Walking your pet can always lead to unpredictable situations — such as meeting old friends or seeing an object that was previously unnoticed. But, at times, an outing can result in an unanticipated encounter with an aggressive pet. This month, we focus upon prevention and what to do if your pet is involved in an altercation with another.

The Outing
Regular walks in the neighborhood or the park are often enjoyable for you and your pet. While domesticated, our pets maintain some of their primal instincts such as the protection of family, toys, or food; desire for mating; and the management of a social hierarchy. These attributes can become flashpoints among pets — particularly among alphas.

Enjoying Walks with Your Pet
As no one knows your pet better than you, it’s your responsibility to proactively manage situations to help avoid conflict with other pets. If your pet tends to chase or growl at others, be sure to keep them on a leash and separated from others. If your pet tends to react to pets based upon their size, exhibited aggression or other attributes, you should anticipate those situations and leash or muzzle your pet in advance. Among passive pets, search for signs of your pet looking away, tucking their tail, or turning away. If your pet stares intensely, growls, licks their lips, or their fur literally stands up, they may be the aggressor and your special attention is required.

Identifying Aggressive Behavior
Unfortunately, fights among pets can quickly and spontaneously occur. Often the event is resolved as quickly as it occurred — just with barking. But at times, the conflict can turn dangerous resulting in a fight or attack.

Breaking Up Pet Fights
For your safety, it’s vital that you never place yourself between two fighting pets as you can become seriously injured. If a fight occurs, use your loudest voice to command that your pet return to you. You should use any means of distraction to interrupt the fight: clap your hand or use any water at your disposal. If the fight continues, both owners should grab the rear legs of their respective pets, pulling them apart in different directions (the wheelbarrow method). Before pulling, ensure neither pet has a jaw grip which must first be released by inserting a stick or other flat object in the rear corner of their mouth by the back jaw, twisting to open the mouth. As the very last resort, a pet owner could attempt to grab their own pet’s collar from behind to separate the combatants, but this technique is highly risky during a fight and not suggested.

After the pets have been separated and leashed, do your best to calm your pet — reassuring them the event is over and they are safe. Then it is important that each owner check their pet for any signs of injury including breathing difficulty, weakness, crying or whining, or collapse. Also search for blood, bite wounds, or lacerations by gently feeling their entire body — from head to tail — paying particular attention to their face, head, throat/neck, belly and hind quarters.

When your pet is more relaxed, check their mouth and teeth for any signs of blood — likely indicating an injury to themselves or the other pet. Also, be sure to allow your pet to walk, looking for any injuries to the legs or body which may be reflected in their gait.

Pet Injuries
After a fight, we encourage you to immediately call us at (408) 374-5850 to discuss a course of action as small wounds can be overlooked and a risk of shock is always present. If your pet is bleeding, first place a shirt, jacket or towel over the wound and apply pressure to stop or slow the bleeding — and carry your pet to your vehicle. If the wound is to the abdomen, carefully wrap the shirt around your pet’s belly and back — keeping all organs in place. You should gently place a shirt over your pet’s head to calm them and prevent any inadvertent bites during your transport. To the extent you have a pet emergency kit in your vehicle, it may be advisable to use it to help stabilize your pet.

Pet Bite Wound
On the way to your vehicle, have someone contact us. To the extent possible, we suggest allowing someone to drive you enabling you to comfort your pet. If the fight occurs after hours, please proceed to the nearest 24/7 pet emergency facility.

Person Injuries
At times, people can become involved and injured in the fight. For just these situations, it’s vital that your pet be fully vaccinated.

Contact Information
Because there may be legal or other implications, it’s vital that you obtain the contact information of the corresponding pet owner — and that you share yours. If time does not permit given the severity of the injuries, or one party decides to quickly depart, use your mobile phone to take pictures of the pet and the owner. It can also be helpful to ask for the contact information of witnesses.

Healing Your Pet
Call Us
If your pet is involved in an altercation, please contact us immediately. We can provide treatment direction and also information about your pet. Importantly, the entire team at Kirkwood Animal Hospital will examine and address any wounds, prevent infection and manage any pain to quickly return your pet to health.

Trusting Kirkwood Animal Hospital