Dog fights - 64,000 canines die in 12 months

  • In the last 12 months, one in seven (15 per cent) dog owners have seen their pet attacked by another canine
  • 64,097 dogs have died in the last 12 months after being involved in a fight, while 44,375 have suffered life-changing injuries because of a fight
  • More than a quarter (27 per cent) of dogs seen by vets after fighting had to be put down due to their injuries
  • Owners collectively spent £458 million last year on dog injuries after fights

New research by Direct Line Pet Insurance1 reveals one in seven (15 per cent) dog owners have seen their pet attacked by another canine in the last 12 months. Tragically 64,097 (five per cent2) dogs have died from injuries resulting from being attacked or fighting in the past year, with a further 44,375 (three per cent) suffering life changing injuries.

Two thirds of owners (66 per cent) whose dogs have been involved in a fight said it resulted in injuries to at least one of the dogs involved, with over a third (35 per cent) needing veterinary treatment. Dog owners have collectively spent £458 million3 on vet bills to treat injuries to their dog, or the other dog involved, sustained after being attacked. This has equated to nearly £400 per animal. One in seven owners (16 per cent) spent over £700 having to treat their dog or one of the other dogs involved in the fight.

Research4 commissioned by the insurer amongst vets, uncovered the awful consequences of dog fights. Many vets report having treated dogs suffering serious internal injuries including punctured stomach and lungs (23 per cent), broken jaws and neck injuries (both 10 per cent). Sadly, over a quarter of vets (27 per cent) have had to put dogs down due to untreatable injuries sustained.

Vets reported the following harrowing injuries caused by canine fights;

  • A dog dying on the scene after being mauled to death
  • A dog’s tail being ripped off by the attacking canine
  • A dog whose ribcage was cracked after being thrown around by a larger dog
  • A dog attacked so viciously that it resulted in its intestines being ripped out

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.

Nearly a third of pet owners (29 per cent) whose dog has been attacked or involved in a fight in the last 12 months said it was because the owner of the other dog could not control it. A quarter (26 per cent) said it happened because the other dog was off the lead and provoked their dog. One in six (15 per cent) said the other dog had an aggressive reputation.

Table one: Causes of fights as reported by owners

Causes of dog fights Percentage of owners who believe this was the cause of their dog involved in a fight
The owner of the other dog could not control it 29 per cent
The other dog was off the lead and provoked my dog 26 per cent
The other dog was known for being aggressive 15 per cent
My dog was playing with another dog and it got out of hand 13 per cent
My dog was giving / receiving unwanted attention and it escalated 12 per cent
My dog was off the lead and provoked / was provoked by another dog 8 per cent
My dog got into a fight over food 7 per cent
I showed the other dog attention 7 per cent
The owner of the other dog encouraged it to attack mine 6 per cent
My dog was out of control 5 per cent
My dog was in heat 4 per cent
The other dog was in heat 4 per cent
My dog got into a fight over a toy 4 per cent

Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2017

Veterinary experts report that dog fighting predominantly occurs when dogs are allowed off the lead when they should not be (37 per cent) and when owners have no control over their pet (15 per cent). They also highlight it as a problem when male dogs are not neutered (15 per cent) as they can display overly territorial, or aggressive, behaviour due to extra levels of testosterone. Another key issue identified by vets is lack of socialisation with other dogs (14 per cent). Vets recommend owners socialise their animals at an early age, to reduce the risk of their dog acting aggressively when interacting with other dogs later in life. This can be as simple as taking them on popular dog walking routes or to behaviour training classes.

Madeline Pike continued: “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 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.”


Notes to Editors

  1. Research conducted by Opinium amongst 1,003 UK adults who own a dog
  2. Number of dogs involved in a fight calculated based on Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association pet population figures for 2017. The PFMA estimates that there are 8.66 million dogs in the UK.
  3. £458 million calculation: 6 per cent of UK adults say their dog was attacked, 3,253,188 UK adults. Of this 35 per cent had to have veterinary treatment = 1,152,421. Multiplied by the average amount spent on treatment = £458,473,472.
  4. Research carried out among 100 vets across the UK between 31st July and 25th August

For further information please contact:

Claire Jarrett

Direct Line

[email protected]

0165 183 2411

Antonia Green

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

[email protected]

0207 282 2967

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. UK Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting