Dog Bitten by Another Dog? Here’s What to Do! (Vet Answer)

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Just like people, dogs may not get on with every dog they meet. Dogs can bite for many reasons: they may be anxious, guarding an object or protecting you, or be reactive to other dogs due to past experiences. Sometimes, dogs can give a warning snap, and other times it can be a more aggressive attack, but any type of bite can cause injuries to dogs. This article takes you through what to do in the unfortunate circumstance of your dog getting bitten by another dog.

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What should I do if my dog gets in a fight with another dog?

Things can happen very fast if your dog gets into a fight. It is important to put your own safety first and not use your hands to pull dogs from each other, in case you are bitten yourself.

If your dog is on a leash you may be able to pull them away from the other dog. If they are not on a leash this may be more tricky, and care needs to be taken not to spook your dog by grabbing them as they could turn to bite you during the commotion, even if they do not mean to do so. You can make attempts to distract the dogs or try to separate them using sticks or an umbrella. However, fights are often over quickly so it may not be necessary to separate them.

dog fight
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The adrenaline will be pumping for all parties during and after a fight, but it is important to stay as calm as possible. If your dog is not on a leash, be sure to hook them up as soon as possible, and encourage the other owner to do the same if their dog is loose. If the dog that attacked yours could be considered out of control or dangerous, you may need to contact the police. If your dog initiated the fight or frequently behaves aggressively to other dogs, they may need to undergo an assessment by a licensed behaviorist.

After a fight, it is always vital to check your dog immediately for injuries. Less serious injuries could be simple grazes from a snap or bruising from a grab, but other times dog bites can tear the skin or cause puncture wounds. Discuss with the other owner what happened and make sure to swap contact details in case any further steps need to be taken.

What should you do if your dog gets bitten?

dog fighting
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Try to keep your dog as calm as possible and remember, they will likely be shaken from the encounter and may be aggressive themselves if they are painful and scared.

Check their breathing: They may be breathing fast or panting after the attack which is to be expected, but if their breathing is very noisy, labored (if they are taking very big breaths in and using their tummy muscles to force the air out), or they are breathing very quickly and shallow, this may be a sign they have a more serious injury that needs immediate veterinary attention.

Check for bleeding: Some wounds may just ooze slightly but more serious injuries can cause blood to either spray or pour out, depending on where the bite has occurred. If there is a lot of blood coming from a wound on your dog and if you are able, place pressure on the area with a jacket or blanket. Be aware this may be painful for your dog so watch for signs that they may react aggressively- even the nicest dog can bite you if they are hurting.

Check for other wounds and swelling: Check your dog from nose to tail to try and find any injuries. If they are bleeding it may be obvious, but it is important to check over their whole body as it’s easy to miss wounds. It can be hard to find wounds in a long-haired dog, so you might find it easier to feel for any damp patches of fur. If your dog was bitten by another dog and is swelling, this indicates a deeper wound that should be investigated. Particularly important areas to check are the eyes, the neck, and the chest as injuries in these areas can be serious.

Check their demeanor: Is your dog standing and able to move? Or are they collapsed and unresponsive? If your dog has not been injured too badly, they should still be able to walk around. However, more serious injuries can cause collapse from shock or blood loss. If your dog is laying down, collapsed, or does not respond to you then they need veterinary attention urgently.

Call your vet: Once you have an idea of your dog’s injuries, call your vet who can advise on what to do next. If they have large open wounds, are collapsed, or are bleeding heavily you will likely need to get to the vets immediately. Vets will always see a pet in an emergency no matter how busy they are, and severe bite injuries will get priority.

If it is a less serious injury, such as a small cut to the skin or a graze, it may not be necessary to rush them to the vets. However, larger wounds or bleeding wounds need to be assessed by a vet the day the dog fight happens. Puncture wounds (a small round hole through the skin from the other dog’s teeth) can appear small and less concerning, but they are often deep and cause internal damage so if you find a puncture wound as you check over your dog this would also be a reason to seek immediate veterinary care. It is also important to find all the puncture wounds: if a dog has grabbed your dog, for example around the neck, there may be at least four puncture wounds from all four canines of the other dog.

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How to treat a dog bite wound on your dog

vet treating dog skin disease
Image credit: Oleksandr Lysenko, Shutterstock

If your dog has a wound that goes all the way through the skin or is a puncture wound, you are best seeking veterinary attention immediately. However, if it is a superficial (shallow) wound or graze, it may be possible to manage them at home initially.

If your dog is bright and breathing normally, and they are not bleeding significantly from their wounds, it may be best to take them home initially so they can be in a calm, quiet environment. Make an appointment with your vet for the next available appointment. In the meantime, it is important to monitor your dog to make sure they do not get worse as time goes on. You can also administer some simple first aid.

Check their fur: Look for wet patches of fur that can either be from the other dog’s saliva or blood from your own dog, and part the fur to see if there are any bite wounds. If your dog has longer fur, you can attempt to clip the hair away using clippers, however, take care as sometimes the noise and vibrations can stress your dog after a traumatic event. Avoid using scissors to cut the fur away in case you accidentally cut the skin.

Clean the area: using cooled boiled water or sterile saline (if you have any to hand) you can gently flush the wound by either pouring it gently over the wound or squeezing a clean, wet cloth over it. Be careful around the eyes as this may irritate them. It is best to avoid using any human topical wound care treatments such as Neosporin or peroxide as these may cause more harm when used in dogs.

Bandage?: It is unlikely that your dog would require a bandage unless the bite wound is on their leg and is bleeding. If this is the case, you can place a sterile dressing over the wound and a light bandage over it until you can get to a vet.

Pain relief?: It is not recommended to give your dog any type of pain relief unless under the direction of a vet. There are many human pain relief drugs that can potentially cause serious harm to dogs such as ibuprofen, so they are best avoided altogether. Your vet will be able to recommend a safe pain relief, but it’s unlikely to be an over-the-counter pain relief as these are not available for dogs.

Even if a wound appears small or your dog does not appear bothered by the incident, some wounds can be more serious especially if they are deep or affecting certain areas of the body such as the neck or eye, so it is always recommended that your dog gets a thorough examination by a vet.

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What treatment will my dog need after being bitten by another dog?

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When your dog gets to the vets, they will assess their status, whether they are conscious and alert or collapsed and unresponsive, as well as assessing their wounds. If the wounds are superficial (shallow cuts or simple grazes) and your dog is bright and alert they may send them home with painkillers and an antiseptic wash. If they have more serious wounds or your dog is weak or collapsed, they may want to admit them to hospital to stabilize, monitor, and treat their injuries.

If your dog is in shock, they may put them on fluids to rehydrate and support them. They will provide pain relief so that your dog is as comfortable as possible. They may want to sedate or fully anesthetize your dog to get an idea of the full extent of their injuries, especially if they are deep, puncture wounds, or wounds affecting the chest, neck, or eyes. Sometimes an x-ray can help identify deeper damage especially if they have been bitten on the neck or chest.

Small wounds are often left to heal by themselves, after clipping the area and flushing out any debris, but larger wounds may need to be stitched up, debrided (removing any damaged tissue), or have a drain placed. A drain is a flexible rubber tube that is placed inside the wound which allows the fluid the body produces at the site of an infection to drain out instead of building up causing swelling.

Do all dog bites need antibiotics?

A dog’s mouth is a dirty place with lots of bacteria residing there so, with any dog bite, it is likely that your vet will prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat any potential infection. Sometimes your vet may recommend taking a swab of the wound for culture and sensitivity testing, to find out which bacteria are present and which antibiotics are the best to treat it. This may be done particularly if your dog’s wound is not healing as quickly as expected as an infection may be the reason behind the slow healing.

It is vitally important to give the antibiotics at the correct time and for the full duration. It may be tempting to stop treatment if your dog’s wound is looking better, however, this can lead to bacteria becoming resistant and the same antibiotics may not work for your dog in the future.

How can you tell if a dog bite wound is infected or healing?

Signs of an infected dog bite wound include:
  • Red, swollen, or hot area around the wound
  • Yellow/green discharge (pus) coming from the wound
  • Wound edges pulling apart or wound getting bigger
  • Evidence of dirt or other particles in the wound
  • Your dog is lethargic, reluctant to eat or move
Signs of a healing wound include:
  • Pink skin rather than red, angry-looking skin around the wound
  • Wound edges sticking together and beginning to look more like normal skin
  • The wound shrinking in size (this can take days to weeks to occur)

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Conclusion

Dog fights can be very stressful experiences for all involved. It is important to stay calm for your dog and act fast: assessing your dog for injuries, swelling, and bleeding, and seeking veterinary care promptly. Only if you are confident your dog’s injuries are minor should you take them home- and even then, we strongly recommend seeing a vet the same day, just in case.


Featured Image Credit: RoDobby, Pixabay