Bite wounds PDF Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 21:53
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Dr Liesel van der Merwe

Veterinary practice in South Africa sees a lot more bite wounds than is seen in the average practice in the UK. Our dogs are not always well socialised with other dogs or people because they are supposed to be outdoor dogs and guard dogs. We also have larger gardens and thus do not feel the need to walk our dogs every day. They are not lead trained and are poorly socialised and also probably a bit frustrated as they do not get out much.

Cats will always have the odd fight, as they are territorial and can roam more easily than dogs. Sterilised cats are less aggressive and roam less, especially male cats. In high density complexes the territories of the cats often overlap and this can cause agitation and lots of fights.

Whatever the reasons, cat and dog fights happen and their injuries range from minor wounds to life-threatening injuries. Often even a simple looking bite wound could become quite complicated.
Large dogs biting small dogs can cause penetrating injuries into the abdominal or chest cavities.

Abdominal penetration may also result in perforation or rupture of an internal organ or may result in herniation of intestines or bladder through the damaged abdominal muscles. If the chest is damaged and ribs are fractured a laceration to the lung may cause a collapsed lung with air build-up in the chest. This can be fatal if a large amount of air is leaking.

When cats are bitten by dogs their wounds may often not be immediately evident. Cats have very elastic and loose skin. When bitten the skin will often stretch around the dog’s large canines, but not actually be torn. The underlying muscles and bones are often severely traumatised. A very careful evaluation needs to be done to determine the full extent of the damage.

Deep “slicing type” wounds where the canines have just caught the tissue and sliced it open, while looking awful and being quite deep are actually the better types of wounds. Blood loss and penetrating damage are the biggest risks here, but the wound edges are clean and the tissue hasn’t been badly bruised and the wound could be stitched up quite quickly. 

When a large section of muscle has been clamped in the jaws and shaken, deep bruising and “crush injury” is caused to the tissue. This is the patient that is prone to developing complications. These wounds cannot be immediately stitched as the crushed tissue often has irreparable damage to the small blood vessels and without blood supply is going to die off in the next three to four days.

During this process the body can develop septicaemia from the dead and dying tissue as well as secondary infections. This can cause the organs, such as the lung and kidneys, to start failing. These dogs need medical support such as antibiotics, intravenous fluids, pain control and feeding.

Each day the wound will need to be cleaned and dead tissue removed. Stitching can only happen when all the remaining muscle and skin looks healthy. Sometimes a large section is missing, then two or three surgeries might be needed or bandaging for a long period to facilitate healing.

If a dog bite has caused a bone fracture, the fracture is considered an “open” fracture and infection is always a risk.

When cats fight they generally do not cause sufficient damage to need surgical repair. Deep bite-wounds can be extremely painful and the vet may need to clip in the sore areas to see the penetrating wound. Cats also easily develop abscesses, because their skin generally doesn’t tear open.

Abscesses occur mainly around the face or the behind and may need to be lanced and cleaned under a light anaesthetic. If left unattended they can cause extensive damage to the overlying skin.

Bite wounds may often turn out to be very expensive, as the management can be long duration and need repeated small procedures. Prevention is better than cure. Socialise your animals and rather than keeping dogs that fight in separate areas, consider getting some management and behavioural advice.

 

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