pet allows, lightly trim the surrounding hair of the bite site. This helps to identify the extent of the bite and in monitoring for any infection for the next several days.

Apply Povidone-Iodine (Betadine®) lightly and directly upon the wound using a cotton bud or cotton ball. This will stain your pet’s hair and skin. If your pet whimpers in pain, attach the Elizabethan collar before application of the antiseptic. You may not use the E-collar when the wound is on the neck and in contact with the collar. You may cover the wound using a sterile gauze and medical tape (Leukoplast® or 3M™ Micropore™), especially when the wound is at a part of the leg.

Step 3

Limit movement of pet around the house, and confine in a small room for the next 1-3 days.

No bathing until wound is almost healed. This may take 7 to 14 days.

Use the photos to compare the before and after conditions.

OPTION 2:
“First aid at home then rush to the vet”

Step 1

Do not panic.

Your pet is in pain and it can read your emotions well. Your anxiety or emotions will upset it.

Step 2

Isolate your pet in a quiet room. Grab a clean cloth and immediately apply upon the site of bleeding with sufficient pressure.

Call your nearest vet and ask the hospital if they can accommodate your pet as an emergency case for heavy bleeding. Once confirmed, someone should continuously apply pressure upon the site while you drive to the clinic.

Expect to leave your pet overnight and for a possible surgical repair.

Do not feed or give water, as a fasted or empty stomach is safer in general anaesthesia.

Note

Look for an emergency service provider in advance by calling your nearby vets. It helps to know who is open at the middle of the night. Be sure you meet with the doctors and staff to make sure that this place is where you would want to take your pet if you had to. You may opt to transfer your pet to your primary care veterinarian the next day if you wish.

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