Man’s best friend can pose a greater danger to you and your family than you might realize. Around 880,000 people seek emergency medical care for dog bites every year in the United States and over 30,000 people have to undergo reconstructive surgery. Everybody needs to be on the alert for dog bites because they can happen anytime or anywhere and can turn deadly. About 15 to 20 Americans die of injuries or diseases caused by dog bites every year. The risk to children is even greater because kids between the ages of 5 and 9 are more likely to be bitten than anybody else.
What Will Happen If a Dog Bites You?
The good news is that most dog bite injuries are minor and can be easily treated with first aid. The danger usually comes not from the injury but from infection because dogs’ mouths can carry millions of potential germs. Infections only develop when the dog’s teeth deeply penetrate the skin.Therefore the main thing you should be on the lookout for is infection. Some of the signs of infection are:
- The wound becomes more painful;
- The area around the wound becomes swollen and red;
- Fluid and pus start leaking from the wound;
- The dog-bite victim develops a fever with a temperature of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit;
- A dog bite victim develops shakes and shivers.
When to Seek Medical Help
Serious problems can usually be avoided if you seek prompt medical help after a dog bite. You should always take the victim to a doctor or an emergency room or call 911 for paramedics in the following situations:
- The dog bites the victim on the hands, feet, genitals, face, scalp, tendon, or joint;
- The victim starts bleeding excessively;
- The victim starts displaying any of the symptoms of infection described above;
- The victim becomes unconscious or incapacitated by the bite;
- The victim has trouble walking or standing because of the bite;
- The victim has a serious health problem that makes him or her more susceptible to infection, such as cancer or HIV.
You should always see a medical professional after any animal bite in which the skin is penetrated for the risk of serious infections like rabies or tetanus. If the bite causes a serious injury, you should call 911 for paramedics immediately or take the victim straight to an emergency room.
How to Deal With Dog Bites
The best way to survive a dog bite and keep everybody safe is to have a list of procedures to follow in such an emergency. Here is a list of such procedures:
1. Dog Bites First Aid Response
- Secure the Dog and Everybody Else. Do not start first aid until there is no danger of another dog attack.Your first priority is to get the dog away from the victim and secure it by tying it up or locking it in a yard or pen. If possible, try to get the owner to control the dog. If the dog is out of control, you might have to use a weapon to incapacitate it or drive it off. If you cannot stop the dog from attacking or you think it will attack again, call 911 for the police and animal control.
- Control Bleeding. There are two conditions. First, if the wound doesn't bleed at all, gently squeeze the wound to encourage it to bleed, which will help remove bacteria and prevent them from entering the wound. Second, if the wound keeps bleeding,try to keep the injured area elevated. Do not use a tourniquet; instead, try to block the bleeding by putting pressure on it, which can stop the bleeding by causing blood to clot. The best way to do this is to put a gauze pad or towel over the wound. However, if it still bleeds, call 911 or take the victim to an emergency room.
- Manage the Wound. Once the bleeding is under control, clean the wound with soap and warm water. Make sure you clean the inside of the wound and rinse all the soap away after you are done. Then you should apply antibiotic ointment and cover it with a dry bandage. And watch for infection symptoms as described above.
- Relieve the Pain. If the victim is in pain, he or she can take an over the counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, naproxen sodium (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol or paracetamol).
2. Medical Treatments for Dog Bites
Prompt medical treatments can keep a serious dog bite from becoming a tragedy. The most important thing you can do is to get the dog bite victim to a medical facility. Once there, medical professionals will take the following steps:
- General Treatment: The doctor, nurse, or paramedic will need the dog’s vaccination record and the owner’s name and contact information. If possible, get this information and bring it with you. They will also need to know the victim’s health conditions and medical history, examine the injury to see how serious it is and clean the wound before deciding what to do next.
- Stitches: If the wound is serious, the doctor may close it with sutures or stitches. This can reduce scarring, but it can also increase the risk of infection.
- Rabies Prevention: The doctor will want to see the dog’s vaccination record in order to see if it has been vaccinated for rabies. If it has not or if there is no record, the dog will have to be tested. If the dog tests positive for rabies or if the dog has long gone, a rabies vaccine will be administered.
- Tetanus Prevention: Like rabies, tetanus can be spread by dog bites. After a bite, medical professionals will ask about the victim’s vaccination record. If there is no evidence of a recent tetanus shot, one will be administered one. Tetanus is a potentially fatal infection, but it can be easily prevented with vaccination.
- Follow-Up Treatments: The doctor may prescribe antibiotics for one or two weeks in order to prevent infection. A follow-up medical appointment might be scheduled in order to see how the victim is doing. If there has been a lot of damage to the skin, the victim might be referred to a plastic surgeon.
If you want to know more about how to treat dog bits, check out the following video:
Knowing the Signs That a Dog Might Bite
Most dog bites could be prevented with a few common sense precautions. The most important of these is to know the warning signs of a potential dog bite.
Contrary to popular belief, any breed of dog can bite, so always be careful around canines, particularly dogs you do not know. However, unless he or she is sick or trained to attack, a dog does not want to bite you.In fact, the dog will try to warn you of his or her intentions with the following signs:
- Baring its teeth;
- Raising the hairs on its back;
- Staring directly at you;
- Stiffening its ears against the head;
- Stiffening its legs.
- Never try to pet or approach strange dogs even if they seem friendly;
- Never approach a dog you do not know unless the owner is present;
- Always ask the owner if it is okay to pet a dog you do not know;
- If a strange dog approaches you, do not run or make other quick motions. Instead, stand still and let the dog smell you, but do not pet it. If you do nothing, most dogs, even aggressive ones, will leave you alone;
- Do not go into a yard or onto a property where a strange dog is present unless the owner is there to control it;
- Stay away from strange dogs that are eating or sleeping;
- Never try to pet or approach a mother dog with puppies unless she is your pet;
- Never try to catch or approach a stray dog or a strange dog that is running loose. Call animal control instead;
- Do not approach a strange dog that appears to be sick or injured. Call animal control instead;
- Never leave young children or infants alone with a dog and never let children approach or pet a strange dog.
If a dog is biting, there are some dos and don'ts for you to reduce the injury: