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Dogfight Injuries and Wounds

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Dogfights can occur between two dogs or a dog and a cat. The strength of a dog's jaw can cause severe and extensive damage. Of all trauma-related veterinary visits, 10 to 15 percent are related to bite wounds.

Dog bites can result in the crushing, tearing, puncturing or laceration of tissue. What appears to be a minor skin wound can hide extensive underlying damage. Some bite wounds, depending on the area of the body affected, can be life threatening. The most common injuries associated with dogfights are lacerations and puncture wounds.

Dogs may also fight over food, territory, dominance or owner attention. Dogfights usually occur when two adults meet for the first time and neither one backs down. Dogs adhere to a hierarchy, where one dog is considered the alpha. If two dominant dogs meet, they will fight until one submits. Females may fight to protect their young, their food source, or a perceived threat to the valuable resources needed to raise her young. Typically in the wild, only alpha females can have puppies. If the pack is small or food sources are scarce, beta females do not have puppies. A female may fight with another female to protect her alpha status, attain a higher status, or secure her resources.

Female to female fights tend to result in more severe injury. It has also been theorized that female fights may be more severe; because female dogs may not pick up on subtle signs of submission as readily as male dogs.

Fights between a large dog and a small dog or cat typically result in the most severe injuries or death.

Since the mouth has a large population of bacteria, all dogfight wounds are considered contaminated and prone to infection. Some dogfights can result in the spread of contagious diseases. In the case of dogs, rabies can be transmitted from a contagious rabid dog to the victim.

What to Watch For

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Drainage
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Limping
  • Weakness
  • Collapse

    Diagnosis

    Diagnosing a dogfight wound is simple, but determining the extent of the damage is more challenging. Depending on the site of the wound, various diagnostics may be required.

  • The first step is a thorough physical examination
  • X-rays of the injured area may be necessary
  • Special dye studies may be needed if the intestinal tract or urinary tract might be injured

    Treatment

    The treatment for dogfight injury is based on the area of the body injured.

  • Most dog bites are treated with antibiotics
  • Pain medications and possibly sedatives may be prescribed
  • If severe injury has occurred, hospitalization with intravenous fluids may be recommended
  • Some injured animals may require surgery

    Home Care

    Stop any excessive bleeding by using direct pressure. Do not use a tourniquet. Initial cleaning of the wound with hydrogen peroxide, povidone iodine or chlorhexidine can help reduce the severity of infection.

    All dogfight victims should be examined by a veterinarian. Minor skin wounds can hide severe underlying damage.

    Preventative Care

    To prevent a dogfight, avoid situations that may result in a confrontation. Do not allow your pet to roam. Keep cats indoors. Keep your dog on a leash, especially when visiting parks, neighbors, etc. Obedient dogs are less likely to participate in fights. Proper dog training is recommended.

    Unfortunately, not all pet owners follow these suggestions. You may do everything possible to prevent a fight but a stray dog may come upon you and your leashed pet and a fight may still occur. Some fights cannot be prevented.

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