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What should I do if another dog bites my dog?

If your dog receives a bite from another dog the wound can look small and relatively minor, but bite wounds create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. Left untreated, small bites can result in infection, abscess and more. Here our Clemmons NC vets share advice on what you should do if your dog is bitten by another dog.

Avoiding Trouble in The First Place

If your dog is bitten, it can feel a bit like it has come out of the blue, but learning to watch for and understand signs that another dog is frightened or anxious could help you to prevent your pup from being bitten.

Dogs as a rule don't go looking for trouble. In fact they will go out of their way to avoid dangerous or aggressive situations. To this end, a dog will typically give a number of warning signals before it bites.

The first important thing to note is that fear or anxiety in dogs can stem from a current situation, or could be related to past experiences. While you may not believe that there is anything happening that could cause another dog to become fearful, a dog could be feeling extremely anxious.

Signs of a Fearful or Anxious Dog that May Bite

Whether you are out with your dog for a walk or at the off-leash park keep an eye out for signs of anxiety or fear in other dogs. Some obvious and well known signals to watch for are: growling, snapping, lunging, snarling or baring teeth.

That said, a fearful or anxious dog will likely send out more subtle signals first such as licking lips, turning face away, trying to move away, ears flattened and back, yawning or crouching.

If there is a dog close-by showing any of these signs, take your pet and move away calmly but quickly. It can be helpful to put a physical barrier between your dog and the threatening dog such as a fence or a parked car.

Steps to Take if Your Dog is Bitten by Another Dog

Even if you know and watch for the early warning signs, unexpected situations can happen. If your dog receives a bite, or gets into a fight with another dog, here are some guidelines for what you should do:

  1. Stay calm, try not to panic since this will only make your dog more afraid. 
  2. Do not step between the dogs to break up a fight. This could lead to getting bitten yourself.
  3. Focus on your dog and getting your pup away from the other dog. (The other owner should be doing the same). A loud clap to distract the dogs may help, then call your dog.
  4. Do not shout at the other dog or make eye contact since this could make the dog feel more threatened.
  5. Ask the other dog owner for details such as contact information and whether their dog is up to date on their vaccines. If the other pet owner is absent or uncooperative take pictures if can.
  6. Once you and your pup are safely away from the other dog, contact your vet immediately for advice and to let know you are on your way, or head to your nearest emergency animal hospital.

Assessing Your Dog's Injury

A number of factors influence the severity of a dog bite, and while it may seem obvious that a large bite that is bleeding profusely requires immediate veterinary care, you may not realize that a small bit can also pose a serious health risk.

It is a good idea to have all bite wounds, whether big or small, examined by a veterinarian as quickly as possible. 

Why You Should Take Your Dog to The Vet After a Bite

Even the smallest puncture wound can be a major cause for concern due to the high risk of infection.

When your dog is bitten, the tooth not only creates a small puncture in the skin, it also creates a pocket below the skin which forms an ideal environment for bacteria (from the aggressor's mouth) to multiply and lead to an infection.

Because the hole in the skin is relatively small, the skin tends to heal itself very quickly but in doing so, traps the bacteria within the pocket where it can quickly multiply and turn into an abscess. 

While infection tends to be the primary concern for any dog bite, other serious health issues can develop depending on the location and severity of the bite. Other serious health risks associated with dog bites include:

  • Infection of the bone
  • Infection of the joint
  • Cellulitis (tissue infection)
  • Accumulation of pus in the chest cavity or abdominal cavity

What to Expect When You Visit the Vet

When the vet examines your pup's bite wound they will consider 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 skin is pulled away from the subcutaneous tissue. Typically, the larger the dead space, the higher the risk of infection. Your vet will also look for signs of other physical injures such as nerve damage, broken bones or bleeding under the skin.

Treatment For Your Dog's Bite Wound

Once your veterinarian has done a full examination, and thoroughly cleaned the wound, they will likely prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic such as amoxicillin-clavulanate, or enrofloxacin to help fight infection and try to prevent an abscess from developing.

In the case of deeper, more serious bite wounds your vet may recommend surgically removing the damaged tissue and placing a drain in order to help the body rid itself of any pooling infection. 

In some cases your vet may also recommend diagnostic testing such as x-rays or ultra sounds to look for injuries not immediately obvious, but potentially serious.

Depending on the nature of the wound, you vet may also prescribe pain killers to help make your dog more comfortable throughout the healing process.

Cleaning the Bite Wound

If you are unable to get to the vet right away it is essential to clean the wound as soon as possible, and keep it clean. 

  • Very gently wash the bite wound with soap and water and pat dry.
  • Use hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidene 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. 

It is important to keep the wound clean and prevent your pup from licking the area. Clean the wound 3 - 4 times daily and reapply antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection.

How You Can Help Your Dog Heal Following a Dog Bite

Preventing your dog's bite wound from becoming infected will be your number one priority. To that end, it is essential to prevent your pup from licking at the wound. While many pet parents feel bad about making their pup 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.

Be sure to administer medications as instructed! It is important to administer antibiotics 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 cause the infection to come back with a vengeance, and be 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. 

Has your dog been bitten by another dog? Contact our Winston-Salem vets or our after hours emergency partners to receive urgent veterinary care for your pup. At Animal Hospital of Clemmons our vets provide emergency veterinary care for pets in Clemmons and the greater Winston-Salem area.

What to do if your dog is bitten by another dog | Clemmons Emergency Vet Care

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