Wild Encounters

Occasionally your dog may have a run-in with local wildlife. While most of the time this simply means a wild chase after a swift rabbit, sometimes the encounters get a bit closer. Always keep your dog up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Saliva from a wild animal, in bites or even on the coat, can carry this deadly virus. Still, many of our dogs' wildlife adventures are less threatening than rabies.

Skunked!!!

One of the worst nightmares for many suburban dog owners is letting the dog in on a spring night only to be overwhelmed by the musky odor of skunk! Don't panic, and don't reach for the tomato juice. First, you need to make sure your dog's eyes are okay. The spray from a scared skunk can be quite painful if it gets in the eyes. Flush your dog's eyes with the artificial tears you keep in your first-aid kit. Once that is done, you are ready to move on to clean up.

Tomato juice has fallen way out of favor as a deskunking agent. For one thing, to be at all effective, you need to do multiple rinses and that can get expensive, especially if you have a large dog. There are some excellent commercial preparations you can get at the local pet store, or you can try this excellent home recipe. Just be sure to wear rubber gloves, and keep the mixture out of the eyes (yours and your dog's).

  • In a bucket or other open container, combine 1 quart hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, and 1 tsp. liquid dish soap.

  • Sponge the mixture over your dog, working it into the coat.

  • Leave this on for 3 to 5 minutes, then rinse. The difference is amazing!

A Prickly Situation

Close behind the skunk encounters, and actually more serious, are encounters with porcupines. A curious dog that sticks his nose a bit too close may turn away with a mouth and nose full of quills! These quills have tiny scales at the sharp ends, which makes them difficult to pull out. If your dog is lucky enough to only have three or four, you may want to try to pull them yourself with a pair of pliers and a helper. Do not trim the ends of the quills; that only makes it more difficult to pull them out.

A dog with quills inside the mouth or more than just a couple will need a trip to the veterinarian, some sedation, and careful removal. Quills left behind (including those your dog may have chewed off to the skin level) can migrate into your dog's tissues and cause abscesses. Your veterinarian may give you antibiotics for your dog to prevent any infections.

Stopping a Dog Fight

The best way to deal with fights between dogs is to avoid them if at all possible. Keep your dog on leash unless you are in a very safe area and only dogs you know are around. With your dog on leash you can quickly pull her to you, scare off another dog, or even pick your dog up if you have to. Many aggressive dogs will back off at the united front of a dog and her person.

If a fight does break out, do not reach in to grab a collar. There is a very good chance that you will get badly bitten, even though it is by accident. Grab a tail or hind leg instead. There is still potential for a bite this way, though, as many dogs will whip around quickly to see who else is after them. If you have a bucket of water or a hose handy, start in with the water works. That usually startles the dogs enough to stop the fight. Swishing a broom or rake between combatants may work, or making a loud noise — even a whistle — can be a distraction.

Sadly, some of the worst fights may break out at home. Intact males and females tend to fight the most. And once two girls decide they don't like each other, they may try to fight to the death. In some of these cases, one of the dogs has to be rehomed.

Treating the Wounded

Very often when you get everyone calmed down, you will find that though there was a lot of nasty noise, there are very few actual injuries. Exceptions are two dogs that are not close in size or two very determined females. Check all the damp areas on your dog's coat — it may just be saliva, but be sure to part the hair carefully though to check for any bruises or bite wounds down in the skin. A puncture wound may look minor on the surface, but there could be muscle damage underneath.

If your dog is bleeding heavily, put pressure on the area and get to your veterinarian quickly. If your dog has open cuts, you need to clean them carefully and call your veterinarian. As bacteria would be moving from one dog's mouth to another dog's body, the chance of infection is high. Your dog may need some antibiotics.

Be aware that a dog who seems fine right after a fight may still be a bit stiff and sore the next day. As long as all body parts are working, the stiffness should wear off. A gentle massage may help!

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