This past week I treated 6 patients for dog fights, and this doesn't include those that my associates worked with. I don't know if the warmer weather is creating tension amongst the canines; but this is a very high number of incidences. This column covers what to do when a dog attack happens to your companion to increase the chance of a full recovery; and provides guidelines to help protect your cherished companions from such confrontations.
When an animal attack is taking place, do not use your arms or other parts of your body to separate the animals. In the heat of a fight, a dog or cat can easily bite or scratch a person, even if they have not done this before. Use water, brooms, etc. to stop the fight. Once the incident has stopped, your pet may still show aggression towards you. Don't make any rapid lunging motions towards your companion. If possible use a towel to pick up small dogs and cats. Find out vaccine information for the other animals involved. Contact animal control when appropriate. Stockton has leash requirement laws for dogs; report free roaming canines. Your community may also have specific CCRs, and you may have recourse through the community group as well.
Seek veterinary care ASAP for your buddy. Trauma can cause progressive wounds. Even if there are no obvious punctures, it recommended to seek medical attention for your companion. A patient that initially appears stable can change to being unstable very quickly. X-rays can be taken to look for fractures and lung contusions. Intravenous fluids are utilized to help treat shock. Blood values can be evaluated, and may need to be rechecked. Wounds commonly need drains, and surgery may be needed to repair internal damage. Antibiotics, pain medications, and anti-inflammatories may be recommended. Hospitalization may be recommended. Internal damage is not always immediately apparent. Unfortunately not all bite victims survive. Take photos of your companion's injuries if you feel a other pet owner was negligent and are pursuing financial compensation.
At a dog park, standard leash ordinances do not apply. At this venue, pet owners agree to assume the risk for their canine to play there. As a result, it can be difficult to seek compensation for damages when a fight occurs. To limit problems, keep your dog in the appropriate area for the size of your buddy when large and small areas are available. Don't keep your dog on a leash inside the dog park, as this can promote aggression and owner protection. Don't bring food or treats, as this can trigger aggression. Avoid aggressive dogs when able. If there is an aggressive dog that is triggering fights, take a picture of the dog, owner, and car license; and contact animal control. Spay and neuter your canine; this has been medically shown to extend a dogs lifespan as well as reduce protective behavior. Don't bring your dog if she is in heat. Don't bring your dog if he /she shows aggression towards other dogs.
The last four recommendations can also be applied when walking your dog outside on a leash. Keep in mind that it is natural for any dog to be more protective when on a leash, as their instinct to protect their owner kicks in. Avoid other unknown dogs on a leash walking towards you by crossing to the other side of the block. Report off leash dogs to animal control. If it is your own dogs that are fighting, feed them and/or give treats in separate locations. Food is often the stimulus for aggression. Toys and attention can also be triggers for confrontation. Keep things balanced between the canines as much as possible. Spay and neuter, as this will reduce hormone levels, and in turn decrease the likelihood of fighting. Provide routine exercise, as a tired canine is less likely to be aggressive. Sometimes a behavior consult, specialized behavior training, or medication is needed. Your veterinarian can advise you on this.
There are several ways to protect felines. Keeping cats indoors only has been shown to significantly extend their lifespan. An indoor lifestyle not only helps to prevent attacks; but also limits exposure to toxins and other trauma such as being hit by a car. If your feline must go outside, consider cat fencing. There are several different brands of fence that attach to your existing fence, and prevents your buddy from leaving the property and also stops other cats from entering. Such items can be found on line by searching for cat fencing. A dog run that has a roof is another consideration. Some felines also enjoy walking on a leash. I also strongly recommend to microchip all cats, especially if they go outside. This provides a permanent identification for your companion, and significantly increases the chance of a return to your household if injured or lost. The Stockton city pet ordinance requires a microchip as part of licensing for both dogs and cats.
This column is dedicated to a very special feline Gracie who crossed over the rainbow bridge this past week.