If you own a dog, you need to know about dog bite treatment.
Although they are known as man’s best friend, the vast majority of animal bites are from dogs.
In fact, one-half of all dog bites involve a dog owned by the victim’s family or a neighbor, as opposed to a stray dog.
We also know that children fall victim to dog bites more often than adults do.
This is because children often unknowingly provoke dogs, and their small size makes them an easy target.
With that said, the majority of dogs don’t bite and will only do so when provoked. But should something happen, you need to know how to treat a dog bite.
Dog Bite Treatment for Humans
Thankfully, most dog bites don’t require serious treatment to heal.
If the bite is not deep and if there are no signs of infection, first aid treatment at home may suffice.
You’ll want to place a clean towel or cloth over the bite to stop the bleeding, and it’s also important to keep the bite elevated. Once the bleeding is under control, wash the wound with soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment, and place a sterile bandage over it.
It’s important to reapply the antibiotic ointment every day until the wound heals to prevent infection. Caring for a dog bite is about keeping bacteria away from the wound.
Matters get more serious when your dog bite wound won’t stop bleeding or is showing signs of infection. If the bite is red, swollen, warm to the touch or there’s pus, then it’s likely infected.
If in doubt, see the doctor
In this case, you’ll need to see a doctor for proper treatment. Know that you’re in the minority, as only 17 to 18 percent of dog bite injuries require medical attention.
The doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to stop the infection and may stitch the wound to stop the bleeding.
Most dog bites are left open to heal, but in cases where the wounds will leave severe scars or if they’re on the face, they’ll likely be sutured. But the main thing here is stopping an infection from spreading.
After being bitten, you need to be assessed for rabies and tetanus, as these are serious conditions that can be spread by dog bites.
You should also be prepared for your doctor to ask you some questions regarding the incident and the dog in question. They will want to know how familiar you are with the dog.
Some common questions include:
- Are you familiar with the dog and its owner?
- Do you know if the dog is up to date with its vaccines?
- Was the dog provoked or unprovoked?
- What health conditions do you have?
The most serious dog bites lead to hospitalization, but this only accounts for 1 to 2 percent of dog bites.
As always, if you’re concerned that your dog bite is serious, you should visit a doctor for his or her opinion.
Dog Bite Treatment for Dogs
If your dog is bitten by another dog, which most often occurs at unleashed dog parks, your dog may have wounds that need to be treated.
One thing you need to know is that what you see on the surface isn’t the whole story.
A bite wound on a dog may appear minor when it’s covered with fur, but underneath it may be quite severe, especially since it has the potential to become infected.
The first thing you need to do is determine whether your dog needs to see a vet.
If your dog is acting normally and the wound is not bleeding, a vet may not be necessary.
In this case, you need to clip the fur around the wound so you can examine it closer, ensuring it’s not more severe than it looks.
If in doubt, see the vet
Clean it with a saline solution to flush out bacteria, and if your dog is uncooperative, you may need the assistance of a friend.
If you notice a puncture wound, it’s always safer to bring your dog to the vet.
A puncture wound occurs when a dog’s teeth sink into the skin. This can cause infection or something known as dead space.
Dead space occurs when the skin is separated from the underlying tissue and a pocket forms, which prevents healing.
If your dog is bleeding profusely, visit a vet. An artery or vein may have been damaged, and this could require surgery. On the way to the vet, apply sterile gauze to the wound to stop bleeding.
Other signs that they need to see a vet are rapid, shallow breathing, which could indicate shock or a chest puncture. If they do have a chest puncture, hold sterile gauze over it and bring them to a vet immediately.
If you notice any flaps of skin, puncture wounds or if your dog is weak, they need to see a vet.
Vet Treatment for Dog Bites
The first thing the vet will do is determine whether the wound needs to be sutured. If it doesn’t, the wound will be cleaned but left open, and you can expect it to scab over.
To suture the wound, your dog may require an anesthetic if it’s in a hard-to-reach spot or more aggressive.
Once sutures are applied, it’s important to inspect them every day for discharge. Clean it often, and don’t let your dog lick the sutures.
The vet may prescribe pain medication to ease the pain while your dog heals. This will be a liquid, and it’s made especially for dogs. Never give your dog pain medication meant for a human.
You’ll likely receive a prescription for an antibiotic as well, as dog bites transfer bacteria.
Preventing Dog Bites
The best treatment for dog bites is prevention.
To keep yourself safe, be cautious when you’re picking a dog to bring home. Ensure they’re raised in a healthy environment and have a good temperament.
You should never approach dogs you don’t know. But when you do approach dogs, do so slowly and never reach in to pet them without letting them smell you first.
It’s also important to keep small children away from dogs they don’t know. Never leave them alone with a dog unsupervised.
If you do notice a dog becoming aggressive, do not run or scream. Instead, avoid eye contact and move away slowly.
To keep your dog safe, you need to scope out the dog park beforehand. Visit alone at first to see what the environment is like. If you notice aggressive dogs and inattentive owners, you’re better off visiting a different dog park.
If your dog is shy or aggressive, he or she may not do well at a dog park. Work on socializing them with other dogs beforehand.
Lastly, always keep an eye on your dog and the other dogs when you’re at the dog park. If you notice any signs that may be aggression, it’s time to leave.
Keep You and Your Dog Safe
As you can see, dog bite treatment for humans and dogs isn’t straightforward.
But if you know the signs to look for, you’ll be able to differentiate from a minor and serious dog bite.
And if you’re ever unsure, a trip to the doctor is always a good idea.
References and Further Reading:
Overall, K.L. and Love, M., 2001, “Dog Bites to Humans–Demography, Epidemiology, Injury, and Risk,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 218, No. 12, pgs. 1923-1934
Presutti, R.J., 2001, “Prevention and Treatment of Dog Bites,” American Family Physician, Vol. 63, Issue 8, pgs. 1567-1573