When dogs horse around, they often pretend to fight, play-biting, wrestling, growling and baring their teeth. But when dogs fight seriously, they have every intention of using their teeth and claws to inflict as much damage on each other as possible. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, about 10 percent of the traumatic injuries veterinarians treat every year are the result of dog fights and, if left untreated, all are potentially deadly.
External Injuries Can Be More Than Skin Deep
Fighting dogs bite each other anywhere they can get a grip, but common injury sites include the head, neck and legs. When teeth puncture the skin, bacteria from the biter's mouth are introduced directly into the body of the other dog. This means that every external injury, no matter how superficial it appears, carries the potential for serious complications. Injuries to the eyes, the most delicate exposed tissue, are especially dangerous, and leg wounds can go on to impact joints. If your dog has been fighting another dog, cat or wild animal, and his skin has been broken, it`s time for a visit to your vet, who will prescribe antibiotics to clear up any existing infection or prevent infection from setting in. When examining your dog for fight-related injuries, you have to be thorough, especially if he has thick fur, because small puncture wounds are easy to overlook.
Internal Injuries Are Not Always Obvious
When little dogs get into fights with big dogs, they're often seized in the larger dog's jaws and violently shaken. If you're the owner of a pipsqueak who doesn't appear the worse for wear after such an incident, don't be fooled -- your little buddy might be more seriously injured than his behavior suggests. Even when small puncture wounds represent the only visible evidence, those lacerations might be deep enough to have penetrated muscles and soft tissues. In the absence of any obvious signs of the fracas, the shaking still could have inflicted serious internal damage. Among dogs of all sizes, bite wounds that pierce the chest wall can cause lung collapse. If bites to the belly penetrate intestinal walls, the consequences can be dire. Head injuries can affect nerves, veins and arteries, the esophagus and trachea.
What Can Happen If Injuries Are Left Untreated
Writing in the Central Kentucky News, Jeff Castle, DVM, warns that dog bites that rupture the abdominal wall are likely to become infected, causing life-threatening peritonitis, which can rapidly spread throughout the dog's body. Ripping and tearing injuries to muscles can be more indirectly deadly. In addition to the debilitating effects of blood loss and severe pain, septicemia, carried throughout the system by blood circulation, may set in, turning the dog`s whole body septic. When that happens, his kidneys, unable to perform the essential function of filtering the blood, can shut down. From the time of the fight, it might take two or three days before symptoms of serious illness appear, but Castle notes that by then, the dog`s prognosis would be "very poor." Only with aggressive treatment as an animal hospital in-patient would the dog have much chance of pulling through.
Preventing and Breaking Up Dog Fights
The best way to protect your dog from fight injuries is by reducing the opportunities and reasons for him to engage in mortal canine combat. If you have a dog but plan to get another, introduce them to each other on neutral territory, not in the home, the ASPCA recommends. If your dog tends to be possessive of his toys, put them away when other dogs come to visit. Encourage calm behavior by rewarding it with food treats. Outdoors, keep your dog in a fenced area or on leash. If your dog does get into a fight, resist the impulse to grab his collar to break it up, because you might get badly bitten. Try startling the dogs with loud noises, turning a hose or emptying the contents of a water bowl on them, spritzing them with citronella spray or separating them with a barrier such as a piece of plywood, the ASPCA says.