Ash Veterinary Clinic


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Why Dog & Cat Bites Occur

            In our business, we deal with dogs and cats every day. We learn to read their body language and how to tell when it is ok to approach them. We want everyone to be aware of the reasons why dog and cat bites occur and what to do to avoid them.

Sometimes when someone first sees a dog or cat, they run right up to pet it. This can be very startling for an animal and may cause them to go on the defensive. They become scared and their first instinct is to back off, run away and/or hide. In certain situations, it is not possible for the animal to retreat, which then signals a secondary instinct which is to bite and protect themselves. Some may only do so when approached, reached for, or at attempts to touch or pet them. Others will stand their ground while there are some pets that will lunge and attack. The size of the pet makes no difference. The smallest and cutest pets, many times are the ones with the least bark (or meow) and the worst bite.

            Socialization is very important for puppies. Socialization at a young age establishes a base for how your dog will interact with other dogs, adults and children for the rest of their life. Many people skip puppy class and go straight to the dog park or the pet store. In puppy class, the instructor should familiarize your dog with many things that they will come into contact with in everyday life. Without this training, your dog may be sensitive or afraid of the simplest thing, like a leaf blowing. We all know that a dog that is afraid is more likely to bite. Puppy training is essential, but socialization must be continued throughout your pet’s life.

            Another reason why dog bites can occur “with no warning,” is from ignored signals. We in the veterinary profession are taught to read a dog or cat’s body language to interpret how they are feeling. Most people interpret tail wagging as a positive sign. However, when it is paired with pinned back ears and panting, it may be taken as a sign of nervousness. Some signs are more obvious, like a lip curl or soft growling. Other signs, like looking away, lip-licking or a rigid tail, are not as obvious to the untrained eye.

            Dogs are not the only pets that bite. Cat bites may occur less often, but can be more dangerous than dog bites. Cats have many different types of bacteria in their mouth (like dogs) and a cat bite can get infected very quickly due to their canine teeth being long and pointy. This places the bacteria deep into the tissue they are biting; therefore, the actual puncture wound may be very small, but the infection festering beneath can be very dangerous and in some instances fatal. Usually cats would rather run and hide than stay and fight. Without the option to flee, they will defend themselves. Many of the signs that dogs give, cats give too. Flattened ears, a low growl and raised fur or hackles are just a few of the signs that a cat can give before they bite and don’t let their “wagging” tail fool you. Cats slap their tail back and forth when threatened or angry. This is always a good indicator that a bite is coming your way soon. Do not wait for the cat to give you another warning. They typically will not and their next move is to bite or run.

            As children, most of us were taught to ask an owner if we could pet their dog before approaching them. As adults, this is still a good rule to follow. It is also a rule that should be followed before allowing two unfamiliar dogs access to each other. Usually, the pet’s owner is going to be the best source on how their dog is going to react. At Ash Veterinary Clinic, we want you to be educated of these common signs so that a bite doesn’t happen to you or your pet. If a bite should occur, we recommend that you seek medical attention immediately.

[4:06:25 PM] Dianne Raftopoulos: