My dog has been bitten by another dog! What should I do?

My dog has been bitten by another dog! What should I do?

If your dog is bitten by another dog a trip to the vet is in order. Although some bites can look minor, bite wounds create an ideal environment for infections to occur. Today our Plains emergency vets share some advice on what you should do if your dog gets bitten by another dog.

How to Spot a Fearful Dog

When dogs bite other dogs, it can feel like it came out of the blue, but dogs don't typically bite without sending out warning signals first. Learning to understand and watch for signs that indicate that another dog is fearful or anxious could help you to prevent your pooch from being bitten.

It's important to keep in mind that dogs don't usually go looking for trouble. In fact, our canine friends generally go out of their way to avoid dangerous or aggressive situations. To avoid becoming involved in an aggressive situation, dogs will give a number of warning signals before biting. It's up to pet parents to spot those signs before trouble starts.

Dogs typically bite out of fear or anxiety. Like people, a dog can become fearful due to some aspect of the current situation, or their anxiety can be related to past experiences. So, even if you believe that there is nothing happening that could cause a dog to become fearful, your dog, or another dog nearby, could be feeling the need to protect themselves.

Signs That a Dog May Bite

Anytime you are out with your dog for a walk or at the park, try to keep an eye out for signs of anxiety or fear in other dogs. Although most of us would be aware of obvious signals such as growling, snapping, lunging, snarling or baring teeth, an anxious dog will usually send out more subtle signals first. Some of the earliest signs of a dog that is fearful include yawning, crouching, licking lips, turning face away, trying to move away, and flattening their ears back against their head.

If there is a dog near you or your pup that is showing any of these signs, calmly but quickly walk your pet away from the anxious dog. It can be helpful, and reassuring, to put a physical barrier such as a car or a fence between your dog and the threatening dog.

What To Do if Your Dog is Bitten by Another Dog

Even if pet parents stay alert for the early warning signs, unexpected situations can happen. Here are some guidelines for what you should do if your dog is bitten by another dog:

  • Stay calm! We know it can be hard but try not to panic since this could cause your pooch to become more afraid. 
  • Do not step between dogs to break up a fight. This could lead to getting bitten yourself. Instead, focus on your dog and getting your pup away from the other dog. The owner of the other dog should also be doing the same. (A loud clap to distract the dogs may help, then call your dog to you).
  • Do not shout at the other dog or make eye contact since this could make the dog feel more threatened.
  • Once the situation has deescalated, ask the other dog owner for details such as their phone number, whether their pet is up to date on vaccines, and whether they have pet insurance. If the other pet owner is absent or uncooperative take pictures.
  • Contact your vet right away to let them know what has happened and that you need an urgent appointment, or head to your nearest emergency animal hospital.

Assessing Injuries

While it may seem obvious that a large bite that is bleeding a lot requires an immediate trip to the vet, you may not realize that a small bit can also pose a serious health risk to your pet. It is always good idea to have a bite wound examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible, even if the wound seems small. 

Why It Is Important to Take Your Dog to The Vet After Being Bitten

When your dog is bitten by another dog, the aggressor's tooth not only creates a small puncture in your dog's skin, it also creates a pocket below the skin which forms an ideal environment for bacteria from the aggressor's mouth to multiply and develop into an infection. Even the smallest puncture wound can be a major cause for concern due to the high risk of infection.

The risk of infection is so high with bite wounds because the actual hole in the skin is relatively small, so the skin quickly heals, trapping the bacteria below the skin's surface where it can quickly multiply and turn into an abscess. 

Infection is generally the primary concern for any dog bite, however there are other serious health issues which can develop from the bite wound depending on the location and severity:

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

What The Vet Will Do

Your vet will examine your dog's bite wound, paying particular attention to 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. While examining your dog, the 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

After a thorough examination, your pet's wound will be cleaned and bandaged if necessary. Your veterinarian may prescribe a round of antibiotics such as amoxicillin-clavulanate, or enrofloxacin to help fight infection and try to prevent an abscess from developing. Pain killers may also be prescribed to help your dog feel more comfortable.

In more severe cases, your vet may recommend surgically removing the damaged tissue and placing a drain in order to help your dog's body rid itself of any pooling infection. 

Your veterinarian may also recommend diagnostic testing such as x-rays or ultra sounds to look for injuries that are not immediately obvious.

To prevent your pup from licking the wound, which increases the risk of infection, your vet will likely recommend that your dog wear an Elizabethan collar (cone).

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. 

  • Gently wash the bite wound with soap and water and pat dry with a clean dry gauze pad.
  • Dab the wound with hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidene or betadine to help kill germs.
  • Use a gauze pad to apply an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin. 

The importance of keeping the wound clean cannot be overstated! Clean your dog's bite wound 3 - 4 times daily with soap and water, 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. Which means that it's essential to prevent your pet from licking the wound. While many pet parents feel bad about making their pup wear an Elizabethan collar or a '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 work well and are available online.

Administer any prescribed medications as instructed! Antibiotics should be given as directed, 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 return, and be harder to get rid of.

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. 

If you are in the Plains area and your dog has been bitten by another dog contact our 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic to receive urgent veterinary care for your pet. Late nights, weekends, and holidays, (or any time that you are unable to reach your primary care vet), our emergency vets are here to help.

From Happy Pet Owners

  • My pup Fiona has had both CCL’s fixed in her hind legs by Dr. Hassinger. He has been straight-forward about everything from the start. I couldn’t be happier with what he has done with her. The staff is also patient and kind, you can tell that they really love every animal that comes through those doors.
    Matt J.

(570) 208-8877