Dogs Fighting

In my job as chief veterinary officer at Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how pets wind up injured or ill — and how we can help pet owners prevent both of those things.  Recently, I looked at the top five accident-related claims turned in by cat owners, and I surmised that a common thread was binding most of them together: Cats allowed to roam outside are at higher risk of injury than those kept indoors.

Curious if there might be a similar commonality for canine accidents, I asked the researchers at VPI to dive back into our claims data for injury information on dogs. Instead, I realized that injuries often happen when dogs are outside chasing tennis balls or playing at dog parks. Because yours needs regular exercise, it can be difficult to protect him from many accidents.

The Top Five

Here are the top five most common canine accidents, based on a survey of 2013 claims data:

  1. Soft-tissue trauma (bruise or contusion)
  2. Cruciate ligament tear (without surgical repair)
  3. Lacerations or bite wounds
  4. Scratch or wound on the eye
  5. Cruciate ligament repair (with surgery)

While there is no one thing that underlies all of these accidents, a common contributing cause in the knee injury included twice on this list can be obesity. Of course, keeping dogs lean can’t always prevent this injury, but it may help lower a dog’s risk for a painful (and potentially expensive) injury.

Three of these five are also on our list of top five cat-related claims: soft-tissue trauma, lacerations or bite wounds, and scratch or wound on the eye. As the first and most popular pet insurance company in the United States, we’ve seen over the years that many accidents result from unpredictable circumstances. In most cases, they are truly accidents and could not have been prevented.

Leashes, Good Manners and Supervised Interactions

From reviewing claims over the years, though, I know that’s not the whole story. A good portion of those bruises or contusions comes from things such as being hit by a car. And those bite wounds and eye injuries? They can come from fights with other pets in the household, or with other dogs outside the home, such as at a dog park.

Some of those injuries no doubt could have been prevented with some simple precautions. For example, you can protect your dog from cars by leaving him on leash during walks or runs along busy streets.

Help keep your dog safe at the dog park by watching him — and his canine friends — carefully and leaving if a dog park bully starts harassing your pet or anyone else’s. (If your dog is the dog park bully, you need to find other places and ways to exercise him to protect him as well as other pets and people.)

Finally, if your own pets don’t get along at home and end up hurting each other, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a good trainer or behaviorist who can help.

As I’ve said many times, at VPI we’re very happy to help our policyholders with their veterinary bills — that’s why we’re here, in fact.  But we’re just as happy to help keep pets — and pet owners — from needing our help in the first place.

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