Updated - Jan 17th, 2023
- Proceed with great caution when attempting to break up a dog fight, and when assessing your pup’s wounds. Never come between two fighting dogs.
- The extent and location of injuries will determine the exact veterinary care plan, but most dog bites are treated with some form of vet-prescribed antibiotics to help prevent infection.
- Physical healing can happen faster than psychological recovery. Take time reintroducing your dog to social situations – pups often exhibit more anxiety after having been in a fight.
Your afternoon dog park adventure just took a turn for the worst: another dog bit your dog. You’re likely feeling scared and frazzled – and seeking immediate help for your pup.
Read on for everything you need to know about what to do when your dog gets bitten by another dog.
What steps should I take if another dog bites my dog?
Separate your dog – but use caution
There’s no doubt you’re worried for your furry friend, but staying as calm as possible during a dog fight and its aftermath will help keep you and your dog safe.
Any attempt to separate quarreling dogs should be undertaken with great caution. Most veterinary professionals will tell you to never come between two fighting dogs. Trying to intervene directly can leave you seriously injured.
“Do not put yourself at risk,” warns veterinarian and behaviorist Dr. Paola Cuevas, MVZ. “A dog that is already biting another dog will also bite you.” She advises that both dog owners evaluate the situation and work together to find a safe way to stop the fight. “If there’s a hose nearby, try spraying water to distract and separate the dogs.” Dr. Cuevas says another option is to use a physical barrier – like a broom, garbage can lid, or slab of wood – to break up the fight and protect yourself at the same time. You can also throw a blanket over the dogs.
As a last resort, Dr. Cuevas suggests you “work with a second person to grab each dog’s hind legs and pull backward – so they move like wheelbarrows in reverse.”
This awkward motion can debilitate the dogs for long enough to give both owners the chance to separate them, and for you to get your dog to safety. She emphasizes the importance of protecting yourself from harm and avoiding anything that might escalate the situation, like making eye contact with the other dog or reacting in anger toward its owner.
Find a safe spot to assess injuries
Once you’ve separated your dog, find a secluded spot where your pup can quiet down. If they can walk, guide your dog carefully while looking for signs of injury. Wait until they’re calm to examine their body for bite wounds, puncture marks, and any other injuries – and try your best to keep calm, too.
Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM, director of Kingsgate Animal Hospital in Lubbock, TX and veterinarian at SeniorTailWaggers.com, advises that you “inspect your dog for injuries but do so cautiously, as an upset dog in pain is likely to bite anyone that touches them.” That includes you. “When dogs are scared, hurt, or have an adrenaline rush,” Dr. Whittenburg says, “they may bite even their favorite human.”
Arrange veterinary care
A dog’s teeth are powerful and can tear through skin and muscle easily, sometimes causing serious or fatal damage to the organs. While it might be a no-brainer to call the vet when your dog is visibly bleeding, bite marks that look superficial – or that are beneath your dog’s coat – can still be dangerous to your pet.
“Teeth often make slim but deep punctures that can be difficult for owners to evaluate appropriately,” Dr. Whittenburg says. “Because a dog’s mouth is full of bacteria, these penetrating injuries can easily abscess and turn into severe infections without proper treatment.”
The extent of bite injuries is not always obvious, so it’s best to make an urgent appointment with your vet or head to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital as soon as possible, regardless of how severe the bites look. Even the smallest bite can pose a serious risk of infection and requires veterinary attention.
“A seemingly minor dog bite can result in several complications, including cellulitis, sepsis, bone and joint infections, and peritonitis,” Dr. Whittenburg cautions. “Crush injuries, broken bones, and damage to the delicate structures in the neck can also easily be missed without a veterinarian’s expertise.”
Some bleeding might require you to administer first aid before you reach the vet. In such cases, Dr. Whittenburg recommends that you hold pressure over the wound with a dry, clean cloth. A dog exhibiting severe or life-threatening signs – such as uncontrollable bleeding, difficulty breathing, weakness or limping, crying or whining, and pale or blue gums – should be taken immediately for emergency care.
Exchange contact information
As eager as you are to seek care for your pup, before hightailing it from the scene of the fight, try your best to get the other dog owner’s name and contact information. Knowing their dog’s vaccine status will help you determine if your pet needs a rabies vaccine booster shot.
In the case of a pet owner who is uncooperative or absent, take pictures to help document the situation.
What will happen at the vet?
Inspection of dog bite wounds
The vet will examine your dog’s injuries, paying close attention to the depth of the puncture wounds and assessing the potential for infection and abscess. They will also check for other signs of injury, including broken bones, contusions, and nerve damage. Injuries located on certain areas of your pet’s body – the neck, torso, and limbs, for example – are more likely to cause complications and can largely determine the kind of medical treatment necessary.
If your dog is in an unstable condition, your vet may administer fluids to facilitate hydration and manage blood pressure. To locate injuries that are less easy to spot, they might order diagnostic imaging such as ultrasounds or x-rays. In more severe cases, the vet may surgically remove damaged tissue and insert a drain to prevent fluid from pooling and causing infection. They could recommend sedation or anesthesia if wounds need cleaning and suturing.
Treating dog bite wounds
When treating most dog bites, the goal is to prevent an infection or reduce its severity. The vet will likely prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic if your dog’s wounds have penetrated the skin. An anti-inflammatory and pain medication are also likely to be a part of the treatment regimen.
If sutures or bandages are applied, your dog will probably leave the vet with an Elizabethan collar. Less regal than the name suggests, the plastic-shaped cone worn around your dog’s neck is an uncomfortable necessity that allows their injuries to heal faster. Dr. Cuevas notes that the collar is an important tool that “helps to make sure your dog does not lick their wounds,” which could not only delay healing but result in infection or injury.
Keep your dog in a confined space or room while they’re wearing the collar – and make sure you’ve removed any objects your disoriented pup could easily knock over. This step will help mitigate discomfort and ward off the fear dogs can experience when their collar bangs into furniture and other objects.
Once your fur baby is back home, the physical recovery process will probably last a couple of weeks. Along with administering a barkload of TLC, it’s essential to give your dog the full round of antibiotics prescribed by the vet – do not stop the medication early, even if your pup seems to have recovered.
Wound areas closed with sutures should be kept clean and dry. If the wound was left open to heal, or a drain was placed inside it, make sure you clean the area on a regular basis. Remove debris or residue with a soft washcloth or cotton balls and warm water. Do not use a cleanser or disinfectant unless prescribed by the vet. Many experts recommend you place a muzzle over your pet’s mouth and nose when caring for their wounds since even the gentlest dogs might bite out of pain or fear.
Unfortunately, the psychological recovery process may take longer than a couple of weeks. Pet parents whose dogs have been in a fight should expect them to take some time to feel comfortable around other dogs and in social situations. If your pup starts to act aggressively toward other dogs after suffering an attack, seek professional help.
How to avoid future dog fights
Dog attacks and fights are much less likely to occur when pups are leashed, especially on walks and in public parks. Well-mannered dogs tend not to fight as often as those without training, so enrolling your pet in dog training classes at a young age is a great preventive measure.
Keep your distance from dogs exhibiting anxious or aggressive behaviors like lunging, growling, and snarling. If you’re out and see an unleashed dog roaming an area, do not approach it. Fido might be gentle, but you don’t know the other dog’s temperament.
If you enjoy visiting dog parks, be sure to stay mindful of the environment on any given day. Not all pups are comfortable around a large number of dogs or people. It’s probably best to avoid a crowded, chaotic scene if your pooch generally prefers a low-key setting. For dogs that get nervous in hectic spaces with lots of stimuli, spend more time playing together at home or walking down quieter streets in your neighborhood.
Embracing your pup’s personality and preferences can also go a long way toward keeping them safe, as can ensuring they are up to date on vaccines, including their rabies booster shot. For help making the best care pawsible – including accident coverage in the event that your dog faces scary and unexpected bite wounds – fetch a free quote from Pumpkin today.