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The 10 Most Common Pet Injuries

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How can you tell the difference between a minor and major injury? When do you rush to the emergency room and when do you take a deep breath and reach for the hydrogen peroxide and doggie biscuits? Consider this story:

When Mary got home from work and saw bloody paw prints on her floor, she tried not to panic. Instead, she quickly determined which of her two dogs was bleeding and located the offending abrasion on her Jack Russell Terrier’s paw. An avid reader of any and all pet first aid books, Mary decided against heading to the animal emergency center and watched her dog closely for signs of infection (fatigue and loss of appetite are among the symptoms in pets).

In August of 2008, the Veterinary Pet Insurance Group (VPI) released a list of the 10 most common pet injuries based on their comprehensive data of claims in 2007 and anecdotal reports from claims officers. According to VPI, though some pet injuries can take owners by surprise, there are some common sense preventative measures you can take: 

  • Be aware of your pet’s surroundings. Look around from your pet’s eye level. From this perspective, you are much more likely to spot dangerous conditions, such as branches or broken wire on fences.
  • Supervise your pet’s physical activity and interaction with other animals.
  • Regularly examine your pet’s body.
  • Remember that you can’t prevent every dangerous occurrence. Remain as calm as possible during a pet-related emergency.

The 10 most common pet injuries:

1. Lacerations/bite wounds in pets: Topping the list of all pet injuries, these wounds are mainly due to fights between cats and cats, cats and dogs, and dogs and dogs.

  • The key in prevention here is spaying or neutering your pet, as well as being aware of your pet’s perception of their territory, the main source of all pet conflicts.
  • Prevent encounters between your pet and wild mammals including raccoons and in some parts of the country, coyotes. Remember that nocturnal pet prowls can be dangerous. Keeping your pet inside at night greatly decreases their chances of having a run-in with a wild animal.

Your pet’s bite wounds might require stitches, bandaging and/or antibiotics in the case of infection. Remember that a wounded animal might be much more aggressive and unpredictable when in pain. Take precautions, particularly when inspecting any wounded area of your pet’s body.

2. Torn nails: Ouch! Warning: these injuries can produce an unsightly amount of blood. Tearing of a pet’s nails typically occurs when a dog jumps up suddenly with a nail unknowingly stuck underneath an object or even a rug. Beware of crocheted items and shag carpets, and when you are outside, remember that even certain park benches (made of mesh) can trap dog’s nails.

Typically, a torn pet nail will cause profuse bleeding, so stay calm and get to the vet for treatment.

3. Pet insect bites/stings: Pet insect bites and stings were the third most common wound claim in 2007, with pet bee stings topping the list, so watch out for nests in your own backyard.

To treat a pet’s wounds from bees and other stinging insects, a veterinarian may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication. Some severe spider bites may cause such extensive damage that the pet will need surgery to remove dead skin around the bite. 

4. Pet abrasions: While this injury classification might mean a mild scrape, these wounds can actually be quite severe – for instance, if an animal becomes caught in or underneath something mechanical or dragged underneath a car.

Look for the depth of the pet’s injury and the intensity of the bleeding. You should be able to tell pretty quickly when these kinds of injuries require emergency care, but to be on the safe side, always check with your veterinarian. 

5. Eye trauma in pets: Whether it’s from a low lying branch or a cat scratch, eye trauma in pets can lead to corneal ulcers, which become increasingly dangerous the longer they are left untreated. Such injuries always require veterinary treatment.

6. Punctures: A puncture implies a wound from a sharp object (like a nail or piece of glass) that has penetrated an animal’s skin. These injuries can be dangerous mainly because you might not see a problem area that is making your pet sick.

Watch out for tiny little puncture wounds on your pet, (easily missed) but ripe for infection. If you feel something like little water balloon pockets under your pet’s skin or think you see pus on their fur, get to the vet. The earlier you catch an abscess the better.

7-9. Foreign objects: In a pet’s skin, ear, and foot:  The majority of these claims involved foxtails, burrs and other seed pods that attach to a pet’s fur. These burrowing grasses and weeds don’t necessarily stop at the fur and can penetrate more deeply into a pet’s skin and even travel to their internal organs. Inspect your pet and remove any suspect objects immediately after outdoor excursions. 

10. Snake bites: Yikes. More common than you might think. If you live in Florida, water moccasins could be a serious threat whereas in southern California, you’ll need to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, which might even be drawn to water sprinklers in your backyard in the summer months. Keep you dog on a leash during hikes.

If your pet is bitten by a snake, it’s important to stay calm and get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Fortunately, most of these wounds are more nerve-wracking than life-threatening.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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