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My Dog Was Bitten By Another Dog And Is Swelling – What To Do

Veterinary reviewed by Nicole Wanner, DVM.

Dog fights are a gnarly sight. As reality sets in and the fight is hopefully stopped quickly, it’s even more shocking when you spot an injury on your dog.

You’re probably here for advice on what to do if your dog has been bitten in the last few hours (or days if there’s a sign of infection).

So I’m not going to bore you with details such as brands of antibiotics or pain meds or how to prevent a dog bite in the future.

You need to make sure your dog is healthy and won’t succumb to an easily treatable wound right now.

There are a couple of things you can do right away and also a handful of signs that the wounds need immediate veterinary care.

My Dog Was Bitten By Another Dog And Is Swelling

If your dog was bitten by another dog and is swelling, visit an emergency vet to properly clean the wound, get stitches if needed, and prescribe antibiotics to prevent or treat infection.

The first step right after the incident is to check your dog’s whole body.

In case your dog has a very long or thick coat, just check your pet over quickly and leave the proper examination to the vet who might shave off fur where necessary.

Dogs are fighting playfully on a sandy beach.
Photo by Andrea Izzotti on Shutterstock

Secondly, you can clean minor wounds with warm water, soap, and a washcloth, cotton ball, or gauze.

Severe wounds will probably be thoroughly cleaned by your vet too.

What your vet will do from there on depends on the severity, location, and how exactly the wound itself looks.

Minor injuries such as small puncture wounds might get cleaned and left open.

Both minor injuries and severe injuries that will be left open might require a topical antibiotic.

In rare cases, anesthesia might be required.

That usually happens with multiple extensive wounds or sensitive areas such as the ears, nose, eyes, or mouth.

If the skin is penetrated and the wound is deep, a broad-spectrum antibiotic may be prescribed.

Lacerations might require infected tissue to be cut away and sutured. Similarly, some wounds need to be opened and sutured up.

Small Puncture Wound on Dog

Don’t underestimate small puncture wounds or scrapes on your dog as the skin quickly closes over these and the bacteria might multiply and spread.

Gauze taped to a dog's wound.
Photo by Chirawan Thaiprasansap on Shutterstock

A small puncture wound needs to be thoroughly cleaned, possibly opened up further if there’s infected tissue, and perhaps treated with a topical antibiotic.

It’s best to have every small puncture wound checked out by a vet and cleaned properly (the same goes for all the humans involved).

How To Treat a Puncture Wound on a Dog At Home

You can clean a puncture wound on your dog at home by gently applying warm water and soap on your dog’s wound with a washcloth, cotton ball, or gauze.

However, while this is better than not removing any dirt and debris, it’s still better to just check in with your vet.

A puncture wound might close over quickly but the bacteria beneath the skin will multiply and cause an infection that can be life-threatening.

A dog cone might be required to avoid your dog repeatedly licking the area.

Dog Bite Infection On Dog

If your dog has been bitten and shows signs of an infection, immediately contact your vet to get the wound looked at and cleaned. Surgical closing of the bite wound or antibiotics might be required.

While it’s best to contact your vet right away no matter how the wound looks, you should definitely book an emergency trip to the vet if signs of infection develop.

Two strong dogs with large heads biting at each other's mouth.
Photo by marcinsl1987 on Adobe

Signs that the bite wound on your dog is infected include redness, tenderness, hot skin around the area, and oozing blood or yellow pus from the wound. If the infection has gotten bad other signs might include lethargy, weakness, disorientation, fever, and pale gums.

I know not all of these signs are clear-cut but if you keep an eye on the wound as well as your dog’s behavior, you should get a pretty good idea. When in doubt, go to your vet.

Veterinary attention is necessary to minimize the damage and avoid the spreading of bacteria.

What can happen if a bite infection on a dog is left untreated?

The bacteria can cause the following:

  • Localized abscess
  • Skin infection (cellulitis)
  • Joint infection (septic arthritis)
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Pus in the chest cavity (pyothorax)
  • Pus in the abdominal cavity (septic peritonitis)

Issues such as joint or bone infection as well as pus in the chest or abdominal cavity are relatively rare but a risk nonetheless.

A study of 50 infected dog bites, showed that in nearly 50% of the cases, there are one or more of these three leading bacteria present: Pasteurella, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus.

Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus are most commonly responsible for tissue, joint, and bone infection and have been found in 10% of total cases.

Another study of 135 healthy dogs in California also found this type of bacteria in 10% of the dogs.

My Dog Was Bitten By Another Dog But No Blood

If your dog was bitten but there’s no blood, it could still be a deep wound that just happened to miss the nearby blood vessels. Even small non-bleeding puncture wounds can lead to infection.

If you have a long-haired dog or one with a dark coat, wounds will be harder to locate.

With my black and tan Rottie, it’s difficult to spot injuries right away.

Wounds are not as apparent in dark and dense coats, brownish ticks vanish more easily, and even black nails are harder to cut.

Check your dog over thoroughly because some wounds might only drip really lightly or dry immediately around the wound’s fur.

Small puncture wounds are especially dangerous since they close over quickly, providing an ideal space for the bacteria to spread throughout the tissue.

In the future, it’s best to learn how to read canine body language to avoid any kind of bite happening again.

Your own two dogs are fighting and inflicting wounds on each other? Check out the linked article.

I also have a resource on how to break up dog fights.

That article goes a bit more into detail on the liability side as the other dog’s owner may be held liable for damages if a dog bite is treated or even swelling.

Stay safe and have any open wounds checked out by a vet just to be sure.

Don’t forget to take precautions to avoid this from happening again.

Precautions include leashing your dog, packing a dog repellent, or muzzling your own dog until you’ve properly re-socialized your furry companion.

Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.

Cheryl Lees

Sunday 6th of November 2022

Dog had bite puncture wound. Saw vet who cleaned it and gave antibiotics which dog finished. Wound leaked clear fluid and gradually closed nicely but now has non painful swelling. Is this cause for alarm. It’s noticeably swollen.


Sunday 6th of November 2022

Hi Cheryl, I would recommend consulting with your vet just to be sure. I'm not a veterinarian but remaining bacteria can lead to nasty infections. Cleaning, antibiotics, proper healing are great steps but the swelling may indicate something is wrong.