Oh, poor Gilly! Not only was this physically traumatic for him, but also he must have been so scared!
Any time a small dog and a big dog get into a fight, there is great concern with the small dog for “whiplash,” bruising, internal bleeding and infection.
Dogs have a very strong instinct to shake anything that they grab in their jaws, as this can break the neck of their prey and thus quickly kill it.
So, whenever someone brings me a small dog that has been bitten by a big dog, I worry that there may be damage to the spine.
Did the big dog shake Gilly at all?
This might not show up right away, just like whiplash in a human. It is often not until the next day that the dog starts showing signs of neck or back pain. The dog may be reluctant to move, to jump up or down, or climb stairs. The dog may refuse to turn his head, or to lower it to the food or water bowl. Many dogs with neck pain will yelp if anyone approaches them, as they are so scared of being touched and having their heads turned painfully.
As with humans, it is very helpful to treat these patients BEFORE they get so incredibly painful. When I see a dog with this problem, I usually treat with NSAID’s (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) which not only are excellent painkillers but also will prevent the swelling and inflammation that are so common.
Also, there can be tremendous crushing when a large dog bites a smaller one. Even when there are no visible punctures,there can be a lot of bleeding and bruising of the muscles and tissues under the skin. This can also be very painful.
Again, think of a human – if you get hit in the leg with a baseball, it certainly hurts at the time. BUT it hurts much more the next day when it is swollen and bruised.
Again, prevention can really help.
Icing the area right away with a cold compress can help, but medication can also be useful to minimize swelling and bruising.
What I am most concerned about with Gilly is that there is likely a very large pocket under the skin near the wound on his back leg.
Often, with dog attacks, the dog’s jaws will lift the skin up from the underlying tissue and create a pocket like a blister. This can fill with serum or blood, and if there is even a little tiny puncture, it then becomes a perfect environment for bacteria to grow.
I always shave patients over the area of the bite to look closely for punctures, and then put the patient on antibiotics if I find any. Again, preventing infection is so much easier and less painful than treating it after is has happened.
So, if I were to see your dog, I would start with a very careful physical examination. In order to shave and clean the area, I might have to give your boy a painkiller so that he was relaxed and not hurting.
I would check for signs of internal bleeding. I would check for any punctures. I would almost certainly give him medications to go home with, such as NSAID’s or antibiotics. I might suggest x-rays if I was concerned about internal bleeding or fractures, though these seem unlikely if he is bearing weight on this leg.
In summary, there are a lot of things that can be going in internally, and when someone calls me to report a “big dog, little dog” incident, I always urge them to come in immediately. This really DOES need to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible!
Now, I know that this may mean a trip to an emergency clinic, but I strongly believe that your boy needs some treatment right away. There are so many things that can be minimized (swelling, bruising, pain, infection) if he is treated right away.
If you absolutely cannot get to an emergency veterinarian, then at home, please try to trim the hair. I suspect there will be second puncture on his left leg.
When a dog bite wound occurs, what happens is that there are 2 puncture holes - one caused by the upper and one by the lower canine tooth. So, look in an area about 8 inches around the puncture on his leg I suspect there will be another puncture AND that the skin between them will no longer be attached to the underlying muscle.
This needs medical attention. It needs to be cleaned, and flushed, and may need drains placed.
The most helpful thing at home would be for you to apply a warm compress to the area. If you have antibacterial soap in the house (Hibitane, Hibiclens or chlorhexidene soap would be ideal, hand soap is ok if you have nothing else) you can add about a tablespoon to a cup of warm water. Put a washcloth in, then wring it out. Hold the warm, damp wash cloth to the swollen area for 10 minutes, rewarming it every 2 minutes or so. Wipe the area with a plain wet washcloth and pat dry.
Furthermore, I would not recommend topical antibiotic ointments as they likely will not be effective as it is the bacteria that are deep under the skin that cause the infection. So, applying a bit of ointment on the top of the skin is not likely to be helpful in any way. You are more likely to help with the hot compresses, but I do think Gilly will get much better much faster with a short course of antibiotics!
Do the compresses 3 times daily for 3 days - but this really is urgent and Gilly should see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Bite wounds are MUCH more serious than they first appear!
I hope that this helps you to help your little dog!
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The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.