This is a two part series because of length. Tomorrow the second half will be posted—with a big thanks to Gina for sharing her day with me.
My daughter recently acquired a new dog. It is the cutest red and white spotted mini dachshund. This has to be one of the most loving dogs we have ever had and he just dotes on everyone and everything. However…..he does chase my chickens and though we are working on that —he got a scruff shake and a growl just yesterday for not stopping when I told him to—I know that for the entirety of his life we will always have to watch him around the livestock. Dogs….all dogs…are preprogrammed to chase. Put them with some fun loving and like minded friends and you have a deadly pack waiting to rip the belly out of something. Even small dogs, after uncurling from your friends 2 month old baby, can go out with a few other small friends and take down baby horses and cows. I know…sounds unbelievable but it’s true. So the first thing I would like to start this article with is a plea for everyone out there to remind their friends and neighbors to not let their dogs run free. There is nothing worse than coming home to a sheep with it’s belly ripped open, intestines threatening to spill, moaning and baaing in pain.
Now lets talk about some things I have learned about caring for the dog attack victims.
First —do let Daisy bleed a bit. It should naturally stop. If it doesn’t there is something really wrong and Daisy will die painlessly in a short time from blood loss. It seems counter productive to let them bleed but you want the blood to flush the dog spittle/bacteria out. Cardinal rule number one: you can NOT sew up dog wounds. Ever. No matter how bad or “open” they look.
If you have a sheep or a goat, unless the damage is very minimal, your vet will probably tell you it will die. Unfortunately it very well may—but many vets automatically write off sheep and goats because of two reasons 1) they are food and cheap to purchase and 2) they don’t really understand them because they are not big here in the U.S. So…don’t take it too personally if they say that and don’t be to hard on them for thinking that. Most people would never consider putting down a horse with similar wounds but they do a sheep or goat.
One thing though: if Daisy has a ripped open belly in any form (the gut has many bacterias and even if the intestines aren’t ripped that area is extremely difficult to heal and keep clean) or a damaged spine or tendons that keep her from standing soon after the attack —please do put her down. These are problems that are beyond our home skills and require much money and effort and really are not worth going into. Give her a hug and tell her how much you appreciated her time with you and put her down by whichever means you do it normally. Beyond those things— just because Daisy looks bad right now doesn’t mean she’s knocking on death’s door either. Animals like people heal and regrow skin so there is a strong possibility for you to be successful—even if they look REALLY yucky.
Now if your not ready to let Daisy go just yet you need to follow these few processes:
One….shave the animal. I don’t care if it is minus 10 outside you are going to have to shave the animal if it has any kind of fleece what so ever. You can tie a blanket around them afterwards to keep them warm until some of the fleece returns. Why? Because for every bite mark you see there are 3 more (I guarantee it) hiding away under their hair. To be successful at saving your animal you HAVE to find all wounds right from the beginning. Up until recently I would tell people to remove hair around the wounds and be sure they checked all over. Now though I realize that that is not good enough. Many wounds are missed and so complete hair removal in my opinion is required because if you have never seen a dog attack you do not realize how many many many small punctures there can be. You can call your vet for this and have them use their surgical shears. You can do it with scissors or your own shears. If you are doubly triply sure that there is no cut in an area then leave the hair if you must but cut it short enough that it does not “droop” into damaged areas to re infect them with dirt.
During the hair removal, and next with cleaning, you will come across flaps of skin, rips and tears and even hunks eaten out. Do not be squeamish working around these. Either during initial hair removal and cleaning or later when re cleaning. Dirt is disease and disease is death. My best analogy for this situation is burn victims in the hospital. Supposedly removing burnt tissue is excruciatingly painful—yet the nurses and aids scrub (yes, scrub) with brushes to get it off the patients. If it is left on there, not only can new tissue not grow correctly but worse, infection will set in.
This is exactly the same thing: Dog attack puts your animal in “intensive care”. You must be the nurse that wields the scrub brush to be successful.
Second….And this is the CARDINAL rule. Clean, clean, clean…….and then clean some more. You will need a helper of course.
After you have found all those wounds I told you were hiding under that hair—you have to clean each and every single one of them. Not just by wiping them with a damp soapy rag like we do to humans, dogs and cats. Remember: humans bathe, dogs and cats lick….so the wounds continually get re cleaned and have forms of antibiotic reapplied. Even humans have antibodies in their mouth fluid to help heal their own wounds. Of course…we don’t usually lick but you get the idea.
However sheep and goats can not, and do not, do this. They must have each wound cleaned like a horse would have theirs cleaned: from the inside out. You must syringe with saline solution (1tsp NON iodized salt to each cup of water) each and every wound and each and every hole (one friend got completely in the bath with her sheep). You must push flaps of skin out of the way to get completely under all of them into little pockets of bacteria and dirt. Make sure you check each and every wound for flaps—you might be surprised. Use the syringe tip to get into the wounds slightly and squirt the fluid up or down into each wound. Do it well, very well…not just lightly and not just once. Especially the first day you must be aggressive about this. The more “ick” we can get out the first day the better. Again: infection is going to be your number one battle. It is your enemy.
You can use a lightly soapy water on the surface “scrapes” to help clean them but do make sure and rinse them well with saline water.
You must clean these wounds at least once every single day with saline and a syringe until they heal and scab over with a correct scab—not a scab covering infection.
Also, please…try and bed them afterwards on something easily kept clean. I know it’s annoying to think of them in your mudroom or garage but a dirt floor is just death waiting to happen with all the open wounds. Hay, shaving and bedding all harbor extensive amounts of bacteria and have little “pieces” that will re attach their selves to the wounds making them dirty yet again. The MOST annoying, tiring, irritating and stressful part of this whole entire ordeal will be the cleanliness factor. It is hard, messy and bothersome but it is THE most important part.
Please come back tomorrow for the important second half to treating dog attack.