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In May 2018, my dog fell victim to a violent dog attack with three pit bulls. It is a miracle that she survived and fortunately, her healing was speedy and without any major complications or life-long debilities. As a matter of fact, she healed in half the time the vet expected. Today I wanted to share how we helped her heal so fast and so well, in hopes that it might help your fur babies too.
TRIGGER WARNING! THE FOLLOWING POST MIGHT BE DIFFICULT FOR SOME PEOPLE TO READ.
I have been wanting to write this post for a long time, but I just could not bring myself to sit down and make it happen. But I feel like enough time has passed and I’ve done enough emotional healing (I suffered from PTSD and nervous system issues after the attack) that I can now write about the experience without it triggering anything.
Well, that is not 100% true.
As I was writing this post, I did have some flashbacks and some tightness in my chest as I relived the details. There were some tears. But I got through it, so here we go.
I’m sharing the basic details of the attack because I don’t want to answer a lot of questions about what specifically happened. I’m leaving out the gruesome stuff and just touching on the overall experience. I’m also not sharing any close-up photos from the event, because they are so horrible. If you want any indication of how bad they are, this is what my dear friend Jennifer from Hybrid Rasta Mama said when she saw one: “Oh sh**! I knew it was bad, but whoa! I have a whole new respect for both of you now!“. Before we dive into the post, here’s sweet Willow, the star of today’s article.
Pitbull Attack on a Sleepy Saturday Morning
Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook may remember that in May 2018, my dog and I were attacked by 3 pit bulls in our front yard. It was the scariest, most horrific thing I’ve ever gone through. It was the only time in my life where I truly thought I might die or be seriously maimed. It was also the only time in my life where I felt completely and utterly like a victim. Powerless and fully at the mercy of someone else (or in this case 3 dogs).
It happened one Saturday morning when I took Willow out our side door to pee. We had just moved into a new house and the backyard was not yet fenced in. There was a small chainlink fence between us and our neighbors, but not the 6-foot security fence we had planned on building.
Willow and I walked into the backyard and she did her business. As I turned around to walk us back to the side door, I saw 3 pit bull faces staring at me across the neighbor’s fence. I knew my neighbor didn’t have dogs and from the way they were looking at us, I instantly knew something bad was going to happen.
I backed away quickly and grabbed Willow. We ran around the other side of the house towards the front yard. As I pushed open the side gate that led into the front yard, all three dogs were coming right up behind us. I THANKFULLY got the gate closed (which delayed them a tiny bit) and ran to the front door. The front door was locked and my husband was asleep. I was banging on the door and screaming at the top of my lungs for him to open it.
I kept looking over at the gate and I saw the 3 dogs trying to get over the fence. One of them must have hit the latch with their paw because just as my hubby got the door open and pulled me inside, they came upon us and tore Willow out of my hands and dragged her into the front yard. I collapsed on the living room floor in complete shock and terror. My husband went out to try to help but there was no way he could fight off three pit bulls in attack mode.
As I said, we had just moved into this house and weren’t even fully unpacked yet. We had nothing to use as a weapon. Nothing to help save our dog from certain death.
As I laid in the living room floor sobbing and violently shaking (something I later learned was called “neurogenic tremors”), I assumed Willow was dead. We had just lost our little old man dog (read his blog post here) two months earlier and my heart was breaking at the thought of losing her too.
Help From a Neighbor
My poor husband was impossibly torn between trying to help her and trying to help me. He had never seen me in such a state and he was unbelievably scared by what was happening so quickly. He also didn’t want our dog to die but knew he was not going to be able to get all three dogs off her without help.
Incredibly, our neighbor across the street had heard me screaming (he was sleeping) and he ran across the street to help. He managed to help get the three dogs away from her and we were able to drag her into the house. He literally saved Willow’s life and for that, I am eternally grateful.
The dogs charged at him a few times as he went back home, but thankfully he’s a big guy and he also was carrying a long 2″x4″ so he was OK. The dogs ran off and we turned our focus to Willow who was bleeding all over our kitchen floor. We called the cops and when we were done with them we rushed Willow to the 24-hour emergency pet hospital where she underwent pretty extensive surgery.
This whole ordeal probably lasted less than 5 minutes total, but it felt like an eternity. I can remember every single second in vivid detail.
My friends and family kept reminding me that I was fortunate that I was not also injured. I could have very easily been seriously injured or even killed if they had gotten a hold of my leg or knocked me down. While I am grateful that I was not physically hurt, the emotional and mental injury was extensive, and I suffered from PTSD and nervous system issues for well over a year afterward. For the sake of time, I think I’ll write about that in a different post.
The cops did track down the owners and we eventually went to court to seek restitution for Willow’s vet bills. The judge ruled in our favor without hesitation and we are fortunate that we have actually been receiving payments from the pit bull owners. We had our reasons to be skeptical that they would actually pay, even with the court order against them.
This picture was taken a week after the attack. We had to dress her up for bed each night with a t-shirt or a long scarf/wrap in order to protect her sutures and drains (that thing sticking out of her neck is a drain, not a bone!). We also had to wrap her back feet so that she could not scratch her neck and chest and tear any of the stitches out. Thankfully she doesn’t mind being dressed up so she never fought us on this. 🙂
Helping Willow Heal
Willow spent most of that day at the animal hospital in surgery and then monitored recovery. We were able to pick her up later that evening. Seeing the extent of her injuries was horrific. She was puffy and swollen and inflamed. She did not look like my sweet dog. I guess I’m fortunate that I’ve never seen this type of physical trauma before. It was shocking to see my pup shaved with massive sutures all over her and drains sticking out of her skin.
The vet told us that it could take up to 8 weeks before she was fully healed (maybe more if there were any complications). She also let us know that a second, or maybe even third, surgery might be necessary, depending on how her wounds healed, because she expected a lot of tissue necrosis around the larger injuries. There was also some concern about permanent nerve damage and possible impaired mobility in her front shoulder.
After surgery, Willow was on three different medications, an antibiotic, a pain killer, and a high-powered anti-inflammatory. I knew that I wanted to do my best to support her nutritionally as well, so I devised a plan for some extra things I could add to her diet once her appetite came back. I’ll share that info in the following section.
Willow did end up having to have a second surgery 2 weeks after her first. As expected, there was extensive tissue necrosis on her neck and shoulder so they had to go in and remove all of that in order for her to heal properly. Thankfully, she didn’t need any more surgeries after that.
At day 15, all of her sutures (except for the one patch where the second surgery had taken place) and drains had been removed. Her hair was growing back and her scabs were starting to fall off.
At exactly one month after the attack, we went back to the doctor to have the last of her sutures removed and have her final checkup. At that point, her hair had grown back so much that you couldn’t see a lot of the scars anymore. She was starting to look like her normal self again.
Both the emergency vet and our regular vet were so impressed with how quickly and efficiently she healed. Our regular vet said she had no doubt that my extra supplementation with her (specifically the collagen powder) is what helped cut the originally estimated healing time in half.
I took this photo right after we left that appointment. It was cause to celebrate for sure!
Willow’s Healing Protocol
DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet. I am simply a pet owner who tries to take care of her pets as best she can. Always consult with your own vet prior to adding anything new to your pet’s diet. I am sharing what worked for Willow and what helped her heal in half the time that was originally predicted and my vet has always approved of my additions.
I filled in Willow’s regular vet soon after the attack happened. I wanted to get her opinion on the surgery and healing plan laid out by the emergency hospital vet. She fully agreed with everything that the emergency vet had done, which made us feel a lot better. She also supported my desire to boost Willow’s nutrition in an effort to help her heal faster.
My supplementation with Willow was pretty minimal with only five main supplements as listed below. In addition to these supplements, she also regularly got (and still does get) things like bone broth, veggie scraps, coconut oil, and other human foods.
Grass-Fed Collagen Powder
The most important thing I added (and my vet concurred) was grass-fed collagen powder. This is what our regular vet thinks really sped up her healing. I started this as soon as her appetite started to come back, which as about 18 hours after her first surgery. I initially sprinkled the powder right on her food, but then realized that she could potentially inhale the powder into her lungs so I started mixing the collagen with some water or broth and adding it that way.
I’ve been using Perfect Supplements brand collagen (and gelatin) for years, but when my friends over there heard about what happened, they sent me a care package with a box of collagen for Willow and a bottle of their adaptogenic herb blend (Perfect Acai Revive) for me.
- Brand I Use: Perfect Supplements Grass-Fed Collagen (use coupon code DELICIOUS15 to save 15% on your order!)
- Dose: 1 heaping tablespoon per meal, mixed with some water or broth and then poured over her food
Omega-3 Fish Oil
Willow had been getting fish oil pretty consistently for a few years, but I upped her dose during this healing time. Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory and I know the essential fatty acids were helpful for her tissue as it healed. Please note that the doses I gave her are over what the typical RDA is for dogs, but she suffered no ill side effects and my vet had no issues with these high doses during trauma.
- Brands I Use: Nordic Naturals Fish Oil For Dogs (liquid form) OR The Healthy Fats Co. Omega 3 Fish Oil (capsules), depending on what fits in my budget.
- Dose (if using liquid): 1 teaspoon per meal
- Dose (if using capsules): 1 capsule per meal
Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM
This is another supplement that Willow regularly gets, but I upped her dosage during her healing time. I use the human version of this supplement because many years ago, our vet told us that it’s not worth the money to buy dog-specific glucosamine supplements. He said to just buy the human forms because it’s WAY cheaper, totally safe, and effective. He hated how expensive pet supplements were and I loved that he always wanted to save us a few bucks.
- Brand I Use: Doctor’s Best Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM with OptiMSM
- Dose: 1 capsule per meal
Since Willow was on such high-powered antibiotics, I was worried about her gut health. In addition, those antibiotics were making her stools pretty loose and icky. I gave her this probiotic (since it’s what I had on hand), and it really helped tighten her stools back up. I made sure to space this dose out far away from her antibiotic doses. My vet was totally fine with this and actually encouraged it. Please note that this is a human-grade probiotic and there is no research on using it for dogs (although my account manager at Microbiome Labs said there may be some studies in the works soon). I did not see any harm in using it on Willow and always paid close attention to any reactions, which were none.
- Brand I Use: Microbiome Labs RestorFlora (this is only available through practitioners, let me know if you would like to purchase)
- Dose: 1 capsule per day, 6 hours after her morning antibiotic dose
Milk Kefir and Yogurt
In addition to the probiotic, my vet also suggested kefir or yogurt. Willow LOVES kefir so this was a welcome addition to her meals. 🙂 As with the RestorFlora, I spaced our her serving of this from her morning and evening antibiotic doses. Whether this really helped her microbiome I have no idea, but she deserved all the special treats in the world, so I was totally happy to give it to her.
- Brand I Use: Whatever the health food store had on sale
- Dose: 1/4 cup in the middle of the day (away from her morning antibiotic dose)
Rest, Rest, and More Rest
This goes without saying, but lots and lots and lots of rest. The vet recommended no walks, other than just around the yard a few times a day, for the first two weeks. Then after that just short walks if we felt up to it. Honestly, I was so traumatized that I had a hard time leaving the house for months after, so walks were sadly few and far between for a long time. Even to this day, I will not walk around our neighborhood. We drive to different parks around town for our daily walks.
Other Pet Supplements to Consider
These supplements are not specific to healing trauma, but they are things that can be beneficial to our dogs in certain circumstances, so I wanted to include them. DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet, I am simply sharing what has worked (and not worked) well for my dogs. Always check with your vet to see if they are OK with you adding in any of these supplements.
This herb can be really helpful for dogs at the right dose. I have not had success using it with Willow because it always makes her throw up. I did try using it on her when she finished up the super high-powered anti-inflammatories that she was on, but since she reacted negatively I stopped using it. If you Google “turmeric for dogs” you will find a ton of info if you’re curious about trying it on your dog. It has the same anti-inflammatory benefits for them as it does humans.
- Brand I Use: I don’t have a brand I like since I don’t use it on Willow. Check Google or Amazon. This one is Amazon’s most recommended. Always read the customer reviews!
- Dose: Follow the dosage instructions by the manufacturer, or Google-specific recommendations.
I’ve written about this before and you can read my Coconut Oil for Healthy Happy Pets article here. Some pets really do well with coconut oil. I’ve heard countless pet owners talk about how it’s improved their skin health, their digestion, and bowel movements, as well as their hair growth and texture. I have not been super consistent about giving Willow coconut oil every day, although I do give her a little spoonful when I remember. She LOVES it.
- Brand I Use: Tropical Traditions, Nutiva, or Kirkland Signature (Costco brand)
- Dose: A couple of teaspoons as I remember it (check out my Coconut Oil for Pets article for more specific dosing)
This simple sugar is commonly used by humans to help treat and prevent urinary tract infections. Well, it also works wonders in dogs too. Willow has been prone to UTIs her whole life. She’s been on so many rounds of antibiotics that I’ve lost count. About 4 years ago, I started giving her D-Mannose and it has REALLY helped cut down on the number of UTIs she gets.
- Brand I Use: NOW Brand or MicroIngredients Brand (if I catch it on sale)
- Dose: 1 capsule per meal when I suspect a flare OR 1 capsule with breakfast for 3-4 days every few weeks
This one was suggested by my vet because of Willow’s chronic UTI issues. She has had a lot of success using it on her pet patients and it has always worked wonders for Willow. She gets this one pretty consistently. Two weeks on, two weeks off is what my vet recommended. I mostly stick to that, although I think it may be more like three weeks on, one week off because I always forget.
- Brand I Use: Nature’s Way because it always seems to be the most affordable
- Dose: 1 capsule with breakfast, with a 1-2 week break each month
I hope this post has been helpful for you. I am so thankful Willow is still with us, healthy and happy. She’s all healed up and sweeter than she ever was. We love this gal and appreciate you reading this post!