J.C. Hardin, DVM
With fight trauma, shock, chest wounds, and spinal injury (especially in smaller dogs and cats) are of greater concern than the visible skin wounds. With bite wounds, TYPICALLY A PUNCTURE IN THE SKIN IS MERELY THE 'TIP OF THE ICEBERG' REGARDING INJURY SEVERITY. Usually, a large pocket is present beneath each puncture, often requiring placement of a surgical drain for proper treatment. Multiple drains are needed in many pets bitten by other animals. Debridement (surgical removal of severely damaged skin, muscle, and other tissue) is usually needed. Chemical/enzymatic debridement agents (primarily trypsin) are sometimes used. Deep injuries can occur with bite wounds, even with seemingly minor skin wounds. Collapsed lungs, tracheal (windpipe) tears, hernias, damaged intestine or other internal organs, fractures, spinal swelling, and nerve damage may all be discovered. DELAYED NECROSIS (DEATH OF TISSUE) OFTEN OCCURS. Many times the body takes a week or so to decide which traumatized tissue will live or die, meaning that a SECOND SURGERY (or even more) are often needed when managing bite wounds. Additional surgeries also may be needed for resulting seromas or abscesses that occur on a delayed basis. Potentially life threatening complications such as blood clot migration (thromboembolism) and shock may occur on a delayed basis. The above estimate represents the doctor's best recommendation based on your pet's current condition. As tests are run, exploratory surgery is performed, and response or lack of response to treatment attempts are discovered, the plan may need to change, sometimes drastically. The extent of injuries cannot be fully predicted on the initial physical exam alone. Declining one or more of the above services may adversely affect our ability to successfully diagnose and treat your pet. *Important note* Rabies can be transmitted through bite wounds. Pets not currently vaccinated for rabies who get bitten by an unknown animal need to be quarantined indoors at home for six months. If your pet is bitten by a known dog or cat, the biting dog or cat needs to be quarantined for ten days with visits by DHEC to be sure no symptoms of rabies are appearing. Take the threat of rabies seriously. Call DHEC and Animal Control for more information.