Treatment for pets is not free, so owners could end up forking out huge amounts to save their dogs
A staggering 64,000 dogs are feared to have died over the last year after being attacked by rival pets, a shock survey reveals today.

Another 44,375 dogs are said to have suffered life-changing injuries over the same time frame, leaving owners spending a collective £458 million to treat wounded animals.

Among the appalling catalogue of injuries witnessed by vets treating dog-on-dog attack victims were:

- A dog attacked so viciously its intestines were ripped out

- A dog's tail being ripped off

- A dog left with a cracked ribcage after being thrown by a larger animal

- A dog dying at the scene of an attack

More than a quarter of dogs seen by vets after fighting with other dogs had to be destroyed because of their injuries, warns the same report.

The shocking extent of dog-on-dog attacks is being made public by Direct Line Pet Insurance.

Research carried for the insurers among vets and owners has uncovered the "awful consequences" of dog fights, with 23 per cent of practitioners reporting how they have treated dogs for punctured stomachs and lungs and 10 per cent dealing with broken jaws and neck injuries.

With one in seven owners describing how their pets were attacked by another canine last year, many blamed the incidents on other owners.

Nearly a third reported how their pet was attacked because the other dogs' owners could not control their animals, while a quarter said attacks happened when other dog was off the lead and had provoked their animal.

More than a quarter of dogs seen by vets because of injuries had to be put down

More than a quarter of dogs seen by vets because of injuries had to be put down
Madeline Pike, veterinary nurse at Direct Line Pet Insurance, said: "It is shocking to hear the number of pets injured each year in dog attacks and the horrifying injuries they suffer.

"Dog owners should ensure if their pet is attacked or involved in a fight they take them to the vet for treatment as soon as possible, to give them the best chance of survival and a full recovery.

"The cost of treatment for attack injuries can be extremely high and the last thing dog owners want to think about if their pet is injured is whether they're covered, which is why we advise all dog owners to regularly review their insurance policy to ensure their dog is covered should the worst happen."

While the insurers equate the cost of treating each dog averages nearly £400 per animal, one in seven owners spent more than £700 having their dog or one of the other dogs involved in the fight getting treatment.

An idea of the causes of canine aggression are also being highlighted in the survey, with 13 per cent of owners describing how their dogs were playing with other animals when things got out of hand or there had been confrontations over food.

Alarmingly, six per cent reported how the owner of another dog had encouraged their animal to attack.

Vets say problems are caused when male dogs are not neutered or when animals have not been given adequate socialisation with other animals.

Madeline Pike added: "Unfortunately, no matter how responsible and conscientious dog owners are, if other owners are not, serious incidents can occur.

"All owners should be wary when their dog is off the lead and be vigilant when they interact with other dogs.

Owners have been left spending a collective £458 million on treating wounded dogs
© Getty
Owners have been left spending a collective £458 million on treating wounded dogs
"Owners with nervous or territorial dogs should consider keeping their dog on a lead when around other animals.

"This will not only reduce the risk of a potential fight, but will give them the peace of mind that their dog is safe by their side.

"There are also collars available for owners which indicate that their dog is nervous or aggressive.

"This can subtly let other owners know to keep their dogs on leads, or away from the pet in question."

Responding to the survey, RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: "It's difficult for us to comment on these specific figures as we can't be sure exactly how they've been gathered and analysed but the death of any pet is tragic for anyone involved.

"It's incredibly important to ensure your dog is properly socialised and trained so he or she is able to interact happily with other dogs.

"Owners are ultimately responsible for ensuring their dogs are under control and should put in place measures which allow this. For example, training a quick and reliable recall.

"Signs of aggression can also be indicative of fear or pain and so anyone with concerns about their dog's behaviour should speak to their vet who may refer them to a clinical animal behaviourist for help and advice."

Alison Thomas, senior veterinary surgeon at Blue Cross pet charity, added: "At our animal hospital we don't often see injuries as a result of dog fights and when we do it is usually due to a scuffle between dogs who live together or know each other well.

"We also sometimes treat animals who have been randomly attacked by another dog while in the park.

"If owners have any concerns about the behaviour of their pet around other dogs and other animals, they should seek advice from an animal behaviourist."