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Bite Wounds in Dogs: What Can You Do at Home?

Bite wounds (caused by the bite of another animal) are very common injuries in dogs; in fact, they are one of the most common reasons dogs go to veterinary emergency rooms. Most bite wounds occur from other dogs but can also occur from cats and other wild animals. The damage caused by bite wounds can vary from minor skin problems, very significant, deep penetrating wounds to severe internal injuries from the crushing effects of a bite wound.

Some bite wounds appear as punctures while others present as large lacerations. The edges can be smooth, jagged, or irregular depending on the initiating factor.

Depending on the depth and force of the bite, significant damage to underlying soft tissues and structures can result. Not only can the skin be punctured or torn, but underlying muscles, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels can also be damaged. I’ve even seen broken bones occur from bite wounds. The depth of the wound can range from superficial to penetration into the chest or abdominal cavity as a result of the trauma that produced the laceration.

I don’t mean to scare you, but I’ve seen even small exterior wounds cause significant and life-threatening internal damage. For example, I once saw a small breed dog that was attacked by a large dog. There were only a couple of exterior punctures visible initially but the punctures penetrated into the chest cavity and abdomen, causing a pneumothorax and damaging the kidney and intestines. Fortunately, this little dog lived with excellent and intensive medical care.

Again, I don’t want to scare you but I’d rather be overly cautious when it comes to the health and life of your dog. My point is that in this case, the outside damage did not look extensive compared to the internal damage. I don’t want you to overlook a wound and think it is no big deal when indeed it is. For this reason, I recommend that ALL dogs with bite wounds be examined by a veterinarian.

Minor bite trauma may produce only skin damage or superficial abrasions. Deeper or more forceful bites can cause severe damage to the structures underneath and even be life-threatening. In addition, bite wounds are dirty and usually require a good cleaning and antibiotics. Sometimes the damage underneath can take time to show up, for example, trauma to the fat and muscles under the skin can cause major issues several hours to days after the initial injury and often need multiple visits to the veterinarian and occasionally multiple surgeries or visits for wound care.

Below are some common questions dog owners ask about their dogs with bite wounds. In this article, we’ll focus on what you can do at home to treat the condition.

What Causes a Bite Wound?

A bite wound from an animal attack can occur for many reasons. Animal fights most commonly happen when adults are put together for the first time. Other causes of fighting include dominance, hierarchy, and conflict over things like food, owner attention, or territory. Your dog may be the attacker or the victim and become injured.

Home Treatment for a Dog Bite Wound

Specific treatments for a bite wound depend on the degree and depth of injury, in addition to any associated or secondary injuries. It is very difficult to give helpful advice online or over the phone without knowing the full extent of the injury. The best thing to do is to take your dog to your veterinarian where the staff can determine the extent of the injury.

If you cannot take your dog to your veterinarian you can do the following:

When is a Bite Wound an Emergency?

A laceration is always an emergency and should always be examined by a veterinarian. Even small cuts can be deep and penetrate important structures, requiring sutures or additional treatment.

For more details and related topics, go to Bite Wounds in Dogs.