Veterinary Blog

Big Dog Little Dog Attacks: Always Expect the Unexpected!

By Dr. Leslie Ross D.V.M. B.Sc

As Emma’s story unfolds I sincerely hope that it can speak volumes to the importance of never underestimating the potential damage of seemingly non-threatening superficial injuries suffered by dog attack victims of any size, breed or gender. To set the stage, Emma is a cute as a button ten-year-old reddish-buff Cockapoo. One late afternoon she and her owners were out walking along a walkway at Cultus Lake, Chilliwack, B.C. when a large Bull Mastiff chased her down and attacked her. The Bull Mastiff had been with his owner who was sitting on a park bench at the time and he had powerfully pulled the owner’s leash out of his hand to bolt towards Emma. Emma was lifted right off the ground by the flesh of the top of her right thigh. The owners immediately tried to rescue her and ward off the large dog and in the process, Emma’s dad lost his balance and badly scraped and bruised a large part of his elbow and arm as he fell to the ground in the scuffle.

The owner of the Bull Mastiff immediately came over and regained control of his dog apologized and offered to pay for any injury treatment costs.

When I examined Emma she seemed to be quite bright and alert and was moving well but she was obviously a little jumpy and shaken up from her recent experience. There was no evidence of any puncture wounds or broken skin on her body, just some minor bruising over the top of her right hip.

I put her on a broad-spectrum antibiotic and administered an injection of pain medication then I released her to the care of her owners with instructions that they continue with the medication in oral form for the next week. I also advised that she be brought back the day following to be re-examined and reassessed.

On follow-up day, Emma seemed to be improved although the area over the top of her right hip was still quite sensitive when touched and the bruising was moderately increased with no evidence of underlying puffiness or fluid build-up.

Two weeks later, Emma was brought back to the clinic because she had been licking at her right hip for about five days and now had a large sore over the area. It was immediately apparent that something was happening underneath the superficial tissues of her hip, which warranted surgical exploration. Sure enough, once Emma was given an anesthetic and the area of her sore was opened up it was evident that her body had developed a scar tissue fistula (channel) to barricade off a deeper- tissue bacterial infection. I obtained a culture sample of the dying infected tissue to send off to the lab prior to thoroughly cleansing the wound and removing the dying (necrotic) tissues and then only partially closed the wound to allow it to slowly fill in by the process of natural granulation. After a therapeutic cold laser session, I then applied a latex-free bandage pad soaked in a sugar solution and sutured it to her skin.

The owners were advised to insert under the bandage a wound healing spray and some unpasteurized honey daily to accelerate the rate of healing of the open wound.

Interestingly, the culture results from the wound that were e-mailed to us a few days later indicated two different kinds of bacterial invaders, one of which was resistant to our original antibiotic. This caused us to switch to a different choice of antibiotic.

Emma’s recent recheck visits have been very encouraging and I am confident that Emma is well on her way to total recovery.

Hopefully, Emma and her owners will be out soon walking along the Cultus Lake walkway and enjoying the fresh air and beautiful scenery.

I am very appreciative of their willingness to share their story with all animal lovers. They fully recognize how important it is to expect the unexpected when dog attack events occur and are happy to pass this message on to others. A superficial wound or bruise is often just the tip of the iceberg. Crushed, torn or devitalized tissue may be what is hidden underneath.

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