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DanaDVM, Dog Answer Team
Category: Dog
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Experience:  Dog Expert
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Air Pocket after dog bite

Customer Question

Is air under the skin of my MinPin normal after she was bit by my black lab last week? She has a deep puncture wound on her head, and has swelled up with what i believe is air under her skin in her head and neck. She has an appointment with the vet on Wednesday, but should I wait that long? She has already been seen by the vet and is currently taking antibiotics to avoid infection. PLEASE HELP!
Submitted: 13 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  ElenaMarie replied 13 years ago.
If she were my dog, I would call an emergency vet and ask about this. They can usually advise you whether this is something that is normal in a bite wound. If the swelling is really bad, she may not be on the proper antibiotic, and that may need to be changed.

How big is the wound? You say she was bitten on her head? But you say that the swelling is under her skin on her head and neck? The infection could be spreading, and not to alarm you, but she could be getting what is called lymphangitis, or cellulitis, which means that the infection is spreading and could cause septicemia (blood poisioning or infection).

I am not a vet, but I have seen infections in both animals and humans that have spread, and she may need to be seen sooner than Wednesday. If you think you can wait, I would definitely get her seen tomorrow, but if it looks very red, and is swelling that quickly, you need to take her to the emergency animal clinic in your area. She may need an injection of a different antibiotic, or need to be given fluids if she is getting feverish or dehydrated from the infection.

Did she by any chance get any sub-q fluids when you had her to the vets? That can look like a swelling in the neck, where they usually give the fluids, near the neck, usually in the shoulder area.

Also, are both of your dogs' vaccinations up to date? Especially rabies? You would be best to call the emergency vets and ask about this swelling. If you can, you should also have someone help you take your dog's temperature rectally, and see if she is running a fever. Is she eating or drinking okay? Going to the bathroom okay? If she is very tired and lethargic, I would certainly have her seen as soon as possible.

The following website is very informative for general information for your MinPin also:

God bless and hope your dog is gets well quickly!
Expert:  DanaDVM replied 13 years ago.
After a bite the skin is punctured but the real damage is as the attacking picks up the skin and splits apart layers of tissue causing dead space between tissue.
Air under the skin feels crunchy, like there is a paper or plastic under the skin. The body will eventually take care of the air. If the swelling is firm or fluidy that is usually serosanguinous material (watery blood). The body trys to fill in the spaces with fluid, this is hard to manage and many times it goes from the puncture wound and can go down the head and neck because the fluid is heavy and gravity pulls it down. Many times we have to place drains and pressure bandages to help get rid of the dead space.
I would call the clinic tomorrow and see if you can be seen then vs. Wednesday. If the dog is on antibiotics and is still bright/alert and eating than Monday is soon enough.
If your dog has the swelling and is lethargic and not eating than there is a chance of a bacteria not susceptible to the antibiotic being used and is making the dog sick. If that is the case than an emergency vet is needed.
Good Luck,