What to Do If You Get Bit By a Dog and Ways to Prevent It

dog bite, dog bite injury
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Dogs are many people’s best friends, but sometimes, they can bite. A dog may bite out of frustration or because it feels threatened by another person or dog.

Dog bites are relatively common—over 4.5 million Americans suffer from dog bite injuries per year. The majority of those bitten by dogs are children.

While dog bites are not always dangerous, they can puncture deep into the skin and lead to infection. Having a response plan in place is helpful. Follow the steps below to know what to do in case of a dog bite injury.

Step 1. Assess the Situation and Seek Proper Medical Attention

The first thing you should do if bit by a dog is to assess the need for medical intervention. If the wound is deep and you are losing a lot of blood, call 911. Go to an emergency room right away.

You will want to identify the owner of the dog, as well. That way you can ask whether or not the dog has had a rabies vaccine. 

However, unless it’s your animal, you can’t know with certainty what vaccinations a dog has had. For this reason, seeking medical attention and getting evaluated by a doctor are recommended. 

Step 2. Clean the Wound

If you have access to soap and water while you are waiting for medical attention, wash the bite wound for at least 5 minutes. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol because it might damage the skin further. Make sure to cover the bite wound with a sterile band-aid. 

Step 3. Report the Bite

Even if you don’t plan to press charges against the dog owner, it’s still important to document the incident so there is a paper trail. This lets authorities know that a dog has a history of biting. You can call animal control or your local police station to start a report.

Step 4. Monitor the Bite and Follow Up with Health and/or Legal Professionals

A dog bite can lead to permanent scarring or disfigurement, so it’s a good idea to follow up with your healthcare provider to see if they recommend additional treatment. In some cases, plastic surgery might be necessary.
In this case, pursuing legal action is an avenue you may want to take to help cover medical bills. Although, according to Freedman Law, depending on the state the dog bite occurs, there are different rules on liability for dog bite injuries. It is important to use professional advice to find out how to proceed. You don’t want to be out of pocket for loss of earnings or for any life-long injuries you may now have to live with. You should contact personal injury lawyers near you to find out more information.

In addition to physical injuries, a dog bite can be traumatic. If you need help processing what happened, contact a mental health provider. It’s common for victims of dog bites to develop a fear of dogs after their attack, and they can help you overcome it.

Ways to Prevent Dog Bites From Happening

Dog bites might be an unfortunate result of being around dogs, but there are ways to make dogs feel more comfortable around us and prevent dog bites. Follow the steps below to avoid injuries.

  • Socialize your dog around other dogs and people. Training your dog will help them feel more comfortable in unknown situations.
  • If it’s not your dog, always ask their owner for permission before petting them.
  • Teach your children the correct way to approach dogs. Tell them not to disturb a dog while eating, playing, or sleeping. 
  • Always supervise your kids when they’re around dogs.
  • Pay attention to a dog’s body language. Recognize common signs of aggression such as growling and raised teeth and the less obvious ones like stiff tails and raised hair.

While these tips are not foolproof, they can decrease the likelihood of a dog bite injury. 

If you have an aggressive dog, there are resources you can use for help. One recommendation is to locate a certified personal dog trainer in your area. They can help modify aggressive behavior.

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