Ask the Vet: How to Treat a Dog Bite Puncture Wound?
Dr. Ivana Crnec
Learning how to treat a dog bite puncture wound is important. It's one of those things all dog owners should be prepared for in the eventuality that, their canine companions become victim of another dog's bite. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana shares tips and general guidelines on how to treat a dog bite puncture wound.
Dealing With Dog Puncture Wounds
So what is a bite puncture wound exactly? And why are dog bite puncture wounds so worrisome?
Puncture wounds are all wounds that puncture or penetrate the skin. If the object causing the penetration is another dog’s teeth, then the puncture wound is referred to as dog bite puncture wound.
It is not uncommon for two dogs to engage in an unreasonable fight. Watching your dog fight can be a stressful event, but it is essential to remain calm and successfully assess the situation as soon as the battle ends.
Most dog fights result in dog bite puncture wounds. In fact, dog bite puncture wounds account for around 10 percent of all trauma cases seen in veterinary clinics.
Some puncture wounds can be minor, while others can be more extensive. Regardless of the severity of the bite wound, it is recommended to have a veterinarian examine all puncture wounds. This is because dog bite puncture wounds pose a high infection risk.
All dog bite puncture wounds are therefore considered a serious problem and to avoid further complications require a quick trip to the vet’s office.
Risks of Dog Bite Puncture Wounds
Why are dog bite puncture wounds prone to complications? The reason why dog bite wounds are prone to infections and complications is because the dog’s mouth carries a plethora of bacteria.
When a dog bites another dog, it introduces its mouth bacteria into the wound. If the wound is deep enough, and the bacteria finds itself comfortably under the skin’s surface, it will start multiplying and eventually spread.
If left untreated, the infection may lead to a localized infection known as abscess or a more generalized infection known as cellulitis. Based on the bite wound location, the following complications are possible:
- Septic arthritis – joint infection
- Pyothorax – accumulation of pus in the chest
- Septic peritonitis – accumulation of pus in the abdominal cavity
- Osteomyelitis – bone infection.
Bite puncture wounds are prone to infections because of another reason as well. Namely, the dog that sustained the wound will continuously lick its wound which once again leads to further bacteria introduction.
Even if the dog does not lick its wound, which is highly uncommon, the wound is still exposed to everyday bacteria from the dog’s surrounding.
Signs of Dog Bite Puncture Wounds
A dog that sustained another dog bite and now has a puncture wound, based on the exact extension of the wound, may show the following signs and symptoms:
- Punctured skin
- Redness of the skin
- Liquid discharge
If the bite puncture wound became infected or there is a forming abscess, the dog will show the following secondary signs and symptoms:
- Reluctance to move
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased water intake
- Foul smelling discharge
- A prominent bump or swelling
At the Vet's Office
What happens at the vet when a dog presents with a bite puncture wound? The vet will start his/her assessment with a full physical examination. You, the owner, will provide the most important information – how was the puncture wound sustained.
Once the vet performs the physical examination he/she will examine the wound paying special attention to size, location and infection potential. Sometimes, to make a proper treatment strategy, the vet may suggest some additional tests which will also help determine the dog’s actual health status.
Treating dog bite puncture wounds may take a multi-faceted approach. The vet will establish the treatment strategy based on:
- Extent of the wound
- Location of the wound
- The dog’s overall health.
In all cases, the treatment has two main goals: alleviating pain and preventing prevention. Let's take a closer look at both of these goals.
Alleviating pain –this requires the administration of powerful pain meds. The vet will give your dog an injection and then prescribe pain med pills which will be used over the course of the next few days.
Infection prevention –this requires proper wound cleaning and administration of antibiotics. The process of wound cleaning is called debridement and includes removing the damaged or already infected tissue (something like trimming the wound).
Smaller wounds are usually left open to drain while larger wounds require surgical closure. The length of the antibiotic treatment can vary from two weeks to several months based on the severity of the infection.
Cost of Dog Puncture Wound Treatment
Generally speaking, treating a dog bite puncture wound will set you back anywhere between $800 and $3000 with the average cost being $1500.
What To Do if Your Dog is Bitten by Another Dog?
One of the scariest things a dog parent can witness is watching its baby dog being attacked by another dog. In such a stressful event knowing what to do is not just essential – it can also be life-saving.
Here are some important guidelines on how to act and what to do.
Do Not Panic
This is probably the hardest thing when watching two dogs fight. With so much snarling and snapping it is hard to keep calm and focus on what to do.
At this point engage in separating the fighting dogs only if it is safe for you to do so. For example if you have access to a bucket of water, hose or citronella-spray use those.
Never try to separate the dogs by pulling their collars – there is a big chance you will get accidentally bitten.
Asses your Dog’s Wounds and Seek Professional help
Once the fight is over and the two dogs are separated you need to carefully check your dog for wounds. Generally speaking, even small dog bite wounds warrant a trip to the vet’s office.
Therefore, at this point just make sure there isn't anything urgent that requires first aid right on the spot and then head towards the vet’s.
Get The Other Owner’s Information
A fight between two dogs can be simply seen as fender-bender between two cars. Therefore, it is wise to have the other dog’s owner information.
This is mainly important to confirm whether the other dog is up to date with its rabies shots. In some cases, if the vet bills need to be paid by the other owner or law enforcement must engage, you will need to know some basic information about the other dog’s owner.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.