Our Newtown Veterinary Specialists team understands that it can be scary if another dog bites yours. Join us as we explain more about how to handle the situation, how to treat your pooch, and when to call the animal clinic.
Even the calmest, most loyal dog is still an animal – and like all animals, we can't always predict how they'll behave or react to something. Today, we'll talk about what to do if you find yourself in the unnerving position of your dog being bitten by another dog.
Being able to take a level-headed approach, knowing how to inspect your dog for an injury, and having a plan for what to do next can go a long way to making the situation less stressful. It can also give you a better chance of getting your pooch settled enough to safely head to the vet for a physical check-up.
Remove Your Dog From The Incident
If you witness another dog bite your dog, the first thing to do is safely remove your dog from the situation, trying to avoid escalation. Leading your dog away from the area also gives you the chance to see if your pet is limping, bleeding, or showing signs of pain.
If your canine companion is too injured or frightened to walk, you may try to pick them up - but remember that even the gentlest dog may nip or bite when they're frightened or hurt.
If possible, speak to the dog's owner or guardian to obtain information about rabies vaccine status and get their contact information. This is useful for both you and the other dog's owner, in case any further medical issues arise after the bite.
It is also possible that, if the incident took place on property belonging to someone, their insurance may help to pay for some of the veterinary costs related to the bite.
Assess the Injury
How can you tell how bad a dog bite is? It can range from a little nick in the skin to severe multiple wounds that need immediate veterinary intervention. Even the most experienced dog owner benefits from having their dog assessed and treated by a professional veterinarian, as even the most minor puncture or cuts are at risk of infection without proper medical treatment.
If your dog acts lethargic, has difficulty breathing, or vomits after being bitten by another animal, this is a veterinary emergency and you should head to the vet right away.
How Veterinarians Treat Dog Bites
If your dog's bite wound is on the smaller side and doesn't require surgery, the vet will inspect the wound, shave down the hair around the injury site, disinfect and clean it, and begin a course of antibiotics to prevent infection. If your dog is experiencing pain, the veterinarian may also prescribe pain medication for them.
In scenarios of more severe or infected dog bites, the treatment might necessitate your dog undergoing anesthesia. If the bite punctures deep, or a deep pocket or infection is found, your vet or vet surgeon might recommend surgery to remove the damaged tissues and place a drain for a few days. Around 2 weeks later, any stitches remaining should be removed by the vet.
In serious cases, your dog's injury could require diagnostic tools like X-rays or ultrasounds to identify any broken bones and see if the chest or abdominal cavities have been damaged. Based on your vet's assessment (and the rabies status of the dog that bit your pet), your dog may need to be quarantined for 10 days and/or receive a rabies booster shot.
Prevent Infections From Dog Bites
The most important thing to do after your dog is bitten by another dog is to prevent infection from taking hold. Your vet will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics for your dog; it is imperative that you complete the full course. You must also prevent your dog from licking or scratching at their wound. Your vet may use bandages, but either way, other barriers like Elizabethan collars (a.k.a. E-collar or 'cone of shame') can prevent a dog from irritating or contaminating the wound.
For dogs that don't adjust to wearing their cone, there are other options available at most pet supply stores. There are soft versions of the E-Collar that still prevents wound licking, but may allow your dog easier maneuverability.
There are also specialty 'shirts' to cover pet incisions from licking or nibbling, but speak to your vet about whether this type of covering is appropriate for your dog's injury.
How To Move On After A Dog Bite
It may take a while for your dog to get back to feeling their regular, happy-go-lucky selves - especially if they were anxious to begin with. One of the best ways to start moving forward after such an incident is to identify the factors that led to the situation.
If your dog was bitten by another dog in your household, don't punish the aggressor - it could make them jumpier and even more likely to bite. Instead, try to figure out what caused the altercation.
If your dog gets nervous around new dogs (or other dogs at all), don't try to force interactions. It's worth the time to learn the signs of discomfort and relaxation in dogs in general, and your dog in particular. Every pet is as unique as their human, after all. You may need to change plans, if a crowded dog park or noisy doggy daycare sends your dog's tail between their legs. It's important that you care for your dog's confidence and wellbeing, as well as their physical health.
With support, love and patience from you and your dog's compassionate vet team, your pooch has a greater chance of being their happy self again.
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.