The mornings are a busy time in Sophie’s household. Sophie has to get ready for work, the three family dogs need to be fed, and everybody is milling around the kitchen. Last Tuesday, breakfast had been eaten by the dogs, and the food had been put away. Sophie was just getting ready to head out, and she had to nip upstairs before she went. Once she’d left the room, she heard a loud bark, followed by the sound of Alfie howling. She rushed back down, and she found Alfie in one corner, still howling, while Molly, her ten year old German Shepherd was at the other end of the room, looking sheepish.
It was obvious what had happened. Alfie had been pestering Molly, jumping up at her and generally being annoying. Up until then, Molly had just given an occasional growl to warn him off, but he obviously wasn’t listening. When Sophie went out of the room, Molly must have finally had enough, so she let fly at the irritating puppy.
Molly is a big dog, with powerful jaws, so in that split second, she managed to inflict some serious damage on the smaller animal. Alfie was bleeding,and Sophie could see toothmarks on top of his skull, as well as a wound under his chin. It was as if his entire head had been bitten, like a nut being crushed with nutcrackers. Alfie continued to howl in pain, so Sophie called the veterinary emergency number for urgent help.
When I met her at my clinic, Alfie had stopped howling, but he seemed dull and dejected. The bite marks on top of his head were swollen, when I tried to examine them in detail, he started howling again. The good news was that he was fully conscious, with no immediate signs of brain haemorrhage or other internal injuries. I wanted to do a thorough check to make sure that there was nothing serious going on under the surface, so I had to give him pain relief and some sedation. I then took x-ray pictures of his skull. I was worried that he might have suffered skull fractures which could need surgical intervention. Luckily, the damage was confirmed as being just superficial: he was badly bruised and in a lot of pain, but he didn’t need radical treatment like surgery to fix him. I cleaned up the bite marks, and gave him a course of antibiotics to make sure that any infection resolved promptly. He had lost a tooth in the incident, but it was only a temporary tooth which would have fallen out in a few weeks anyway, so it wasn’t something to worry about. It could have been far, far worse: I have heard about adult dogs killing puppies in similar situations.
I sent Alfie home with pain relief medication: he was likely to be sore for a few days, but with time and rest, I was confident that he’d soon make a full recovery.
The big worry, of course, is that Alfie might not have learned his lesson. Molly’s a good natured dog, but it’s natural that when a puppy ignores warning growls, physical deterrence is the next step.
Sophie has resolved to keep Alfie and Molly apart at all times, unless she is in the same room as them, watching what’s happening. She’s hoping that they’ll be best friends within a couple of months.