How to Care for Bite Wounds in Dogs

by Gayla on March 8, 2014

dog bite woundsWhen two adult dogs meet for the first time, things may not always go as planned. Sometimes a fight may break out in these situations as tensions are running high and dogs that are not properly socialized or need more obedience training may act out of fear. It’s possible that at least one of the dogs will walk away with a bite wound. While canines try their best to “keep the peace,” dogs may also fight over food, territory rights, hierarchy in the pack and the attention of their owner.

The Effects of Bite Wounds in Dogs

Bite wounds are the cause of as many as 10 percent of all trauma-related vet visits. Depending on the severity of the wound, a dog’s skin may be torn, punctured or crushed. Lacerations are also common. Regardless of whether the wound was caused by another dog, a cat or a wild animal, the possibility of infection is high with bite wounds. The mouth is filled with bacteria and when the animal’s teeth puncture the dog’s skin, infection is likely.

Although a bite wound may only appear as a small puncture wound in the skin, the damage underneath is often greater than it seems. The tooth may penetrate deep beneath the skin and cause trauma to underlying tissue all without causing any major damage to the skin’s surface.

It is important to remember that any bite wound will require treatment from a veterinarian. Seek medical attention immediately if your dog is:

· Having trouble breathing

· Unable to walk or limping

· Bleeding

· Weak or unable to stand

Swelling is also a cause for concern.

Treating a Dog Bite

In most cases, it is not difficult for a veterinarian to diagnose a bite wound. Pain, swelling and puncture wounds are usually obvious, and the fur may be blood stained around the site of the bite. The biggest challenge for your veterinarian will be assessing the extent of the damage and treating the wound effectively. Wounds are best treated within the first 12 hours of being injured.

Because the dog will likely be in great pain because of their injury, your vet will administer pain medication before treatment. Sedation may be necessary in some cases, especially if your dog is agitated. Even the best trained dog will be unlikely to allow the wound to be explored without some sort of anesthesia or sedation. However, it’s essential that your vet closely looks underneath the skin’s surface to assess the full extent of the damage.

Treatment may involve a course of antibiotics and pain relief, with the wound being left open to drain and heal. More severe bites may need surgical cleaning and suturing, again with antibiotics and pain relief. An Elizabethan collar will be used to stop the dog licking and pulling at his sutures and you may find he needs to visit the vet regularly for the wound to be checked.

While you can’t control the behavior of other dogs, you can take steps to reduce the chance of your dog instigating an argument that may lead to injury. Take him to regular obedience training classes and teach him to be comfortable in the company of other dogs. It takes two to argue and by doing this, one half of the arguing pair is less likely to initiate a tussle.

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