Of the 4.7 million people bitten by a dog in the US each year, 20% ended up needing medical attention. That’s a lot of dog bites, most of which could have been avoided. More than half of all people bitten by dogs are young children, so it’s essential that parents and responsible adults know what to do when dogs bite.
Preventing Dog Bites
Prevention is always better than cure. Many dog bites happen in the home, from dogs known to the family. If you buy or adopt a dog, look for an animal with a good temperament. Adopted dogs have often come from poor backgrounds and may be unpredictable, so be very careful if you have children.
Puppies bite; it is a natural behavioral trait in the first year, so don’t punish a puppy for biting. Instead, watch out for the signs your puppy is going to nip you and redirect his attention to a more appropriate chew toy.
If an adult dog bites you or your child, consider whether there was any provocation and if there was, make sure it doesn’t happen again. Sometimes, dogs bite because they are in pain, so if you suspect your dog is sick have him checked over by a veterinarian.
Don’t leave young children alone with a dog, even if you trust the dog. Teach your kids not to tease or fuss a dog when it’s eating or trying to sleep. Dogs need their personal space, just as we do.
Bites from a Strange Dog
Be very careful with unfamiliar dogs. If a dog shows any signs of aggression, move away slowly and avoid making eye contact with the animal, as this is a sign of aggression to a dog. Give strange dogs a wide berth if they appear out of control or aggressive.
If you or your child is bitten by someone else’s dog, contact the authorities. For more serious injuries, contact a personal injury lawyer, as you may be entitled to compensation.
Treating Dog Bites
Superficial dog bites can be treated at home. Rinse the wound under running water, clean the area with soap, and apply antiseptic cream. If the wound is ragged, cover the bite with a sterile sticking plaster and keep a close eye on it to monitor for signs of infection. If your tetanus is not up to date, visit the doctor for a booster shot.
Deeper wounds that won’t stop bleeding may require medical attention. Clean and wash the wound with running water and soap, and then cover it with a sterile bandage or a clean towel. Ask a doctor to take a look at your wound in case it needs stitches.
Rabies is a big problem in some parts of the world. A bite from an unfamiliar dog is high-risk for rabies, particularly if the animal was acting aggressively beforehand. If you live in an area where rabies is a possibility, you need to start a course of rabies vaccinations immediately.
Dog bites can usually be avoided. Work with your dog to minimize aggressive behavior and teach your kids not to approach strange dogs unless they know they are friendly.