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Emergency First Aid for a Dog-on-Dog Bite Wound

August 29, 2010
Red Party Color Cocker Spaniel

How Could Angel’s Family Respond Perfectly to a Dog Bite Attack?

Cocker Spaniel with swollen leg

Cocker Spaniel with swollen leg

When a little Party-Color Cocker Spaniel suffered bite wounds from the neighbor’s dog, her parents did not know how to respond.  The neighbor knew some dog first aid and applied his knowledge as best he could.  No one thought to go to the animal emergency room, even though they lived in a major metropolitan city in the US, 10 minutes from a 24/7 animal e.r.!  Quick thinking and proper urgent care would have allowed Angel to avoid extra pain and heal faster without surgery.

Emergency First Aid for a Dog-on-Dog Bite Wound

  • Get dogs apart without humans getting injured: this is probably the most likely time in your life to get bitten!
  • Clean and assess wounds
    • Muzzle your dog if necessary, bite wounds hurt
    • ideally 16 ounces sterile saline from the pharmacy flushed over the wound with a big syringe (sold at pharmacy for this purpose).
      • If wounds penetrate through the skin, see vet for professional cleaning and antibiotics.
    • If the wounds might be deep, or you are not sure, seek veterinary care for wound cleaning and antibiotics, preferably within 8 hours.
  • Apply triple antibiotic liquid or ointment: bacitracin, neomycin, polymyxin
  • Bandage. It is very important to protect an open wound from further contamination. For example, studies have shown that even a light bandage on a dog’s open leg fracture can prevent post-op infections compared to no first aid bandage.
  • Use an Ice Pack for 10-15 minutes to decrease inflammatory tissue damage and help control pain without dangerous OTC medications.

Be Very Careful Not to Bandage a Leg Too Tight

Bandaging is a tricky procedure. In Angel’s case, the bandage was too tight, lumpy, uneven and basically tourniquetted the leg. This tight bandage caused the paw and lower leg to swell, prevented natural healing factors in
the blood from circulating to the injury. If that bandage stayed on a few more hours, Angel might have lost her leg!

Do Not Give Your Dog OTC Painkillers

Aspirin is a problem for a dog!

I know what you’re thinking,”But Doc, my vet used to say baby aspirin or buffered aspirin was fine!”

I know, I know. I used to say that, too…ten years ago. Research completed in the past few years has proven that dogs always get microulcers in their intestinal tract lining from aspirin. Always. Sometimes the ulcers are big and become life-threatening perforating bleeding ulcers!

Plus, nobody gives the right dose of aspirin. So you’re risking bleeding ulcers and not helping your pup’s pain. Why? To make yourself feel better because you gave a “pill?”. Try 10-15 minutes of cold therapy with ice to numb the area and prevent further injurious swelling.

Do tell your veterinarian if you gave any sort of pills. (Before you found this VirtuaVet post.) Don’t be shy! Your veterinarian needs to know what’s in your dog’s system so any prescription painkillers do not interact badly.

Tru Tip: Rabies Vaccines and Dog Bites

Get written proof of a current rabies vaccine from the biter so your bitee does not have to undergo rabies quarantine. (If you live in a rabies-free part of the world….island, just disregard. Try not to be smug about it! That’s you, too, UK!)

If the biter does not have a valid rabies certificate, a quarantine may be necessary for your family’s safety. Most municipalities allow home quarantine which is not arduous or expensive for the other dog’s person. So don’t worry, you won’t be taking food off their table or hurting their dog. Unless….if the dog that bit your dog has a “record” of biting people or breaking laws, then the consequences of your report could reach further into the dog’s life situation. But you should join community efforts to keep a menace out of your neighborhood if that is the case.

Angel made a fast, full recovery. She felt a little sick from her prescription painkillers and stopped eating for a day about two days after the attack. Once we stopped the painkillers she ate well within 12 hours.

Angel’s wound required minor surgery and cleaning, including the placement of a Penrose Drain.

Basic Penrose Drain Care for a Dog

  • Do not let your pet eat or chew the drain.  If pieces are left in the wound, the wound will fester and not heal.  Most Penrose drains come embedded with a strip that will show on an X-Ray to check if a piece has been left in the wound!  (An Elizabethan “cone” collar helps!  Many pet stores now sell them, or you can make one with an old plastic bucket by making a hole in the bottom of the bucket, and well, bottoms up!  Put the bucket on your pooch’s head!)
  • Clean the openings twice daily with dilute Chlorhexidine solution (from the vet’s), or, as in Angel’s case, iodine (the brown-orange color on her fur is iodine scrub solution.)  The idea is to keep the drains open so infection does not pocket under the skin and attack the body.
  • Take the drain to your vet for removal when the veterinarian prescribes (usually 3-5 days), so infection does not get up into the drain.
  • Ask your vet: Some veterinarians like to always leave a bandage over these drains to catch infection and protect the wound.  Some like the fresh air to keep the wound open and draining.  Ask your veterinarian which way they think is best.
  • Also Ask your vet: Some veterinarians like the drain “flushed” daily with a sterile hospital solution they give to clean debris and infection out of the wound.  Other veterinarians do not want you to inadvertently push infection deeper by inappropriate flushing.  Follow your veterinarian’s advice!

The other dog was up to date on rabies. This truly was a standard kind of accident that can happen between neighbors. It was thoughtful of the Bulldog owner to pay the bills, but pet insurance would have paid, too.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2010 4:29 am

    First aid for dogs, just like first aid for humans, is an effective combination of knowledge, supplies and skills, put into action for the benefit of your four-legged friend.


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