Q & A: When dogs get bitten

Q: What should I do if my dog appears to have a bite wound?

A: Bite wounds in general can range from a simple skin wound to a life-threatening puncture wound into the chest or abdominal cavity and can in some instances result in fractures, for example a serious bite on the lower legs or the rib cage. Bite wounds are normally quite painful, as there is usually a fair amount of local tissue trauma that occurs with a bite. Therefore, the best thing to do is to get your pet to the closest vet as soon as possible so that the wound can be properly assessed.

If your closest veterinary clinic is not around the corner, there are a few things you can do in the meantime:

* Simple skin wounds can be gently cleaned with moist cotton wool and an anti-bacterial agent diluted with warm water, like Savlon or Dettol. Topical antibacterial ointment can be applied as well – these wounds still need to be assessed though, as stitches may need to be placed.

* Puncture wounds over the chest or abdomen are more of an emergency and often bleed quite a lot, so a simple bandage of crêpe or gauze can be wrapped around the affected area and direct pressure applied while the animal is being transported to the vet.

Bites from wild animals

A potential bite from a wild animal always comes with the risk of transmissible diseases, rabies being the most important one. Any wild animal can potentially transmit the disease. However, those known to carry and transmit rabies most commonly in South Africa are the yellow mongoose, bat-eared fox and black-backed jackal.

Rabies is a preventable disease through regular vaccination and all domestic dogs and cats must, by law, be vaccinated against rabies. Encounters between domestic pets and wild animals are very common in South Africa. The best you can do for your pet is to ensure he remains healthy through regular vaccinations and check-ups, to try to limit his exposure to wild animals (like with proper fencing), and to be prepared with a plan of action in case of such encounters.

Dr Taneale McFarlane, veterinarian

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