Pellet Wounds in Dogs

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Pellet wounds can result from hunting accidents.
Pellet wounds can result from hunting accidents. (Image: SteveOehlenschlager/iStock/Getty Images)

Pellet wounds in dogs are penetrating injuries. Even though the wound might appear minor, you can't tell the extent of any internal injuries. If you know or suspect your dog has suffered a pellet wound, take him to an emergency veterinary hospital at once. Keep him as calm as possible during the trip. Wrap him in a blanket, if available, to help keep him still and warm. If you don't have a blanket handy, your coat will do

Pellet Wounds

If you and your dog are lucky, a pellet might end up just under the skin, where it won't cause serious damage. Pellet wounds can be serious, even fatal. Pellet wounds aren't "clean," because dirt, along with the animal's hair and skin, enters the body. That means infection is likely. Don't delay veterinary treatment because your dog is acting normally and doesn't appear hurt. He could collapse at any time.

Pellet Wound Signs

If you witnessed your dog's shooting, such as from a hunting accident, you know what happened to him. If you didn't see it, but your dog exhibits certain signs, it's possible he was wounded by pellets. These include a small entry wound, which can resemble a bite. Of course, your dog might show obvious signs of injury, including bleeding and shock. If your dog is bleeding heavily from a wound in the chest, bandage it and rush him to the vet.

Veterinary Diagnosis

Along with a complete physical examination your veterinarian likely will X-ray your dog or perform magnetic resonance imaging or ultrasounds on him to locate the pellet. If it has penetrated deeply, your dog requires surgery. If the pellet is just under the skin, you and your vet can discuss whether or not removal is necessary. While removing a pellet from skin tissue requires anesthesia, it's a much less complicated procedure than dealing with a deep penetration wound.

Surgical Removal

For a deep wound, your veterinarian will perform surgery to remove the pellet and determine the extent of the damage. If the pellet affects your dog's vital organs, he's facing a life or death situation. Deep wounds might need closing with muscle flap surgery. If your dog survives the surgery, there could be complications. If no vital organs were involved, your dog will require antibiotics post-surgery to reduce the risk of infection. Your dog also will receive a tetanus shot if he's not current on his vaccinations.

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