An estimated 85 million families, or two-thirds of all US households, own a pet. Of these, almost 90 million are dogs.
All those figures prove that dogs are, no doubt, man’s best friend.
However, as loving and affectionate as dogs are, they still bite people. Indeed, over 4.5 million individuals in the US get bitten by canines each year. This can happen to anyone, but kids are at the highest risk, as they represent half of all dog bite patients.
What this means is that you’re also at risk of finding yourself exclaiming, “A dog bit me!”, followed by, “What should I do?”
This post will answer all your burning questions about dog bites, so be sure to read on.
Table of Contents
Call 911 if There’s Heavy Bleeding
This can happen if a dog bites a person’s head or neck, and the teeth puncture the skin. This is common; in one study of 334 dog bites, almost a third (101 injuries) were in the head or neck area. However, profuse bleeding can also occur if the bite damages a major artery or blood vessel.
In any case, you should dial 911 if you have heavy, non-stop bleeding in the bitten area.
Contact Animal Control Services
If you get bitten by a stray dog, and the wound doesn’t appear deep, call animal control right away. This way, they can attend to the animal and keep it from biting anyone else. Animal control will also check for ownership, and once identified, get in touch with the owner.
What if My Neighbor’s Dog Bit Me?
Even if you’re familiar with the dog, call 911 so long as there’s heavy bleeding. If there’s none, let your neighbor know right away what exactly happened. This is especially important if their dog ran away after biting you.
You also need to talk to your neighbor since you have to ask them about their pet’s inoculation. Question them about their dog’s health history and which vaccines they’ve already received. Your doctor will ask you to provide this info once you go in for a check-up.
Note that many states enforce a dog bite law that makes a pet owner responsible for an injury caused by their pet. In most cases, the rule applies to animals that get loose and bites a person on the street. In such instances, the owner must pay for the victim’s medical costs.
Either way, make sure that you speak to your neighbor as soon as you get bitten by their dog. Your doctor will base your treatment on the level of current inoculation the animal has.
Clean the Wound Right Away
One of the most important steps on how to treat a dog bite is to wash the area with warm running water immediately. This will help clear any debris from the site, and you’ll be able to tell if there’s a wound and how deep it is. If the skin didn’t break, wash the area with soap, too.
If you have antibacterial lotion handy, apply some on the site as an extra precaution.
If the skin did break, wash it with water and soap, too. However, you should keep it under running water while giving the area a gentle press. The pressure can help promote a tiny amount of bleeding that can help flush out bacteria or germs.
The bleeding should stop after a few minutes, but if it doesn’t, apply a piece of clean cloth over the wound. Press the area right on top of the injury to encourage blood clotting. Apply some antibacterial lotion, too, before you wrap the area with a sterile bandage.
See a Doctor for a More Comprehensive Dog Bite Treatment
According to some estimates, 12% of adults who get bit by a dog require medical treatment. On the other hand, one in four of all affected children require emergency dog bite treatment.
With that said, it’s best that you also seek a doctor ASAP if the wound doesn’t stop bleeding after 15 minutes. The same goes if there’s intense pain, massive swelling, or pus formation. All these can indicate that you have an infected injury.
Follow Your Doctor’s Prescriptions
Dog bites can cause infections, nerve or muscle damage, rabies, and tetanus. An attack from a larger dog can also result in broken bones. If left untreated, these complications can worsen and result in a life-threatening situation.
Rabies, for instance, claims the lives of an estimated 59,000 people worldwide each year. However, immediate medical treatment is 100% effective against rabies.
You need a rabies shot if you haven’t received a rabies vaccine ever or if it has been a long time since you got one. The same goes if the dog that bit you displays erratic behavior after the incident. You should also get one if you noticed the dog foaming at the mouth after biting you.
At the very least, a dog can transfer harmful bacteria into a bite wound. These include staphylococcus and Pasteurella bacteria, to name a few.
It’s for this reason that you should never stray from your doctor’s prescriptions. If your physician tells you to take antibiotics for seven days, be sure to complete your dosage. Otherwise, the medicines won’t work, and you may even develop antibiotic resistance.
Never Underestimate Dog Bites
There you have it, the ultimate guide to your question, “what should I do if a dog bit me?” The most important thing is to administer first aid and then see a doctor. Seeing a medical professional can help lower your risks of dog bite complications.
Also, keep in mind that most domesticated dogs don’t bite unless provoked. So, always approach pooches with care, especially if they don’t know you.
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