Just like us, pets are prone to injuries and accidents – they break bones, scratch their eyes, get bitten or stung and even swallow harmful foreign objects. Most pet owners will have experienced one or more of the following common injuries that affect dogs and cats:
Lacerations and Bite or Puncture Wounds
When dogs and cats get into fights with each other (cats vs. cats, dogs Vs dogs and cats Vs. dogs), it is common for them to sustain bite wounds and puncture marks. They can also get injuries if they are attacked by a wild animal. In addition, they can get lacerations in their paw pads if they walk on a sharp surface, and small puncture wounds from sharp objects (e.g. nails) which can easily be overlooked.
All bite wounds should be treated seriously as they can easily form abscesses and become infected. They will often require bandages, stitches and maybe preventative antibiotics. The best way to prevent such fights is to spay or neuter your pet and to be aware of your pet’s territorial instincts, which is usually the main source of most pet conflicts. Keep your dog under control when around other dogs and perhaps restrict your pet’s freedom at times, such as dusk, when other cats or wild animals may be more active.
Sprains, Fractures and Soft Tissue Trauma
As your pet exercises or in the course of play, particularly if they are very rough or enthusiastic, they will often inadvertently injure themselves. If you notice them limping, take them to the vet for a check-up. An X-ray will confirm the possibility of a fractured bone – if not, then it is possible that your pet has sprained a paw or suffered some kind of soft tissue, muscle or tendon trauma. This usually happens when they slip or fall or over-exert themselves during exercise and play.
The most common eye injury in pets is corneal ulcers, where something scratches the surface of the eye ball. Usually, a light scratch to the surface of the cornea will heal quickly by itself but if the scratch is deeper, it can lead to slow-healing erosions in the corneal surface, known as ulcers. This is particularly common in older cats or dogs who aren’t able to produce as much protective tears. Corneal ulcers can be serious if left untreated so always seek veterinary treatment immediately.
Very common in young dogs and puppies, particularly within certain breeds, foreign body ingestion can be very dangerous as it can cause serious blockages in the digestive system, which can even have fatal consequences. All sort of objects have been found in dogs’ stomachs, from toys, rocks and shoes to carpet, fruit pips and even pieces of insulation! Cats will also swallow unacceptable things sometimes – one cat had a particular liking for plastic grocery bags! Again, veterinary treatment should be sought quickly – time is of the essence if you suspect that your pet has swallowed something it shouldn’t.
Foreign objects can also become embedded in your pet’s ears, pawpads or skin – for example, grass seeds are a common culprit. These seemingly small irritations can lead to serious problems as the burrowing grasses and weeds can penetrate deep into the pets skin and even travel into their internal organs. Always inspect your pet’s body regularly for any foreign objects.
Torn nails are another common injury and one that most owners dread because of the amount of blood and mess involved! Nails can be torn in a variety of ways – from getting caught on the rug to outdoor meshes – and it is usually very painful to your pet when it occurs. You will notice your pet’s paw bleeding and they will be licking their paw or limping. One way to reduce the likelihood of torn nails is to trim your pets’ nails regularly.
Insect Bites and Stings
While Britain does not have the kind of deadly spiders like some countries e.g. Australia, it is still possible for your pet to be stung by a bee or wasp and suffer a painful reaction. Check your garden for any wasp nests or bee hives and make sure your dog doesn’t dive headlong into infested areas when out on a walk. If your pet has been stung, take them to the vet who may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to help with the healing.
While many injuries will still take pet owners by surprise, it is possible to take some common sense precautions to prevent injuries – these include being aware of your pet’s surroundings and “pet-proofing” any areas where they will be staying unsupervised, as well as regularly checking your pet’s body for any wounds or injuries.