What is rut? The rut is the mating season of certain mammals including deer, elk, moose, and bison.
During this time, testosterone increases in the males as well as aggression and increase interest in females. The typical deer rut last from as early as late September to late November or December with the peak being around mid-November. The other time of year to be cautious is Spring/Summer when fawns are being born and the mothers can be very defensive.
It is this increase in aggression that pet owners need to be aware of when it comes to their pets. Dogs tend to be more often seen with deer/antler related injuries. Cats tend to be less effected, whether it is due to their smaller size or increased agility compared to dogs.
The main situation that dogs become injured is when they are let outside and there is a buck within eyesight and the dog runs towards the buck, whether just being inquisitive or as an act of aggression.
The common injuries that are seen with deer attacks are lacerations to the skin from the antlers and also penetrating injuries. It can be very difficult to determine if there has been a penetrating injury without thorough investigation of the wound by a veterinarian. In most cases of penetrating trauma, surgery is indicated to evaluate the internal organs for damage. With penetrating thoracic (chest) trauma, a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) may also develop which can be a life threatening injury unless properly treated.
Due to the conformation and length of the antlers, there can be injuries relatively far away from the initial skin penetration. The curve of the antlers can lead to much more damage compared to a straight object that follows a single path.
The other possible method of injury with deer attacks is blunt force trauma from being kicked. This can cause head trauma, pulmonary contusions, facial fractures, spinal injuries, or long bone fractures that may also require veterinary intervention.
As cities expand and people encroach into the habitats of these animals, pet-wildlife encounters are increasing. Some home owners associations (HOAs) in these areas do not allowing fenced yards, which can also increase the frequency of these encounters. If you live in one of these areas, you will need to be diligent in taking precautions to help keep your pets safe. Injuries can be as minor as cuts and scrapes, but can also be fatal in some cases. Prevention is the key when it comes to wildlife encounters.
What precautions can I take to help protect my pet(s)?
- Always walking your dog on a leash when not in a confined area
- Evaluating your yard for wildlife prior to letting your dog outside
- Be aware of your surroundings when walking with your dog near wildlife habitats
What do you do if your dog has been attacked by a deer (or any other wildlife)?
Have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible. They may need to take radiographs (x-rays) and perform an ultrasound to evaluate for any internal injuries. If there is a possible penetrating injury, your veterinarian will need to carefully evaluate the wound, which may require sedation and/or pain medications. After a penetrating injury, your pet may seem fine for a period of time, only to decompensate after 60-90 minutes once the adrenaline wears off. This is why it is important to have them evaluated as soon as possible after the injury.
What can I do for my pet at home before I can get to the vet?
Keep your pet calm and still. Additional movement can cause additional pain and potentially increase the degree of injury if there is any neurologic or vascular injury. You may consider wrapping them in a warm blanket. If there is an injury over the chest and you can hear a sucking sounds, you can place petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment over the wound and then cover the wound with plastic wrap to prevent more air from getting trapped around the lungs.
If there is anything sticking out of the wound, DO NOT remove it. This can cause additional trauma to internal structures that may have been injured.