2008-08-14 / Pets

You can treat common pet wounds

Bites and cuts, often caused by fights with other animals, are most frequent injuries

From four-legged foes to foxtails, the risks of injury are plentiful for America's pets.

Veterinary Pet Insurance recently mined its claims data to find the most common pet wounds in 2007.

Claims for lacerations and bites topped the list. The majority of laceration/bite wounds were the result of dogs or cats fighting with other dogs or cats, or the consequence of clashes with wild animals such as raccoons, coyotes and squirrels.

The top pet wounds are lacerations/bite wounds, torn nail, insect bites and stings, abrasion, eye trauma, puncture, foreign object in skin, foreign object in ear, foreign object in foot and snakebite.

VPI received more than 11,000 claims for lacerations and bite wounds in 2007, about three times more than any other injury.

Depending on the severity, a laceration may require stitches and bandaging, accompanied by antibiotics to fight infection. Sometimes more extensive surgery is needed if a laceration or bite wound is deep enough to damage tendons and ligaments or puncture internal organs.

In addition to fights, lacerations can occur during amateur grooming attempts or run-ins with the sharp edge of an immobile object, like a barbed wire fence, metal lawn edging or a tree branch.

Aside from attacks from other pets and wildlife, plantbased foreign objects posed a common wound threat in 2007. The majority of these claims involved foxtails, burrs and other seed pods that attach to a pet's fur. These burrowing grasses and weeds can penetrate deep into a pet's skin and even become lodged in internal organs.

Ears and paws are the most common entry points. If foxtails and burrs aren't quickly discovered, their migration into the body can leave a trail of infection that can be difficult for a veterinarian to locate and treat. Pet owners should feel a pet's fur and body for objects that may have inadvertently collected in the pet's coat during an outdoor excursion and then remove the objects promptly.

VPI received more than 2,500 claims related to insect bites and stings, the third most common wound claim in 2007.

Bee stings composed the bulk of these claims; however, attacks from spiders, scorpions, wasps and flies also contributed.

To treat wounds from bees and other stinging insects, a veterinarian may prescribe an antiinflammatory medication, while some severe spider bites may cause such extensive damage that the pet requires surgery to remove dead skin around the bite.

Fly strike, a condition in which flies congregate and lay eggs in a pet's exposed tissues, is commonly treated by removing the larvae, intensive wound care and antibiotic therapy. Application of a spray or ointment to keep flies away is necessary to prevent re-infestation.

Other common wounds included torn nails, eye trauma and snakebites. Southern California pets are far more susceptible to snake bites because more of the reptiles live here, including urban areas, as compared to other parts of the country.

Torn nails typically occur when a pet attempts to move quickly with a nail unknowingly stuck or caught in an object. Crocheted items and some carpets are particularly prone to catching pets' nails.

Any of the previously mentioned laceration causes can be responsible for eye trauma, most notably low-lying branches that catch and scratch an open eye.

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