When Your Dog Is a Victim: A Pet Owner's Guide to First Response
If your dog has been attacked by another animal and has significant wounds or injuries as a result, it can be difficult for a pet owner to know what to do at the moment to help their pet. Most likely, your dog will need emergency veterinary care. Your first action should be to notify your vet of the incident so that your dog can be seen as soon as possible.
In the meantime, however, the care you provide directly after the attack can make a big difference for your dog's recovery. Here is what all dog owners need to know about how to respond to your pet's immediate care needs after an attack.
Assess the Extent of the Injuries
Some animal attacks, especially attacks from wild animals or other dogs, can leave large wounds that damage the muscles and connective tissue beneath the skin. To assess the extent of your dogâ€™s injury, you can:
- Note the location of the wounds. Take special note of wounds on the head, neck, and back. These can bleed or cause nerve damage. You should also check for wounds that expose any organs.
- Check for skeletal damage. You won't know what muscles and joints are affected until you can get an x-ray at the animal hospital, but if there are any glaring injuries, like a leg that splays out at an odd angle, tell your vet when you make the emergency call.
- Check for blood loss. You may not know at what time the attack occurred. Perhaps you were away from home or your dog escaped your property. Look for signs of blood loss by checking your dog's gums. They should healthy and pink, not white or blueish from loss of blood.
A basic overview of the location and extent of the damage can help the vet prepare for the necessary procedures in advance of your pet's arrival to the hospital.
Respond to and Prevent Shock
Your first task is to keep your dog calm and warm as you contact your vet for further assistance. You might need to hold your dog steady to prevent them from panicking. Some dogs may get so scared they become aggressive and will not allow you to approach.
If your dog is willing, confine them in their crate with clean blankets to prevent them from running, biting or writhing too much. The crate is a source of comfort for dogs, so even if they refuse to be held by you, the crate provides a secondary level of safety for a wounded pet.
The crate also helps you to transport your animal in a way that causes the least amount of pain or distress. If your dog is too large or too wounded to crate, use a stiff, thick blanket as a stretcher and carefully lift your dog into the vehicle to drive slowly and carefully to the hospital.
Shock from trauma can be just as deadly as the attack itself. Preventing shock and seeking emergency treatment immediately is essential.
Provide Basic First Aid
If your vet gives you specific instructions over the phone, follow it as best you can. If you are not able to contact emergency services, like if you are out of range of cell service, you can:
- Flush bleeding wounds with salt water to clean them. Have someone sit next to your dog and apply firm pressure with a clean cloth or bandage until the bleeding stops. Do not remove the bandage or lift it to check the bleeding -- this disturbs the clot.
- Prevent your dog from licking deep wounds that seem to affect internal organs. Licking these wounds increases the risk of infection.
- Tape a clean bandage over open wounds that are not bleeding to protect them.
After your dog has gotten the right medical care, you'll need to be there to help with emotional recovery. You will need to help restore your dog's sense of security after they experience trauma.
Basic first aid and quick response can save your dog from pain, infection, and even death from serious wounds. If you have more questions, contact us at Fresno Pet Emergency & Referral Center.