There have been many, many cases of patients getting into dog fights.  Most occurred in dog parks, while on walks, or during play at daycare.  The far majority were due to dogs that seemed to get along fine with other dogs, until they didn’t.  They had never been set off by others dogs before, and then suddenly, there was an incident.

I speak from personal experience.  My own dog, while on a walk, stopped to play with a friend’s dog.  They were fine, and co-sniffing each other, until, well, they weren’t.  The other dog mounted my dog, which caused her to snarl and then attempt to bite him.  It was extra upsetting and even embarrassing to me, being that I was his veterinarian.  There was no blood nor obvious wounds, so all seemed to be ok. That was until the following morning when the client contacted me to say that her dog had begun limping and not acting himself. They were going to the local veterinarian and needed my dog’s vaccine records!
We later realized that he had stepped on a splinter, and the timing was coincidental.  Still, it reminded me of so many cases where I was the doctor and the conversation was awkward for the client, whose dog was the aggressor, or the victim.

Less often, but far more memorable, have been the cases where the aggression occurred between dogs living in the same home.  One family had to physically separate their two Akitas from each other.  They did not take my advice to rehome one of the dogs. There came a point when they went out of town, and had a friend house sit.  Evidently there was an incident between the dogs, and the friend, trying to break up the dog fight, ended up with several stitches in his right hand.

Mainly I recall multiple incidents of a family of two 80+ lb pit bulls that lived together, along with two cats.  Hercules was a brown and white male, and Rocky was black.  They did not get along. Hercules preferred and protected the husband Mr. X, while Rocky preferred the wife, Mrs. X.  Rocky not only disliked Hercules, but he also tried to attack their cats on several occasions.

One hectic day during appointments, while I was the only doctor in the hospital, I emerged from a room and followed a trail of blood into the back treatment area.  This was obviously not a good sign, and the fact that no one had come in to get me indicated that whatever was going on, it was happening in real time.  Upon entering the room I found Mr. and Mrs. X, with Hercules bleeding from the thigh, and both clients fairly covered in blood.  I worked out that Rocky killed their cat, while Mrs. X tried to protect the cat.  Her screaming attracted the husband, and then Hercules.  Mr. X intervened, attracting Hercules to protect him, where he inadvertently bit MR. X, and Rocky repeatedly bit Hercules, in the back legs and possibly the abdomen. That is where I came in.

Let me note that this was not the first time I was greeted by this family and a trail of blood.  It happened so often that all I needed to do was spot their truck in the parking lot to know that the day would soon spiral out of control, as it always had when they and their emergencies arrived.  This day proved to be the most disruptive, and interesting.

I quickly instructed both of them to leave Hercules with me and for both of them to go to the ER to have their wounds addressed. While Mrs. X complied, Mr. X refused to leave Hercules.  Closer examination of the Hercules’s wounds seemed limited to the thigh, but I recommended radiographs to assure there were no internal injuries, or that there was no leg fracture.

While positioning the patient for the radiographs, the client burst into the x ray area in tears, tearing off the protective lead shield covering the dog’s genitals.  He had expressed resistance to neutering the dog for years, which I had recommended for various reasons, not the least of which were the repeated dog fights.  I calmly escorted him out of the room and explained the risks to him, and why we needed to proceed with the x rays.  I neglected to remind him that I had an entire waiting room full of increasingly impatient clients and their pets who were further inconvenienced by his hysterics.  Attempt number two ended the same way.   I had to raise why voice and restrict him, with a “guard”, to the treatment area, when we finally were able to get the radiographs and the all clear on internal injuries.

I sedated Hercules, and addressed his wounds.  Just when I thought it was safe to go on with my day, while in the treatment area, Mr. X implored me to examine his own wounds. I again explained that I was legally unable to treat him… a human.  But he insisted, and pulled down his pants to his ankles, standing in his underwear with a large bloody gash on his upper thigh.  It was at this moment that my nurse assistant walked in on us, with a look of shock on her face.  I simply said, “Nope…can’t do it.  You need to go to the ER.”

I wish I could say this was the last time he and his dogs had it out, but it wasn’t.  Yet, it definitely was the most memorable.  He and others clients would arrive with unplanned chaos for years.  Stories like this offer a glimpse into the unpredictable, often exhausting, but always interesting life of a veterinarian.

Dr. Dawn

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