Dog bites - Tip of the iceberg!

Rebah is an 8 year old little Pomeranian who you might remember a couple of years ago for her cruciate story. Well, Rebah and her family went for a visit to a country town in Victoria. All was well until another dog attacked Rebah and her brother Charlie! It all happened very quickly. Rebah's mum rushed them to a vet who attended their initial wounds and made sure that serious damage wasn't done. Charlie had a stitch up, but only a small wound was found on Rebah. Both of them had some pain medication, antibiotics and came back home to Melbourne.


This initial examination is very important. Dogs can go into shock just from the fright of the confrontation and need to be assessed by a vet immediately. Typically, when a dog bites, they also shake their head and when little dogs get bitten by bigger dogs this can be life threatening. The nature of dog bites make them 'tip-of-the-iceberg' type injuries; fur is not too easily penetrated by a canine tooth and causes a crushing injury to the skin, muscle and underlying organs. For this reason when a small dog is bitten around their abdomen, we are very concerned about organ damage and rupture.

Not only is the initial dog bite very concerning, it is also the next week or two that complications can arise. Because the tissues are typically crushed in a dog bite wound, they may appear only bruised initially. Then the skin starts to die over the next few days or weeks and the wounds become much much worse with time.

This is what happened in Rebah's case. A few days later, Rebah's mum found a wound on her hip. She clipped the hair away to get a better look and saw another bite wound. She brought Rebah to us (her usual vet) and we identified this as a crushing injury from the jaws of the other dog. We suspected that the skin would continue to die, so Rebah was given antibiotics, pain relief and monitoring. It was important to wait because if we stitched the sub-healthy skin and it continued to die, Rebah would need multiple surgeries. Four days later the skin became thin and brittle (necrotic) and had fallen off; that was when the full extent of the injury became apparent and surgery could be performed.

Lucky for Rebah, the size of the wound was only about the size of a 50 cent piece and we could easily debride (cut) away the rest of the dead tissue and stitch healthy tissue back together to repair it. Of course, it never stopped Rebah from running around and being a part of everything at home the whole time!