Dog Fights

Written by Dr Marion Welch

We all love to see our dogs having fun playing with other dogs.                                                                               

Socialisation with their own kind is great, but unfortunately these happy times can be marred when the play becomes a fight or a potential dog friend turns out to be an aggressor.

At the clinic, we see many dogs injured by other dogs and of course, if there is a large difference in size between the dogs, the smaller one can often get very badly injured.

Can this be avoided?

Not completely but here are a few tips:

  • Do not assume that a dog who is friendly and loving to people will be the same to dogs.
  • Do not assume an unfamiliar dog will be friendly especially if it is a lot bigger than yours.
  • Do not assume your own dog will never bite another dog if the other dog “pushes the right buttons”.
  • Learn about dog body language so you can pick aggression more easily. There are lots of descriptions of dog body language available these days.
  • In your own dog family, watch out for jealousy and escalating aggression between the dogs. This can happen even when dogs have lived happily together for a long time. It is tragic when two members of a family can no longer live together.
  • Don't avoid all contact with other dogs but be cautious and introduce dogs that are strangers to each other under controlled conditions, such as on a lead.

What if my dog is bitten?

Injuries from a fight can be minor such as tooth marks and bruising or as severe as life-threatening injuries. Sometimes dogs are killed. Always get your dog checked by your veterinarian after a fight even if he seems ok.

Dog bites cause crushing injury as well as broken skin and the severely bruised tissue can easily become infected. Sometimes skin can be pulled away from its underlying blood supply and areas of skin can slough a few days later.

Small dogs commonly get picked up and shaken and punctured lungs, broken ribs and spinal injuries can ensue. These are not always obvious immediately. Many dogs are in shock after a bad mauling and need intravenous fluids and other cardiovascular support. 

Dog bites hurt (ask any vet that has been bitten!) so analgesia is almost always needed. Of course the physical injuries are always the first thing that need treatment but often when their injuries are healed dogs are psychologically scarred. They are often frightened of other dogs and become more clingy with their owners, sometimes developing separation anxiety. Usually time and slow introduction back to other dogs is enough, but occasionally anti-anxiety medication and a treatment plan by an animal behaviourist is needed.