Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Good Deed and Two Bad Dogs

Anyone of us kids that has ever grown up around another kid knows that sibling rivalry (even if you were an only child but had to go out to recess in school) exists in almost every arena we step foot in. We challenge each other in almost every relationship we have in life. I challenge my husband to do the dishes, he challenges me to not ask him to do the dishes. My puppy Charleston sees that Jekyll has a chewy and he stalks him to snatch it. Its almost unavoidable. We all have items that we covet and if you have another around you that shares the same interest a jealousy can arise, and the bigger, stronger, or bossier will usually challenge, and sometimes succeed.

For dogs this is especially true.

They are pack animals. Their communities have evolved to have an Alpha, or head honcho, dog. Here's the problem...that alpha only gets their alpha status by challenging the old alpha. This can be a BIG problem if you bring one pet into a household that already has a pet who thinks they are 'The Boss'.

Such is the story of Willow.

She is the resident of a retired couple who love her immensely. For many many years, Willow was their only child and they spoiled her willingly. Willow's life was perfect. She was given everything she wanted, she had her parents trained impeccably, and her house was HERS! No question.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Her next door neighbors got very ill and left their dog, (who she liked perfectly fine as long as she remained on her own side of the property line) to her parents. The neighbors dog was a corgi named Margaret. Margaret and Willow were alike in many respects. They were confident, independent, stubborn, opinionated spinsters.

Things seemed OK in the new household until the day they each realized that the other was not leaving..

From that day to today there have been two altercations. Both were precipitated unexpectedly. This has added a significant element of despair to the adults in the household.

On two occasions Willow has arrived at our clinic with two large gashes to her neck.

Many pets are possessive over food, or toys, or a particular item or scenario and when a family realizes that there are issues among the pets they go to great lengths to try to avoid the pieces of the puzzle that might cause a fight or challenge to occur. Over time these pets 'train' their families to reinforce the root of the problem instead of address and overcome it. For Willow's family they were perplexed about what was triggering the fights and they subsequently felt helpless to try to address the situation if they couldn't even begin to understand it.

The following pictures are from the second fight.

Margaret grabbed Willow at the neck, bit down, and pulled back. When she did it pulled the skin away from the underlying muscle, and made a big hole. That hole had an opening of a few inches but tunneled about a foot up to the spine and about 6 inches to the neck. That hole was so big that it required surgery to place a drain and close the wound.

Willow came in for surgery the next day.

The wound is an "L" shaped wound.
On the outside it doesn't look so bad, but there is a large open pocket under that flap.

A very large area of the neck had to be clipped and surgically prepared to place a long drain.

A large hole.

An old wound needs to have its edged "freshened" so that the sutures will hold and the edges will seal.

The entire wound edges have been removed.

The drain is placed and the wound is sutured closed.

The drain extends above and below the parameters of the hole.

A large t-shirt, or sweatshirt is a good way to cover a drain.
The shirt can absorb draining fluid and keep the pet from licking or removing the drain.

At home Willow received an antibiotic solution to be flushed AROUND the drain twice a day. This allowed any bacteria in the hole to be flushed out. She was also placed on an antibiotic and a NSAID for pain and swelling.

Willow returned ten days later to have the drain removed.

Willow healed very well.

I first learned of Willow's first altercation with Margaret from Pawbly.

Here is the question they sent me:
My dog was injured in a scrap with another dog. She is sensitive around her shoulders and I noticed bruising. What can I do to relieve the discoloration and soreness?

Hello Carol,
Thanks for asking your question.
I am sorry to hear that there was an altercation with your dog. Without knowing the extent of the injuries it is difficult to provide advice. Dog attacks and dog bites are some of the worst injuries I have seen. If there are puncture wounds (these can be very hard to see with fur, so look for any wet areas on the fur or places that your dog is licking, these are good clues). At the hospital we give a very thorough look over of any dog that has been attacked or bitten, and in many cases we shave the hair off of any areas that are injured. With hair covering a wound it is harder to treat, monitor, and heal.
If there is no evidence of wounds, but you are seeing bruising we assess the degree and extent of the bruising. Bruising is caused because the blood vessels in the skin have been traumatized and rupture. We have all had bruises. They in general will heal with time. But I have seen some bruising that causes subcutaneous emphysema. This is when the skin gets torn from the underlying tissue. This causes air to be trapped under the skin. It feels like plastic bubble wrap and sounds 'crinkly' when touched. These dogs tend to be very painful because there has been a substantial amount of tissue trauma.
My recommendation is to visit your veterinarian to insure that the tissue damage is not extensive. At my hospital after a thorough examination if there was only pain present I would probably recommend rest and an NSAID. NSAID's are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. They are very good at controlling pain and reducing inflammation.
I hope that this helps, and I wish your pup a speedy recovery.
Oh, one last thing. In many cases dog fights erupt between pets in the same household. If this is the case I strongly recommend an intervention with a behaviorist. Because where there is one fight there are usually more to follow. Unfortunately I have many clients who have pets who are not friendly to each other. Managing the fits, fights, and wounds is expensive, scary, and stressful. If there are behavioral issues ask for help. Behavioral issues tend to worsen over time and manifest into other areas.

Willow arrived at the clinic the next day. Here is what she looked like after we shaved the overlying hair.

A very large bruise (red) and dying tissue (black) at the site of the bite.

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a veterinarian is the behavior issues..Goodness, it seems that every other appointment is itchy pet or bad pet..and then the whole slew of emotional baggage that these problems bring.

Willow, Margaret, and their parents are all in behavior classes and in the long term care of a veterinary behaviorist to help identify the triggers and the issues to avoid any future fights.

If your pets are challenging each other, or injuring each other please see your veterinarian and ask for help.

And remember its never too late to teach an old dog new tricks..Even my husband and "thanks for doing the dishes, honey."

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