What to Do If You’re Bitten by a Dog
Dog bites represent 90% of all reported animal bites in the U.S. At least 4.5 million dog bites happen in the United States every year and more than 30,000 of those victims are bitten so severely they require reconstructive surgery. When you’re bitten by a dog, it often happens so suddenly and unexpectedly, it can be hard to know what you should do next. If you are bitten by a dog, here are three vital steps to take:
Identify the Dog and Its Owner
If you are able to identify the dog and/or its owner, perfect. You will need to get as much information from the owner as possible, such as their name, address, phone number, dog license information, and whether or not the dog is up to date on its vaccinations, most importantly, rabies. Although rabies is rare in the United States, it can be deadly if left untreated. Undergoing rabies shots is extraordinarily painful and expensive so it’s absolutely not something you want to have to go through unless it’s completely necessary. Ultimately, whether or not a dog bite victim should have rabies shots is left to the discretion person’s doctor.
If you are bitten by a stray dog or you aren’t able to identify an owner, don’t try to catch the dog yourself. Contact Animal Control in your area and they will try to catch the dog for you and find any pertinent information about the dog.
Also be sure to collect the names and contact information of any witnesses who saw the bite take place.
Seek Medical Treatment
Dog bites can easily vary in severity and not all of them require medical attention. If a dog bites you and leaves no visible damage or only very minor scratches or scrapes, you will probably be fine by simply cleaning the area with water, applying hydrogen peroxide and/or an antibiotic ointment, and applying a bandage. However, be sure to monitor the area for swelling or excessive redness. If the area becomes painful and there is swelling and redness, you might have an infection and medical treatment would be advisable.
Medical attention should be sought right away if a dog bite results in puncture wounds, lacerations, or any other significant damage to the skin since you are at a greater risk for infections and damage to bones, muscles, nerves, and tendons could all be possible. If dog bite wounds are on the face, neck, or head, get medical treatment right away. Doctors can thoroughly clean wounds and determine the full extent of the damage. If stitches or sutures are needed, those will be administered. Doctors will also make sure you are up to date on your tetanus shots and provide antibiotics or rabies treatments if necessary.
If you are considering pursuing a lawsuit over a dog bite, be sure to photograph your wounds before treatment.
Make a Report
If you’ve been bitten by a dog and it is severe enough to seek medical treatment, it’s a good idea to report the incident to animal control. Even if your bite wasn’t terribly severe, filing a report will create a record for a dog, which would be helpful in the event someone else is later bitten by the same dog.