Immediate Steps to Take After a Dog Bite
Dogs are one of the most common types of pets in America. In 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation reported that 36.5% of American households owned a dog. That means over 43 million homes owned at least one dog. With so many dogs around, it comes as no surprise that lots of people are bitten by dogs every year — 4.7 million people, to be exact. And about 1 in 5 of those bites require medical attention. After a dog bite, it can be hard to know exactly what to do next. They happen so unexpectedly, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and surprised. What steps do you need to take care of your wound? Do you need to see a doctor?
The first thing you need to do is figure out just how severe the injuries are. In most cases, dog bites only result in very minor injuries like small scratches or wounds that barely break the surface of the skin. If this is the case, you’ll be able to easily treat your injuries at home and won’t need to see a doctor. Apply pressure to lessen the bleeding, if you have any, then simply wash the area where the bite occurred, apply a bandage, and put an antibiotic ointment on the site each day until it heals. Even though the injuries seem superficial, be sure to watch for signs of infection and get medical treatment right away if you think that might be the case.
If you’re left with larger, deeper wounds or you’re not really sure how severe your injuries are, get medical treatment as soon as possible. You should also see a doctor if you were bitten on areas like your head, face, hands, or neck. Since these areas tend to be more delicate than other parts of the body, it may take extra care to treat dog bite wounds on them. Even if you’re seeing a doctor, still take some of the same steps you would to treat a more superficial dog bite injury, like washing the wound, applying pressure, and bandaging it.
You should also be sure to get medical treatment for a dog bite if you have a medical condition which places you at a higher risk of infection or might mean it will take longer for you to heal, such as diabetes, liver disease, or any other condition which compromises your body’s immune system.
While many people often fear being bitten by stray dogs, dog bites more frequently involve dogs that the victim knew. If this is the case, you likely already have the owner’s contact information and will be able to ask about whether or not their dog is up to date on their vaccines. But if you were bitten by an unfamiliar dog, try to find their owner, get their contact information, and ask if the dog has been vaccinated against rabies. If you were bitten by a stray dog or aren’t able to figure out who owns the dog, contact animal control. Do not try to catch the dog yourself.
Once you’ve seen a doctor, you’ll have a better understanding of what steps you’ll need to take to recover. A wound for one person might simply need some antibiotics and a few stitches while a more severe dog bite might require reconstructive surgery. Regardless of how severe your injuries are, take detailed notes about things like the doctors you see, the treatments you receive, how your injury is impacting your life, and any expenses you incur because of it. Even if you have insurance, you might have some out-of-pocket expenses to deal with. If you want to contact a dog bite lawyer about filing a lawsuit, your notes will be very helpful in building your case.