Dogs have been companions and helpers to humans for thousands of years. They are loving and loyal pets and great workers as guide dogs, watchdogs, shepherds and more. Our lives are enriched by our relationship with dogs.
We so love our dogs that we tend to forget they are wild animals who will sometimes behave in a way that is natural for them, but dangerous for humans. Even the tamest, sweetest of dogs will bite if it is ill, injured, amply provoked or perceives it is being threatened.
Dog bites are a serious problem. An estimated 4.7 million Americans are bitten each year; a million seek medical treatment for their wounds. The majority of dog bite victims are children.
What to Do When Someone Is Bitten
- Wash the wound with soap and water.
- Continue to flush the wound with water for a few minutes.
- If there is bleeding, apply pressure to the wound until it stops.
- Bandage the wound.
- Elevate the area that was bitten.
- Contact the local animal control authority. The dog may have to be observed for rabies. In some situations, you may need to try to confine or capture the dog yourself until the authorities arrive. But do not put yourself at risk for another attack.
Opinion varies on whether to see a doctor. Some experts advise always doing so when a child has been bitten. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends calling the doctor if:
- the bite is on the head, foot or hand.
- the wound is very deep or the tear in the skin is very wide.
- it is a cat bite.
- you have a condition, such as diabetes or cancer, that weakens the immune system.
- the bleeding does not stop after 15 minutes.
- you have not had a tetanus shot in the last five years.
For several days after the bite occurs, keep the wound clean and use an antibiotic ointment. Keep an eye on it for signs of infection, including redness, red streaks, soreness, swelling, fever and pus.
You may be given antibiotics. Call your doctor if it looks like the wound is not beginning to heal.