Bite wounds are a common cause of trauma in dogs and typically result from altercations with other dogs, cats and wildlife. Bite wounds are puncture wounds and while they may appear small they can spell big trouble for your dog.
Their deceptive nature lies in the fact that while the external wound can be small, the same wound can be deep, extending through the skin and into the subcutaneous tissues and muscles.
There is a high risk of infection with bite wounds because of the numerous bacteria that are normally harbored in an animal’s mouth. Because the surface wound is usually small it tends to heal fast, trapping the bacteria in the deep wound.
This creates an ideal environment for some bacteria to grow and result in an abscess.
Cat bites are the most likely to cause abscesses because their teeth are long and needle thin. They introduce bacteria deep into the wound and the tiny puncture wound closes up usually within a day or two.
Dog bites are usually shallower and the external wounds are typically bigger than a cat bite thus the rate of abscessation is lower but still possible.
There are steps you can take if your dog is bitten that can dramatically decrease the risk of complications:
How to control dog bleeding from bite wound
Control any bleeding by applying a clean towel or washcloth to the wound and apply firm pressure. Dog bites tend to bleed more than cat bites and it also depends where the bite wound is located.
Wounds in the highly vascular ear and nose tend to bleed a lot while legs and trunk may not bleed much.
Have a vet evaluate dog bite wound
Seek immediate veterinary attention to evaluate the wound.Your vet will look to see how deep it is, judge how much dead space is involved and make recommendations for treatment.
Dead space is created when the skin is pulled away from the underlying subcutaneous tissue creating a pocket of air between the skin and the underlying tissue. If the space is large, bacteria tend to grow creating an abscess.
Typically one of two things will happen, your vet will clean the wound and prescribe antibiotics or if the wound is deep it may need a surgical drain.
How to clean a superficial dog wound
If the wound is superficial, start the cleaning process by applying a small amount of KY jelly (or other water-based lubricant) into the wound and clipping the fur around the wound — the KY jelly will keep the clipped fur out of the wound and you can wipe it off with a washcloth after clipping.
Clipping the fur makes it easy to clean the wound and prevents bacteria on the fur from contaminating the wound. Once the fur is clipped, clean the wound thoroughly with a chlorhexidene or betadine solution.
Home care for dog wound
Home care involves cleaning the wound gently with hydrogen peroxide moistened gauze three or four times a day and then applying a small amount of a triple antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin to the wound.
It is important to monitor the wound for the three signs of infection which are: excessive redness, swelling or purulent discharge. If you notice any signs of infection then a re-check with your veterinarian is needed.
Continued home care for dog wound
Continue the oral antibiotics as directed by your veterinarian. It is important to restrict exercise as a dogs skin is very motile; if she is too active she may keep reopening the wound delaying healing and increasing the risk of abscessation.
If vet installs a drain
If your veterinarian needs to install a drain, home care is similar. Keep the area around the drain clear of discharge by swabbing the area with hydrogen peroxide or a topical cleaning solution like Vetericyn as needed.
After a few days (usually three to four days), the discharge stops and the drain is ready to be removed by your regular veterinarian.
The wound is then cleaned as above until fully healed.
With timely veterinary treatment and good nursing care at home most bite wounds will heal with little complications.
How to safely treat a dog bite wound
Always make sure you have Vetericyn Wound and Infection Care on hand just in case any of his dogs is hurt. It’s non-toxic, doesn’t sting and is safe even on puppies’ skin, eyes and ears.
What will my doctor do?
Here are some things your doctor may do to treat a cat or dog bite:
- Examine the wound for possible nerve damage, tendon damage or bone injury. He or she will also check for signs of infection.
- Clean the wound with a special solution and remove any damaged tissue.
- May use stitches to close a bite wound, but often the wound is left open to heal, which can lower the risk of infection.
- May prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection.
- May give you a tetanus shot if you had your last shot more than 5 years ago.
- May ask you to schedule an office visit to check your wound again in 1 to 2 days.
If your injury is severe, or if the infection has not gotten better even though you’re taking antibiotics, your doctor may suggest that you see a specialist and/or go to the hospital, where you can get special medicine given intravenously (through an IV needle into your vein) and further treatment if necessary.
Will I need a rabies shot?
Probably not. Rabies is uncommon in dogs and cats in the United States. (It is more common in wild animals like skunks, raccoons, bats and coyotes.)
If a dog or cat that bit you appeared to be healthy at the time of the bite, it’s unlikely that the animal had rabies.
However, it’s a good idea to take some precautions if you’re bitten by a dog or cat.
If you know the owner of the dog or cat that bit you, ask for the pet’s vaccination record (record of shots).
An animal that appears healthy and has been vaccinated may still be quarantined (kept away from people and other animals) for 10 days to make sure it doesn’t start showing signs of rabies.
If the animal gets sick during the 10-day period, a veterinarian will test it for rabies. If the animal does have rabies, you will need to get a series of rabies shots (see below).
If the animal is a stray or you can’t find the owner of the dog or cat that bit you, call the animal control agency or health department in your area. They will try to find the animal so it can be tested for rabies.
If the animal control agency or health department can’t find the animal that bit you, if the animal shows signs of rabies after the bite or if a test shows that the animal has rabies, your doctor will probably want you to get a series of rabies shots (also called post-exposure prophylaxis).
You need to get 2 shots as soon as possible after the bite occurs.
After this, your doctor will give you 3 more shots over a 14-day period.