A Little Bite

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Things were quiet in the clinic when Joan burst through the door.

Joan was a trim young lady in her mid-thirties. She was a regular client and had Zack, a young springer spaniel, with her. Today she was covered with blood. 

Her blouse and jeans had large splotches of blood on them, and her face had blood splatters that extended into her blond hair.

“I need a hand, quick,” Joan said. “Zack is in the car and losing a lot of blood. Bob is holding him, but there is blood everywhere. The car is a mess.”

Ruth grabbed a towel and followed Joan out the door to the car. Sandy came back to the treatment area to get me.

“I don’t know what happened, but Joan is covered with blood,” Sandy said. “She said that Bob is holding him in the car, and there is blood everywhere.”

When I got to the front of the clinic, Ruth had Zack and Bob in an exam room. She had a towel over Zack’s head, and he was standing on the exam table, wagging the stub of his tail.

Joan was standing outside the exam room and presented me with quite a sight as I squeezed by her into the room. Bob looked worse than Joan.

“My gosh!” I said. “What the heck happened to Zack?”

“He got bit by his squirrel,” Joan said as she leaned in the door.

“Bit by his squirrel, where?” I said. “Looking at the blood on you two, it must have hit his jugular vein.”

“No, it bit him on his nose,” Bob said.

I looked at Zack with the towel over his head and at the steady flow of blood forming a puddle on the table. 

I lifted the towel, Zack’s tail wagged, and he licked his nose with his long tongue. Then he shook his head with a shake that traveled all the way to his rump. 

Blood flew everywhere, splattering Ruth and me along with Bob. You couldn’t tell it on Bob, he already looked like he had just come from a knife fight, but Ruth and I were covered with a fine speckling of blood.

I pulled the towel back over Zack’s head.

“Tell me about this squirrel,” I said.

“We call him Zack’s squirrel because he is tormenting Zack all the time,” Joan said as she took up a position to control the conversation. “Zack chases him daily, and I think the squirrel likes the game. But today, Zack caught him for the first time.”

“Yes, I think it surprised Zack as much as it surprised the squirrel,” Bob said. “Zack sort of rolled him over, and when he stood up, the squirrel was balanced on Zack’s muzzle, nose to nose.”

“And that is when that squirrel just bit poor Zack right on the end of his nose,” Joan continued the story. “Zack let out a yap, and he and the squirrel went in different directions. Zack ran into the house, and we realized how much he was bleeding. We just scooped him up, and here we are.”

I sat Zack down and got a firm grip on his muzzle. Then I folded the towel back so I could look at the end of his nose. There was a wide puncture right on the end of the nose, and it was bleeding profusely. 

I squeezed the wound to spread the edges to see how deep it was. Zack wiggled a little to show that it smarted some. This was a deep wound.

“That squirrel must have sunk his incisors all the way into Zack’s nose,” I said. “This is a deep puncture. I think that if I clean it up, I should be able to get the bleeding under control with a couple of mattress sutures. I would guess we will have to sedate him for a few minutes to get that done.”

“When are you going to be able to do that?” Joan asked.

“If we don’t do it right now, he will have the entire clinic covered with blood,” I said. “This is going to be a short procedure. He should be up and ready to go home in a couple of hours.”

“That will be fine,” Joan said. “We can go home and clean ourselves up and the house. I think the car will be more of a job.”

We moved Zack back to the surgery room and gave him some atropine while we got everything ready to treat this wound. Then with a dose of pentathol, Zack melted down onto the table.

I scrubbed the wound and flushed it with some dilute Betadine. This wound was a full centimeter deep. I placed two vertical mattress sutures to close the wound and provide consistent pressure on the tissues for the entire depth of the injury. 

Once the sutures were placed, the bleeding stopped.

“Is that going to take care of it?” Ruth asked.

“I think I will cover this wound with some surgical adhesive, just to make sure it doesn’t start bleeding again,” I said.

Zack was recovered and bouncing around the kennel when Bob and Joan returned to pick him up.

“He acts like nothing happened,” Joan said. “Is there anything we need to do with him?”

“Not much,” I said. “I am putting him on some antibiotics, just to be safe, and if everything goes according to plan, we will take those sutures out in a couple of weeks.”

“Is he going to have to wear one of those cones?” Bob asked. 

“No, I seldom use those,” I said. “They just make you and him miserable, and if he is going to scratch something, he will get it done. I just don’t see any problems with my wound treatment.”

“The house cleaned up pretty well, but I think we will have to find someone to detail the car,” Joan said. “There is blood everywhere in it.”


Zack healed up uneventfully and was a happy dog when he returned for suture removal.

“How does he get along with his squirrel these days?” I asked.

“That squirrel has the run of the place these days,” Bob said. “Zack has learned his lesson. He doesn’t even look at the squirrel anymore.”

Photo by Chait Gobi on Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

One thought on “A Little Bite

  1. Ouch, yeah, squirrels are not as harmless as they claim to be. They look so fluffy and innocent, but they are omnivores and have their young birds for food, too, now and then. Just because they are majorly vegetarian does not make them incapable of doing damage. I am glad that the dog only had a bleeding nose, not a bite in his paw or at the root of his tail – that could have been quite serious.


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