The Only Locally-Owned Emergency and Specialty Hospital in Minnesota

The Dark Side of Dog Parks: Bite Wounds in Dogs

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If your pet has severe or multiple injuries after a dog bite incident, this is considered “RED” – or a true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

Note that a small wound or laceration with no signs of current infection are considered a “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within 24 hours. Call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you, and if your pet’s condition worsens, call the team back to inform them of the status change.


Warmer weather often means trips to the dog park. If they’re a good fit for your dog, dog parks can enrich your pup’s life with exercise and play. Unfortunately, dog parks are inherently risky, with dog bites as a big concern. Since dog bite incidents most commonly occur at dog parks, it’s important for dog parents to be extra cautious and to know what to do when a bite happens.

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Tips to Avoid Bites:

While at the dog park, it’s important for a dog parent to monitor their dog closely, especially if off-leash, and to know how your dog responds to other dogs. It’ll be up to you to distinguish when to intervene or remove your dog from an unwelcome interaction. Here are a few tips to help avoid a dog bite incident:   

  • Watch your dog and read their body language. If your dog is becoming fearful or overstimulated, give them a time out until they are relaxed and calm.  
    • Examples of Fearful Body Language 
      • Raised fur
      • Tense body posture
      • Dilated pupils 
      • Wide eyes
    • Examples of Overstimulation 
      • Barking excessively 
      • Ignoring your calls/commands 
      • Chasing one playmate excessively 
    • Looking for a great resource for adults and kids on advanced body language? Check out Doggie Language by Dr. Sophia Yin! 
  • Seek playmates of similar size. Overall, a bite from a big dog to a small dog is often more serious than bites from equally-sized pups. If you have a little dog, consider small dog-only parks – they are the safest option!  
  • Avoid peak hours at the dog park. Your dog may become overwhelmed or stressed when there are too many dogs and/or people present. 
  • If you notice your dog’s playmate displaying signs of fear or overstimulation, or the playmate just isn’t receptive to play, call your dog to you.  

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What To Do if a Bite Occurs & When to Go to the Vet: 

After a scuffle, comb through your dog’s fur very carefully – small bites and punctures are often hidden in thick fur! If your dog only has scratches or bruises, but no broken skin or bleeding, it is generally safe to monitor your dog at home. In the following situations though, always seek veterinary treatment: 

  • If a puncture is present, no matter the size. Punctures are deceivingly small! There can be a deep infection brewing or more severe injuries underneath the surface.
  • If your dog is squinting, has eye discharge, or has an injured eye.
  • If your pet had a scuffle in the past week but is acting more painful, ill, or is constantly licking the injured area.
  • If your pet is bleeding, limping, or very painful. 

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What to Do When Severe Bites Occur: 

If your pet sustains a severe bite wound and is bleeding excessively, get to your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital as soon as possible. Always call ahead. If possible, as you transport your pet, do the following: 

  • Apply constant pressure to the bleeding area with a clean towel or cloth (any T-shirt will do). 
  • If the bleeding is on a limb, tie a tourniquet above the wound with the sleeves of a long-sleeve t-shirt, a belt, or a scarf. Note: a tourniquet is dangerous if in place for more than twenty minutes – so only apply if you can get to a vet quickly.
  • Keep in mind that even the gentlest dogs can bite even you when panicked and in pain. To ensure that your dog doesn’t bite you, create a makeshift temporary muzzle with a non-retractable leash or a strip of fabric. 

Note: If a puncture seems small, never ever attempt to close the wound with glue, sutures, staples, etc. If closed without proper treatment, debriding, and antibiotics, these small wounds can turn into severe, life-threatening pockets of deep infection.

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We hope these tips help keep your dog safe at the dog park during these warmer Minnesota months. Remember, ALWAYS monitor your dog while at the dog park and keep a close eye on interactions with other dogs. We also recommend keeping a pet first aid kit in your car, along with a spare towel or t-shirt – just in case! If your dog does get bitten or sustains any other type of injury and your family veterinarian is unavailable, our Oakdale facility is open 24/7 and our St. Paul facility is currently open from 8 AM – 8 PM, every day of the week. Always call ahead of your arrival. You can also call for advice and further instruction if you aren’t sure what to do.  

More reading: 

Anna Malone, DVM, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, emergency veterinarian

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