Vets are being warned not to be blasé about bite wounds, as they can often be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to injury.

Dogs fighting
“Take bite wounds seriously. They could be potentially life threatening,” says Paul Aldridge. Image © zuzule / Fotolia.

Senior veterinary surgeon Paul Aldridge told delegates at the second Vets Now Brighton 2 Day Small Animal CPD Meeting: “Take bite wounds seriously. They could be potentially life threatening, but we get used to them. We get blasé because we see so many of them.

“In some cases we are going to get caught out by this iceberg effect where what you see on the skin is much more minor compared to what else is going on.”

Deeper damage

Mr Aldridge, senior surgeon in emergency and trauma surgery at Pet Medics in Manchester, told vets not to attempt to assess the severity of injury based on visible skin damage alone, particularly as some cases will present as having no puncture wounds whatsoever and only a little bruising. However, cases may have sustained damage to their internal muscles and structures.

Bite wound injuries can result in punctured, crushed or torn skin, which can cause deeper damage to underlying organs and skin, Mr Aldridge explained.

He said: “The problem we’ve got is very often when we look at these bite wounds, they are going to look deceptively small on the outside, but because the skin has moved back and forth with the teeth [when the animal was bitten], damage is going to be caused lower down as well.”

Rapid assessment

Crushed and torn muscles and contaminated wounds may also have to be dealt with. Another consideration would be if the teeth entered the chest wall or abdomen, causing further damage.

When a bite wound patient presents in a clinic, vets need to rapidly assess it to see if there is anything life threatening they need to deal with first.

“The most important thing is to keep the patient alive before getting to the wound management stage,” explained Mr Aldridge.

  • For more on Mr Aldridge’s presentation, see the 11 July issue of Veterinary Times.
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