Puncture and Bite Wounds in Dogs

Puncture and Bite Wounds in Dogs

If your dog is bitten by another dog you do not need to panic. But you should know more information about dog bites so you can remain calm. Objects that pierce the skin leaving small hole(s) on the surface of the dog’s skin are considered puncture/bite wounds. When this occurs, bacteria can enter the wound and cause infection at a rapid rate. Cat bite wounds tend to be small puncture wounds that become infected very quickly. Dog bites can be large punctures involving deep layers of skin and muscle, or they can also appear as gashes, usually around the neck or ear of an animal. 

Puncture/bite wounds can be very painful, especially if the dog is bitten by another dog and was picked up by their teeth and shaken. Bite wounds on dogs are easily disguised by their fur and they can develop into an abscess if they are not noticed right away by the owner.


Signs & Symptoms of Puncture and Bite Wounds in Dogs

  • Small holes will appear at wound site, as well as bruising
  • Bleeding from areas of puncture
  • Pain associated with wounded area
  • Redness and swelling may also be present at site of puncture/bite wounds   


Causes of Puncture and Bite Wounds in Dogs

Foreign objects such as teeth, nails, or broken branches and sticks, are all common sources that cause puncture or bite wounds.  Any kind of puncture or bite wound has a large probability of developing into an abscess. Cat fight wounds will develop into an abscess within the first 48 hours after the injury has occurred. When the skin is pierced, bacteria is left trapped in the puncture holes, and the body immediately reacts and begins to “wall off” the area, thus forming an abscess. It is especially important to get you dog to a veterinarian as soon as you discover a puncture wound, whether your dog is bitten by another dog or a different type of animal.


Diagnosis of Puncture and Bite Wounds in Dogs

Diagnosis begins with a complete history and a physical exam.  Your veterinarian will most likely do the following:

  • Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose most wounds by sight on a physical exam.
  • Radiographs (X-rays) - Your veterinarian may want to rule out any internal bleeding or fractures that may have occurred during the injury process. They will also want to evaluate the depth of the wound, and rule out the possibility of foreign objects left in the wound.
  • Ultrasound – Again, this is a diagnostic tool used to rule out any internal injuries as a result of the injury process.


Treatment for Puncture and Bite Wounds in Dogs

The first two objectives in wound treatment are:

  • Stop the bleeding
  • Prevent infection

There are a few guidelines that are generally followed in wound treatment:

  • Preparation of the skin for wound treatment
  • Cleaning and debridement of the wound
  • Irrigation of the wound, if needed, before closure or bandage
  • Wound closure
  • Bandaging

*These steps are followed after the patient has been stabilized if shock has set in, or after the patient has been sedated to provide pain management during the treatment process.

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Your veterinarian or veterinarian technician will most likely do the following:

 Puncture/Bite Wounds

  • Your veterinarian or veterinarian technician will clean and clip the area, and may make the puncture wounds a bit larger in size to ensure that bacteria does not get trapped inside and cause an abscess to form. 
  • The puncture holes are then irrigated vigorously with an antiseptic solution and left open to heal from the inside out. 
  • It is common to take a sample of the fluid inside the puncture wounds and send it off to do a culture/sensitivity test -- the results of this test will help in determining the best antibiotics to use to treat or prevent infection.
  • Oral antibiotics and oral pain medication will most likely be prescribed to assist in the healing process.

First Aid for Puncture and Bite Wounds in Dogs

Wounds are painful, be CAUTIOUS when treating your dog with a wound.  It is advisable to use a muzzle and get someone to help restrain your dog so you don’t get bit! If the wound is severe, contact your vet immediately.

Remember the two objectives of wound treatment if your dog is bitten by another dog:

Stop the bleeding

  • Apply pressure directly to the wound.  Use something that is absorbent and clean. Gauze pads, wash cloths, towels, and sanitary napkins work great.
  • Apply pressure for 5-10 minutes then secure in place with a bandage.
  • Check the area around the bandage for swelling. If swelling appears, you need to loosen the bandage or remove it all together.
  • Transport your dog to the closest animal hospital for treatment.

Prevent infection

  • Removing the dead tissue and foreign material in and around the wound is known as debriding. This reduces bacterial contamination. This should be done by your veterinarian.
  • Irrigation with a constant stream of water will help wash away contaminants. This is usually done by your veterinarian.
  • Deep wounds where the risk of infection is high may be left open to drain. Others may be closed using stitches, staples, or surgical glue.
  • Keeping your dog from scratching or excessively licking the wound will help prevent infection.
  • Your veterinarian may put your dog on preventative antibiotics before the signs of infection show.

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