When dogs get into a fight, it is very often a big dog attacking a smaller dog. This occurs so often, in fact, that the veterinary community has a widely recognized acronym for it — BDLD, which stands for “Big Dog-Little Dog” — and it almost always results in an emergency situation.
When your dog plays with a rope toy, he might grab it and shake it vigorously in his mouth. Unfortunately, this is also what most dogs do with the smaller dogs they attack. Besides the more obvious puncture wounds the smaller dog receives from the teeth, there are also often more serious, unseen injuries: brain and spinal cord injuries, and severe damage to internal organs. BDLD injuries are sometimes compared to an iceberg: The bigger, serious problems often lie below the surface. While external injuries may appear minor, the power of a dog’s biting jaw can cause serious internal injuries that may result in the loss of your pet — especially if you don’t act quickly to get them proper veterinary care. In addition, the crushing forces of its jaws can also cause micro-damage to the blood vessels in the skin, causing the blood supply to the surrounding area to be compromised. Bruising will almost always develop a few days after the injury, and it is very common for the skin immediately surrounding the puncture wounds to die. Intense wound care is needed as quickly as possible, until the body can heal the wound on its own. This can sometimes require many weeks of care and sometimes also requires additional surgery.
“Juno,” a Toy Poodle, came to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital one evening after being attacked by a neighbor’s dog. She had some obvious puncture wounds to her neck and and abdomen, but despite having just been attacked, Juno was bright and alert, and even wagging her tail!
Juno’s owner thought that her dog just needed some pain medication and antibiotics. But after counseling her on the seriousness of Juno’s injuries, the owner agreed to let us take some X-rays. It was obvious from the X-rays that Juno’s puncture wounds had pierced her intestines, which were now leaking gas and fluid into her belly, and emergency surgery was needed.
Thankfully, Juno’s owner consented to the surgery. Multiple parts of Juno’s intestines had been punctured, and infection had already begun to set in. Her neck wounds were also explored, and a small nick in her jugular vein was detected. All of Juno’s injuries were repaired, and she stayed in the hospital to receive pain medication, fluids and antibiotics until she could be transferred to her family veterinarian. And Juno went on to make a full recovery.
Had it not been for the quick actions of Juno’s owners and the staff at Greenbrier, Juno surely would have succumbed to her wounds. This is also a perfect example of how deceptively brave little dogs can be, despite having suffered very serious injuries or illness — just because your dog may look and act fine after a run-in with another dog, do not assume he or she is fine. Quick response and a thorough examination are always required in these situations!
As a side note, to avoid BDLD confrontations, it is recommended that you always keep both your large and small dogs on a leash at all times when in public.
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