Dog bite wounds: why they’re worse than you think

  • by DR Roxanne Jones
Dog bite wounds: why they’re worse than you think

If you are a dog owner, you’ll probably experience a dreaded dog fight at some point or another - the bared teeth, the horrible noises, and worst of all, the biting.

After the fight, you’ll stop to give your dog a thorough once-over to make sure he’s not injured. Because you’re an attentive pet-parent, you’ll get your pooch to the vet because you’ve noticed a few small puncture wounds in the skin, and even though you’re sure it’s not a big deal, you want to be safe rather than sorry.

Which is why you’re so surprised at your vet’s level of concern, as well as the cost estimate for proper treatment of these wounds. Suddenly a small fight has turned into a much bigger issue.

Bite wounds: the iceberg effect

As vets, we refer to bite wounds as the ‘iceberg effect’: what you see on the surface of the skin is only the tip of the iceberg - there’s much more going on underneath.

Typically, when a dog bites into flesh, it pierces the skin then shakes its head while continuing to bite down. This causes a great deal of damage to the tissue and structures that lie under the skin. Due to the fact that a dog’s skin is relatively loose, it’s able to move a lot without tearing, leaving just a small hole on the surface but a lot of damage underneath that you’re unable to see.

This is why bite wounds can be very serious, and why they can lead to potentially fatal issues if they’re not treated properly, including infections, septicemia, punctured lungs, crushing syndrome and others.

Why you always need to take your pet to the vet after a dog bite

Bite wounds are always infected right from the start, as the mouth is full of bacteria, and for this reason the wound should be treated appropriately.

The type of treatment your vet recommends will depend on the severity of the wound. Very minor bite wounds may need to be shaved and treated with either topical antiseptics or oral antibiotics. More serious bite wounds will often require hospitalisation, drips to stabilise your animal, and possibly general anaesthetic to ascertain the extent of the damage and repair it surgically. In severe cases, dogs may spend several days in hospital.

What if I ignore a bite wound?

In bite wounds that are left without treatment, abscessation may result. This will often require drainage under anaesthetic. In severe cases, the infection can spread as deeply as into the bones, which is very difficult to treat and may even lead to potentially-fatal septicaemia.

If you have the misfortune of experiencing a dog fight, it really is best to be on the safe side and get your furbaby to the vet as soon as you can. Most importantly, trust your vet’s judgement when it comes to treating these deceptive iceberg effect wounds.

We hope you’ll enjoy many happy, fight-free outings with your furbaby, and that this article has armed you with helpful information just in case the unexpected happens. You can also read more articles about dog health and well-being on our blog.

Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.

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