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Dog Bites: What You Should Know

You’ve just been bitten by a dog, do you know what to do next?

Photo Courtesy of Soloviova Liudmyla /Shutterstock

Even the biggest dog lovers can find themselves in the unenviable position of having a scary run-in with a canine. Whether it’s a stranger’s dog being aggressive and giving you a bite that sends you to the ER or your own dog surprising you with a nip that breaks the skin, dog bites can cause serious injury, and it’s important to know how to deal with one.

You should probably consult your doctor if you’ve found yourself on the wrong end of a dog’s teeth, but there are also a number of things you can do on your own at home to minimize your risk of infection, which is one of the main concerns with a dog-bite injury. This risk is particularly high if the bite has broken the skin and if you don’t thoroughly clean the wound and care for it properly as it heals. About 50% of all dog bites introduce bacteria into the wound site, so it’s really important to wash the wound with warm water and a mild soap as soon as you can.

Be sure to flush the wound thoroughly with the water for several minutes, and gently pat it dry afterward. Dab antibiotic cream on the injury, and then loosely wrap the bite with a clean bandage. Monitor the injury for signs of infection — redness, increased pain, tenderness, swelling — and see your doctor right away if you suspect an infection.

There’s a chance that you’ll need stitches, too, if the dog bite is deep or jagged, so head to the doctor’s office or emergency room if you suspect that this might be the case. A bite from a dog can also sometimes cause broken bones, or damage to muscles, nerves, or blood vessels, all issues that require medical attention.

If you’ve been bitten by a dog that’s not your own, collect information from the owner (name, address, phone number, etc.), including the dog’s vaccination status and contact information for their veterinarian. If the dog has not been vaccinated for rabies your doctor needs to know, so they can treat you right away for this very serious disease. It’s also important to be up-to-date on your own vaccinations, especially tetanus; if you’ve not had a booster within five years your doctor may advise you to get one.

If you’re bitten by a stray dog, the best thing to do is contact local law enforcement so that an animal control officer can investigate and handle the situation.

Getting bitten by a dog can be a scary experience. If you’ve been injured by someone else’s dog and you think that maybe that person is at fault, feel free to contact us here at Burnett & Williams for a free consultation.